Monday, April 20, 2009

Let's Talk About The Nazis

By Barry Rubin

Today is the day for the commemoration of the Shoah, of the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators from many countries. This membrance can be no more timely than today of all the days since the end of World War Two. The following article is dedicated to learning those lessons.

Comparing contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis is increasingly commonplace. --U.S. State Department report on antisemitism, 2007.

Let's talk about the Nazis. There should have already been more than enough discussion about this in the more than half-century since Adolf Hitler's bunker fell in 1945. There have been hundreds and thousands of books, articles, speeches, and so on about what is commonly known as the Holocaust.

But apparently it hasn't been enough, or well enough understood.

The Nazis were not just mean people. They had an explicit doctrine of being superior human beings and of the Jews and others (especially Slavs and non-white peoples, except for their ally, Japan,) of being sub-humans who should be wiped out. Homosexuals and Gypsies would all be killed. Germany would rule the world.

This does not resemble Zionism. To put it bluntly, Zionism as an ideology has absolutely no interest in the world as a whole. It focuses only on building a Jewish state in the land of Israel. It has no interest in defining any other group of people, no global perspective. It has never even argued that Jews are better but only that Jews are a people with the same rights as other peoples. The concept is on asserting Jewish equality, not superiority.

There is, however, an ideology which does have a lot in common with Nazism, though there are also, of course, differences. Radical Islamism claims that other religions are inferior, that the people who hold them are evil, that Jews and Christians are evil, and that Islam should rule the world. The Hamas Charter quotes a source on this point: "You are the best community that has been raised up for mankind....Ignominy shall be their portion" of non-Muslims unless they convert to Islam."

If it doesn't seek the extinction of all Jews in the world--and many Islamists increasingly speak in these terms--at a minimum it favors the elimination of at least half (those in Israel) and the large part of the other half that supports Israel. The Hamas Charter says that only by killing all the Jews can the messianic era come and that Jews are the cause of all the world's problems. Oh, yes, and it also calls Israel a "Nazi-like society."

Mind you, these are the people controlling the Gaza Strip, firing rockets daily at Israel, teaching their children by television and in the classroom that killing Jews is their highest duty and honor, sending gunmen to murder Jewish students deliberately, and then celebrating that fact.

Let's return, however, to the original and self-described Nazis to get a sense of what it means to have a Nazi policy.

My father's family comes from the village of Dolhinov which was in Poland, a few miles from the Russian border. Most of the inhabitants were Jews. By 1941, there were nearly 5,000 Jews there, about half of them refugees from the part of Poland already under German rule. On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded the USSR and they entered Dolhinov six days later. No one in Dolhinov had a gun. No one fired a single shot at a German soldier.

What was the Nazi policy? All the Jews were forced into a ghetto. On March 3, 1942, the Germans murdered the rabbi and 22 other men. On March 28, about 800 Jews were killed. Between April 29 and May 1, all the rest of the Jewish inhabitants, except for a few who were kept temporarily as workers, were shot and thrown into a big ditch. The rest were murdered on May 21. Of 5,000 Jews then living into town, 96 percent were killed deliberately and systematically. And if the Nazis had their way it would have been 100 percent.

The only survivors were about 200 people who had fled into the forest, wandered for days, and finally had the luck to meet up with a Red Army patrol. They were taken to safety in Siberia for the rest of the war. Virtually all of them came to Israel, where they rebuilt their lives.

Today, these people and their descendants have the privilege of being compared to the Nazis by large parts of the world, including many who enjoy privileged lives in democratic countries.
This is my great aunt's family on my grandfather's side. Haya Doba Rubin, her husband Aharon Perlmutter, and their two sons, Haim who was 12 years old and Jacob who was 10 years old were murdered. No survivors.

This is my great uncle's family on my grandmother's side. Samuel Grosbein married Rivka Markman and they had two children, Leah Rivka Markman, 18 years old, and Lev Markman, 23 years old. All of them were murdered on the same day. No survivors.

Here is the family of my great aunt on my grandmother's side. Rahel Grosbein married Yirimayahu Dimenshtein and they had two children, Moshe, 21 years old and Tova, 16 years old.

The first three were murdered on the same day. Only Tova survived because she had fled into the forest.

That is what a Nazi policy is like. Multiply that by six million for the Jews alone and more for the Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others.

Let's compare this with a conventional Western democratic war-fighting policy. The goal here is to defeat the enemy army but it has been permissible to strike against the economy and infrastructure as well. There is no intent to kill civilians but they may be hit by accident. During World War Two, U.S. and British warplanes engaged in carpet bombing of German and Japanese cities as well as factories where civilian workers were employed. Tens of thousands of French civilians were killed in raids on occupied France.

To my knowledge, no Allied soldiers were punished for killing civilians by accident or through carelessness. Nobody was court-martialed for shooting prisoners.

Israeli policy is far more careful to avoid injuring civilians. Most airstrikes are against specific buildings or even individual automobiles. Civilian bystanders have been killed yet far fewer proportionately than has been true for, say, the U.S. or French armies. Soldiers have been tried and punished for actions which, at least in the recent past, would have been ignored in Western armies.

There is no instance I know of in which Israeli units opened unlimited fire on a crowd, even when rocks were being thrown or shots fired against them. Individual targets were picked out. Unarmed people were killed but not deliberately and in small numbers. If Israelis were as their enemies picture them to be, there would be hundreds of Palestinians killed in a single day, tens of thousands in a year.

Thus, even if Israel has been held to a double standard, its record has been better than that of even Western counterparts. Only by lying about that record--the norm in the Arabic-speaking world and all-to-common in the Western one--can it be made to seem terrible.

We need only remember what the Nazis believed and did, what Israelis believe and do, and what their enemies believe and do. It should not be so hard to understand the distinctions.

Barry Rubin is writing a book about the history and the extinction of his family's town, Dolhinov, Poland.

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