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Ernst Eduard vom Rath was a German diplomat representing the Third Reich in Paris in 1938. In November of that year he was shot and mortally wounded by a 17-year-old Polish Jewish youth, Herschel Grynszpan , who had been living in Germany. Vom Rath was 29 years old. Ironically, vom Rath had earlier expressed anti-Nazi sympathies, evidently based on the Nazi treatment of Jews, and was under Gestapo investigation at the time for being politically unreliable. He died of his wounds two days after being shot. Hitler used the assassination as an excuse to launch Kristallnacht, a pogrom against German Jews, shortly after the death. My father attended school with Grynszpan and knew him casually; Dad escaped to America by the time of the assassination.

Now try to imagine how the Western media would report World War II if they were using the exact same rules of journalism that they apply to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The assassination of vom Rath by a Jewish youth would be universally held up to illustrate that the German-Jewish conflict was a circle of violence, an ongoing bloody conflict whose roots are so old that no one remembers them, a conflict where each side claims it is retaliating for the violence that the other side perpetrated, a conflict whose causes are all blurred by eons of history. Sure the Germans were murdering Jews, but then there was the vom Rath assassination, proving the violence was two-directional, symmetric. Close investigation could probably find a few other examples of Jews using violence against Germans. Innocent lives are being lost on both sides. Such senseless tragedy. Why can’t both sides just live and let live?


Of course, such a representation of World War II would not only be an absurdity but also an obscenity. World War II was not about a “cycle of violence” between Germans and Jews. It was unambiguously a campaign of annihilation and oppression of Jews committed by Germans. The fact that one can identify a handful of outlier events such as the assassination of vom Rath does not convey any symmetry to the “conflict.” Indeed to misrepresent the Nazi campaign of extermination against Jews as some sort of “symmetric” pair of movements of violence would be proof that the person so misrepresenting the situation was a Nazi-sympathizer and an anti-Semite.

The Middle East conflict is not a cycle of violence. It is not a “symmetric” campaign of retaliation by Jews against Arabs and Arabs against Jews. The Middle East conflict is as unambiguously a unidirectional campaign of violence and atrocities as was World War II. It is about Arabs murdering Jews and not the inverse. It is about Arabs seeking to deny Jews their human rights and their right to self-determination, and not the inverse. The Middle East conflict consists of a century of atrocities perpetrated by Arabs against Jews.

But the Western media are willing to go to extreme lengths to force the conflict into the prism of symmetry and the “cycle of violence” fantasy. Several months ago a Palestinian Arab teenager from East Jerusalem, Mohammed Abu Khdair, age 17, was kidnapped and murdered by a Jew. The Jew was mentally ill and believed himself to be the messiah. He was arrested and jailed by Israel. The killer did not represent anyone, was not sponsored by anyone, and no one in Israel cheered his crime. The killing of Abu Khdair came shortly after three Jewish teenagers were murdered by the Hamas in a well-planned operation. That was an operation sponsored, financed and planned by the Hamas and cheered by most “Palestinians” and by many Israeli Arabs. Many passed around candies in celebration.


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Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at [email protected]