It would be fair to say that the recent demonstrations in cities around the world during which Israel was likened to Nazi Germany, and Israeli soldiers to Nazi storm troopers, created a not insignificant amount of angst and dismay among an appreciable number of Jews. But as this is hardly a new phenomenon, the real surprise lies in why so many Jews continue to be surprised.
It was back in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon after one provocation too many by the PLO, which had set up a murderous mini-state in a country that had been affectionately known as the Paris of the Middle East, that the Nazi analogies began flying in full force.
But playing the Nazi card goes back even before Lebanon, to a period when the Palestinians barely existed on the world’s radar screen and Israel was widely perceived as an underdog surrounded by much larger nations determined to eradicate it.
On July 7, 1967, just a month after Israel’s celebrated victory in the Six-Day war, The New York Times published a letter to the editor which made the equation that in later years would become all too familiar.
“All persons who seek to view the Middle East problem with honesty and objectivity will stand aghast at Israel’s onslaught, the most violent, ruthless (and successful) aggression since Hitler’s blitzkrieg across Western Europe in the summer of 1940, aiming not at victory but at annihilation,” wrote Dr. Henry P. Van Dusen, a former president of Union Theological Seminary, the academic centerpiece of liberal Protestantism in America.
Van Dusen was ahead of his time, but 15 years later, with the Palestinian narrative already having become received truth among the left-wing faithful, the locusts were loosed within days of Israel’s incursion into Lebanon.
“Incident by incident, atrocity by atrocity, Americans are coming to see the Israeli government as pounding the Star of David into a swastika,” wrote the columnist Nicholas von Hoffman.
“In their zeal to ensure that the Jewish people never suffer another Holocaust, Israel’s leaders are imitating Hitler,” wrote the late pundit Carl Rowan.
The writer Pete Hamill conveniently cited an unnamed “Israeli friend” who supposedly said of Israel, “Forgive me, but all I can think of is the Nazis.”
The bestselling British novelist John le Carre (England’s literary circles have long been incubators of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment) lamented in the Boston Globe that “It is the most savage irony that [Menachem] Begin and his generals cannot see how close they are to inflicting upon another people the disgraceful criteria once inflicted upon themselves.”
Author/commentator William Pfaff also looked eastward and beheld the Fourth Reich rising in Jerusalem, suggesting that “Hitler’s work goes on” and speculating that Hitler may “find rest in Hell” with “the knowledge that the Jews themselves, in Israel, have finally accepted his own way of looking at things.”
(Pfaff, now 85, hasn’t lost a step in his stomp-Israel shuffle, writing in August, at the end of Operation Protective Edge, that “It now is time to terminate the Israeli-American alliance,” adding for good measure a fairly ominous warning to American Jews that when the end of that alliance does come, it “may turn these allies into enemies, igniting in the United States an unforgiving anger at America’s exploitation, and against those responsible for the exploitation.”)
The late Alfred Friendly, formerly a managing editor of the Washington Post, was in a fine frenzy, stopping short of using the word “Nazi” but raising the specter of Israeli fascism just the same: “[Israel’s] slaughters are on a par with Trujillo’s Dominican Republic or Papa Doc’s Haiti. Still absent are the jackboots, the shoulder boards, and the bemedalled chests, but one can see them, figuratively, on the minister of defense.”