Inverting the logic of the Holocaust

October 28th, 2009 by Dave Rich

Back in August, the Guardian ran a comment piece by Slavoj Zizek which accused Israel of wanting to make Palestinian territory “Palestinian-frei”. The Guardian edited this in their print copy to read “Palestinian-free”, but neglected to change the online version until after complaints were made. We posted about this here, and asked the question:

There is more than one “problematic cliche” in Zizek’s article, and in its publication by the Guardian and CiF. The most egregious part of one of those has been belatedly taken care of, but how many more “problematic cliches” will the Guardian stable keep chucking at us?

The comment page in Saturday’s Guardian goes some way to answering our question, in an editorial praising the Haaretz journalist Amira Hass. The article commends her work challenging the Israeli government’s actions in the Palestinian territories, before stating:

Her moral anchor is firmly rooted in painful collective memories. Her mother survived a concentration camp and her father the ghettos of Romania and Ukraine. “What luck my parents are dead,” Hass wrote at the height of the Gaza operation in January. Her parents could not stand the noise of Israeli jet fighters flying over the Palestinian refugee camps in 1982, and nor could they have tolerated going about their daily chores in Tel Aviv with the knowledge of what was going on in their name in Gaza: “They knew what it meant to close people behind barbed-wire fences in a small area.” Only a Jew can invert the “never again” logic of the Holocaust that is used to justify Israel’s least justifiable actions. It is that very experience, Hass argues, that should teach Israel to behave differently.

Far from just a “problematic cliche”, this whole section only makes sense as an allegation that Israel behaves in Gaza how the Nazis behaved towards the Jews – including Hass’s parents – in Europe. This is an odious comparison; an increasingly common staple of anti-Israel discourse which has a clear antisemitic impact.  There is much to be challenged, too, in the Guardian’s suggestion that the allegation gains value if it is spoken by a Jew; an idea should stand or fall on its merits, and this has none. The Guardian seems very happy,  in other contexts, to accuse others of distorting the memory of the Holocaust for contemporary political gain. It should not be playing the Nazi card against Israel.