- The false accusation of Holocaust inversion-the portraying of Israel, Israelis, and Jews as Nazis-is a major distortion of history. This anti-Semitic concept claims that Israel behaves against the Palestinians as Germany did to the Jews in World War II. "The victims have become perpetrators," is one major slogan of the inverters. By shifting the moral responsibility for genocide, Holocaust inversion also contains elements of Holocaust denial.
- Holocaust inverters come from many circles. A large number are Arabs or other Muslims. Others come from the extreme Left in the West. A variety of Western mainstream public figures have made Holocaust-inversion statements, including politicians, academics, authors, as well as the occasional Jew or Israeli.
- The portrayal of Israelis and Jews as Nazis occurs in speech, writing, and the visual media, also including cartoons, graffiti, and placards. It employs sinister characterizations, Nazi symbols, and sometimes takes the form of genocidal terminology to describe Israel's actions.
- The motivations of the Holocaust inverters are manifold. Some aim at the destruction of Israel and seek to lay the infrastructure for its moral delegitimization through demonization. Some are extreme pro-Arabs, others anti-Semites. Yet others know little about the Holocaust, the Nazis, and contemporary Israel. For Europeans it is also an effective way to cover up for Holocaust crimes of their countries and expunge guilt by claiming that what was done by the Nazi perpetrators and their many collaborators is a common phenomenon and by now is practiced by Israelis and Jews.
- Contemporary followers and admirers of Nazi methods can mainly be found in the Muslim world, but are also present in Europe and elsewhere. Prewar Palestinian Arab actors had links to Nazi Germany. Examples are the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jerusalem mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini. After World War II, many Nazis fled to Egypt and served in its propaganda apparatus. In particular, current Egyptian but also Palestinian propaganda dates back to this era.
In recent years the attempts to manipulate the history and memory of the Holocaust have greatly increased. For several decades there has been much focus on Holocaust denial. Misrepresentations regarding the Holocaust, however, involve many other aspects as well. The number of these false mutations of Holocaust history is expanding. Related to these is the promotion of a second Holocaust through the destruction of Israel. Mutations include Holocaust universalization and banalization, that is, comparing real or supposed misbehavior in contemporary society to what happened in the Holocaust.
The focus here will be on another major distortion of the Shoah, namely, Holocaust inversion, or portraying Israelis and Jews as Nazis. This anti-Semitic concept claims that Israel behaves toward the Palestinians as Germany did to the Jews in World War II. "The victims have become perpetrators," is one major slogan of the inverters.
Holocaust inverters come from many circles. A large number are Arabs or other Muslims. Many others come from the extreme Left in the West. A variety of Western mainstream public figures have made Holocaust-inversion statements, including politicians, academics, authors, as well as the occasional Jew or Israeli.
Definitions of Anti-Semitism
Natan Sharansky, when he was the Israeli minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs, developed a simple formula that he called the "3D test" to help distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from anti-Semitism: demonization, double standards, and delegitimization.
Sharansky included the portrayal of Israel as a Nazi state within his definition of "demonization": "When the Jewish state is being demonized; when Israel's actions are blown out of all sensible proportion; when comparisons are made between Israelis and Nazis and between Palestinian refugee camps and Auschwitz-this is antisemitism, not legitimate criticism of Israel."2
By 2001 Prof. Irwin Cotler, who later became Canada's justice minister, explicitly identified the anti-Semitic character of Holocaust inversion. He pointed to several relatively new aspects of anti-Semitism such as calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, the portrayal of Israel as a Nazi state, and the discriminatory treatment of Israel through denial of equality before the law.3
In its 2004 report on anti-Semitism, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) noted the lack of a common characterization of anti-Semitism. This led to the EUMC working definition, which has subsequently been widely accepted.4 It states: "Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.... In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity."
The document that contains this working definition also offers examples of contemporary anti-Semitism. One of these is: "Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust."5
This text also states that "criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic." It lists examples of how anti-Semitism can manifest itself toward Israel:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel . . . .
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.6
The core motif of classic anti-Semitism was that Jews embody the most extreme malevolence. During the postwar era, the Nazi regime has become the paradigm for absolute evil. Comparing Israel's conduct to its actions is a new mutation of this ancient theme.
As anti-Semitism historian Robert Wistrich put it:
"anti-Zionists" who insist on comparing Zionism and the Jews with Hitler and the Third Reich appear unmistakably to be de facto anti-Semites, even if they vehemently deny the fact! This is largely because they knowingly exploit the reality that Nazism in the postwar world has become the defining metaphor of absolute evil. For if Zionists are "Nazis" and if Sharon really is Hitler, then it becomes a moral obligation to wage war against Israel. That is the bottom line of much contemporary anti-Zionism. In practice, this has become the most potent form of contemporary anti-Semitism.7
French linguist Georges-Elia Sarfati points out that the term anti-Zionism was pioneered by the Soviet Union's Information Ministry after the Six Day War. Researching the matter, he found that the word did not appear in dictionaries until the 1970s. He observes that "a number of key equations dominate the anti-Zionist discourse. The master one-which transversally commands all others-is 'Zionism equals Nazism.'... the anti-Zionist propaganda conveys that you have only to be against, for instance against Nazism-and who is not?-to be an anti-Zionist."8
Historian Joel Fishman asserts that "inversion of reality" constitutes the basic principle of current anti-Israeli propaganda, noting:
One of its most frequent expressions has been the accusation that the Jewish people, victims of the Nazis, have now become the new Nazis, aggressors and oppressors of the Palestinian Arabs. Contemporary observers have identified this method and described it as an "inversion of reality," an "intellectual confidence trick," "reversing moral responsibility," or "twisted logic." Because Israel's enemies have, for nearly half a century, repeated such libels without being challenged, they have gradually gained credence.9
American historian Deborah Lipstadt has also pointed out this method of establishing a fraudulent proposition as a historical truth. She says about the historical writer and Holocaust-denier David Irving: "Irving realized that a pre-condition for Nazism's resurrection was to strip and wash it of its worst elements. The first important tool to accomplish this was the creation of immoral equivalencies, essentially a balance of bad behavior."10
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