Eve Garrard: Gaza, Auschwitz of our Time?

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[Hat tip to Norman Geras and Engage]

The claim has been made that Gaza is rather like the Warsaw ghetto. Now this claim is either a legitimate comparison, or it’s a peculiarly unpleasant smear, insinuating that Israel is akin to Nazi Germany. So let’s see if it’s a legitimate comparison. The two main features of the Warsaw ghetto were (1) that it was an unspeakable atrocity, leading to the deaths of nearly half a million Jews and others, and (2) that it was part of a genocidal plan to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Take the first point, and consider the comparison: on the one hand, the number of Palestinian refugees in the late 1940s was approximately 750,000, but it now stands between 4 and 6 million. It would be quite hard to regard this as even an attempted genocide – few genocides end up with an increase in the victim population of the order of several hundred per cent. By contrast, the size of the Jewish population in the Warsaw ghetto after the three years in which it existed was zero. The current life expectancy of a Palestinian woman is 75 years, according to the UN. What was the life expectancy of a Jewish woman in the Warsaw ghetto? Whatever age she was, she had at the very most three more years to live. Not a striking similarity, then.

With reference to the second significant feature of the Warsaw ghetto, which supposedly resembles Gaza, it should be noted that Israel has had control of the skies over Gaza for many years now, and had it wanted to it could have produced the same outcome as the Nazis did in the Warsaw ghetto. The fact that it hasn’t done so would demonstrate to most people, even those hostile enough to stand in need of a demonstration, that it has no such aims. People who maintain their suspicion that Israel has genocidal intentions towards the population of Gaza do so in the face of a total lack of evidence to support their view.

Let us now consider whether there is any evidence that Israel is aiming to exterminate the Palestinians in general. Where are the slave labour camps in the Territories, in which tens and hundreds of thousands are worked to death, with a life expectancy of between three and six months? Where are the gas chambers killing thousands every day? Beats me, I just can’t see them.

So the comparison is not, to put it mildly, a legitimate one. It is, in fact, a poisonous smear, which derives its repellent quality partly from its exploitation of the terrible history of the Nazis and the Jews. It’s hard to know why some people feel the need to paint the swastika on to the foreheads of the Jews of Israel in this way, to covertly suggest that the Nazis have been reincarnated as Israeli Jews and that Israel is the new Third Reich. I think it’s unlikely that all boycotters share these views, but insofar as they do, their position is morally polluted by this new version of a very old stereotype, that Jews are secretly planning to kill millions of innocent people. (Eve Garrard)

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