Holocaust Inversion: The Portraying of Israel and Jews as Nazis

No. 55

  • 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 

The EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism

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.”

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 

Manifestation and Motivation

Holocaust inversion manifests itself in many ways. It is expressed in speech, writing, and visual media, also including cartoons, graffiti, and placards. It employs sinister characterizations of Israel and Israelis, Nazi symbols, and sometimes takes the form of Nazi genocidal terminology to describe Israel’s actions.

The perpetrators of the most severe Holocaust distortions have manifold motivations. The most extreme aim at the destruction of Israel. This was expressed by Holocaust-denying Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki at the International Conference on Review of the Holocaust Global Vision held in Tehran in December 2006. At this assembly of Holocaust deniers and minimizers, Mottaki stated: “if the official version of the Holocaust is thrown into doubt, then the identity and nature of Israel will be thrown into doubt.”11

  • More specifically, the most extreme Holocaust inverters seek to lay the infrastructure for Israel’s moral delegitimization by first demonizing it.
  • Many Western Holocaust inverters also aim to bolster the Arab and Palestinian cause by demonizing Israel.
  • Other Westerners seem to act out of anti-Semitic motivations. They show little or no interest in the frequent murdering of Palestinians by other Palestinians nor in the plight of Palestinians killed and persecuted elsewhere-for instance, in Iraq. This also pertains, of course, to the murdering of Israelis by Palestinians.
  • Yet others know little about the Holocaust, the Nazis, and contemporary Israel. They are influenced by members of the media and other societal elites who are Holocaust inverters.
  • Absolving one’s ancestors of guilt is another motif of many Holocaust inverters. The Holocaust was not exclusively the work of Germany-which incorporated Austria-as well as several nations allied with it. Large numbers of Europeans collaborated with the German occupiers. The most effective way to neutralize this is to shift the moral responsibility to Israel by claiming that what was done by the perpetrators is widespread and now practiced primarily by Israelis and Jews.

This malicious identification of Israelis as Nazis is intended to free Europeans of their remorse and shame for their centuries-long history of lethal anti-Semitism. Above all, it liberates Europeans from any residual guilt they might have experienced in the wake of the Shoah. If the Israelis-who are, after all, mostly Jews-can be depicted as Nazis, then not having helped them during World War II might not have been misbehavior.

Israeli Holocaust-psychologist Nathan Durst related European expressions with anti-Semitic undertones to guilt toward the Holocaust. “If the guilty person is bad, the Jewish victim becomes good. The moment it can be shown the latter is bad too, the ‘other’-that is, the European-is relieved of his guilt feelings. To claim that Israelis behave like Nazis reduces the sin of the grandparents. Then the children of the victims can no longer be the accusers. This equalizes everybody.”12

Jeffrey Gedmin, the new American president of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, observes: “It is very helpful for a certain ideology in European political culture to see the Palestinians as helpless underdogs being repressed by the Israelis. This thesis enables many Europeans to relativize, or even balance, Europe’s guilt.”

He adds:

This reflects further European hypocrisy…since there is no passion in either Germany or Europe for independent Kurdish or Basque states. There is no concern for Tibetan underdogs. One can only conclude that the reasons Europeans consider the Palestinian cause for independence central are their cultural bias, burdens of the past and anti-Semitic feelings. It would be much more logical to see the Israelis as underdogs, a small democracy in a large, hostile Arab environment.13

Visual Forms of Israel Inversion

An effective way to grasp the main modes of Holocaust inversion is by analyzing placards and cartoons. These rely on familiar and immediately perceived core stereotypes of hatred, of which the number is limited. This iconography must appeal to ideas with which the public at large is familiar. This particularly pertains to Arab societies where so many people are illiterate.

In many anti-Israeli demonstrations, banners are carried that show the Star of David as equivalent to the swastika. The phenomenon is international. At such a demonstration in the Place de la République in Paris on 7 October 2000, a placard was inscribed “Stop the Jewish Hitlerian terrorism!” Below the words a Star of David was drawn as equaling a swastika.14

That same year a placard in French at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Brussels read: “The years change, the executioners change.”15 Under it was a Star of David, an equal sign, and the SS symbol. At the September 2001 UN World Conference against Racism in Durban (hereinafter Durban conference), Arab-looking women carried a banner saying “1940s Hitler 2000s Sharon.”16

Another example among many occurred at a 2002 demonstration in Washington where a young Arab-looking woman held a placard designed as the Israeli flag, reading “Hitler & Sharon are the same.” A swastika appeared on the flag instead of the Star of David.17  

Also in cartoons this equation is a frequently recurring theme. At the Hamashahri Holocaust-cartoon exhibition in Tehran, a drawing by the Algerian Choukri Bellahadi showed an Israeli flag turning into one with a swastika.

Israeli Leaders as Resembling Hitler

A regularly recurring motif is that Israeli leaders are like Hitler or Nazis. Comparisons between Israelis and Nazis, and of swastikas and the Star of David, are especially commonplace in the Arab world. In his standard work on Arab anti-Semitic cartoons, the Belgian political scientist Jöel Kotek devotes a section to Holocaust inversion. In 1996, the major Egyptian daily Al Goumhouriya published a cartoon showing Hitler saying to Shimon Peres: “I made a mistake by not apprising the importance of American support.”18

A cartoon in the Egyptian daily Al Akhbar in 2000 shows Israel’s then prime minister Ehud Barak dressed as a Nazi with a Hitler mustache.19

Ariel Sharon was perhaps the Israeli prime minister most often depicted as a Nazi. The well-known Lebanese cartoonist Jabra Stavro, in Lebanon’s Daily Star in 2002, transformed in four pictures Sharon with his white hair into Hitler with a mustache and black hair. A Star of David on Sharon’s collar is also transformed into a swastika.20 The Tehran exhibition included a caricature by Bahraini Mohammed Amano showing Sharon in Nazi uniform wearing a skullcap.

These phenomena are far from limited to the Arab world. In Norway anti-Semitic cartoons appear regularly in several of the major papers. In July 2006 the Dagbladet daily, Norway’s third largest paper, carried a drawing by Finn Graff of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as a Nazi.21

Israel Worse than the Nazis

Sometimes cartoons even present Israelis as worse than Nazis. Kotek says: “A 1993 cartoon in the Syrian daily Teshreen shows one soldier with a Star of David on his helmet and another with a swastika on his helmet. The caption reads: ‘The Security Council has studied the case of genocide of the Palestinians.’ The long list is of Israeli crimes; the small list of Nazi crimes.”22

The claim that Israel is worse than the Nazis also appeared in the Hamashahri competition. The Moroccan cartoonist Naji Benaji was awarded a special prize for his drawing of two bottles. One, on which “Holocaust” is written, contains a few skulls; the second carries the Palestinian flag and is filled with skulls.

The number of cartoon variations on the core motif of Holocaust inversion is virtually unlimited. Kotek cites the Brazilian Carlos Latuff as a well-known anti-Semitic caricaturist who has been producing such works for many years.23 He won a shared second prize in the Tehran competition for a cartoon showing an Arab as a concentration-camp inmate.

A 2002 cartoon in the Greek daily Ethnos, close to the then-ruling Pasok socialist party, has become a classic of twenty-first-century anti-Semitism. It shows two Jewish soldiers dressed as Nazis, with Stars of David on their helmets, thrusting knives into Arabs. Its caption reads: “Do not feel yourself guilty, my brother. We were not in Auschwitz and Dachau to suffer, but to learn.”24

These were preceded in 1988 by the Kuwaiti paper Al Rai-Al Aam, which published a caricature of a soldier with a gun, kippa, and long nose shoving a child into a furnace. The image alluded to both the Shoah and the ancient anti-Semitic blood libel that Jews use children to bake matzo.25

Toynbee, European Communists

The same anti-Semitic motifs also occur in written and verbal form. They go back to the immediate postwar period, though today they are much more frequent. The well-known British historian Arnold Toynbee, a notorious anti-Semite, claimed in his major work A Study of History that the Israeli treatment of Arabs during the 1948 war was morally comparable to the Nazi treatment of the Jews. He repeated this accusation in a 1961 debate with the then Israeli ambassador to Canada, Jacob Herzog, who asserted that the Nazi murder of six million Jews was incomparable to the unfortunate uprooting of Arab communities.26

Soviet propaganda was one of the important roots of Holocaust inversion. Israeli anti-Semitism scholar Simcha Epstein relates how in 1953, French communist intellectuals organized a solidarity rally in Paris to support the official Soviet claim that mainly Jewish doctors had assassinated communist leaders. He notes that at the meeting many speakers, including Jews, “explained that it was normal to suspect doctors of poisoning people: one only had to look at Mengele’s role in Auschwitz. If he was capable of what he did, why should other physicians not use poison?”27

Although this example concerned Jews, presenting Israelis as Nazis was also widespread in the communist world. In 1968, Simon Wiesenthal stated that East Germany’s news service was far more anti-Israeli than that of other communist countries. This was because of the former Nazi propagandists it employed. “On 14 July 1967, for example, a cartoon appeared in the Berliner Zeitung, depicting a flying Moshe Dayan, with his hands stretched out toward Gaza and Jerusalem. Next to him stood Adolf Hitler in an advanced state of decomposition. He encouraged Dayan with the words: ‘Carry on, colleague Dayan!’”28

In a famous 1968 open letter, British philosopher Bertrand Russell accosted Polish prime minister Wladyslaw Gomulka: “By some twisted logic, all Jews are now Zionists, Zionists are fascists, fascists are Nazis and Jews therefore are to be identified with the very criminals who only recently sought to eliminate Polish Jewry.”29

The West European Mainstream

The Holocaust-inversion theme has already appeared in the West European mainstream for several decades. Leading European politicians such as the late Swedish socialist prime minister Olof Palme and the late Greek socialist prime minister Andreas Papandreou have accused Israel of using Nazi methods.30 31

In recent years such charges have become more widespread. American congressman and Holocaust-survivor Tom Lantos described the distortions of the Holocaust at the Durban conference. He also notes that at a preparatory emergency conference in Geneva in June 2001, the UN high commissioner for human rights and former Irish president, Mary Robinson, “refused to reject the twisted notion that the wrong done to the Jews in the Holocaust was equivalent to the pain suffered by the Palestinian in the Middle East. Instead she discussed ‘the historical wounds of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust on the one hand, and the accumulated wounds of displacement and military occupation on the other.’”32

Senior members of the Greek Socialist Party often use Holocaust rhetoric to describe Israeli military actions.33 In March 2002, parliamentary speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis referred to the “genocide” of the Palestinians. He was backed by the government spokesman, Christos Protopapas, who said that Kaklamanis spoke “with sensitivity and responsibility, expressing the sentiments of the Parliament and Greek people.”34

One only has to read the recent judgment of the International Court of Justice on the Srebrenica mass murder to understand what genocide is and how perverse the genocide accusations against Israel are.35

In April 2002, Franco Cavalli spoke at a demonstration of the Swiss-Palestinian Society in Bern. He was then parliamentary leader of the Social Democratic Party (SP), which is part of the Swiss governing coalition. He claimed that Israel “very purposefully massacres an entire people” and undertakes “the systematic extermination of the Palestinians.” At the rally Israeli flags were torched.36 That same year British poet and Oxford academic Tom Paulin told an Egyptian newspaper that Jewish settlers in the West Bank are “Nazis and racists [who] should be shot dead.”37

Using Nazi genocidal language for Israel’s actions is another tool of Holocaust inversion. The most effective way to sanitize Germany’s immense crimes is to accuse Israel of acting similarly. In 2002 Norbert Blüm, a former German Christian Democrat minister of labor, charged that the Jewish state was conducting a “Vernichtungskrieg” against the Palestinians-the Nazi expression for a war of extermination.38 The Christian Democrat Party expelled parliamentarian Martin Hohmann many months after he had called Israelis in 2003 a nation of criminals, using the expression “Taetervolk,” commonly reserved for Nazi Germany.39

Holocaust inversion has made major inroads in the Western world, as shown, for example, by German survey data. The major GMF poll in 2004 interviewed 2,656 representatively selected German-speaking people in the country.40 Sixty-eight percent agreed that: “Israel undertakes a war of destruction against the Palestinians.” Fifty-one percent agreed that: “What the state of Israel does today to the Palestinians, is in principle not different from what the Nazis did in the Third Reich to the Jews.”41

On 26 January 2007-one day before the United Nations’ International Day of Commemoration for the victims of the Holocaust-the 192-member UN General Assembly approved a resolution by consensus, introduced by the United States. It condemned “without any reservation any denial of the Holocaust.” It did not mention any country. Iran reacted by stating that the Holocaust should be examined to determine its scope. Mario Palavicini, the delegate from Venezuela, supported the resolution but also inverted the Holocaust by saying that Israel’s “excesses under the pretext of legitimate defense has led to a new holocaust against the Palestinian people.”42

In Spain in 2006, there was even an attempt to invert the day of official Holocaust remembrance. Susana Leon Gordillo, a member of Prime Minister Zapatero’s ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) and mayor of the Madrid suburb Ciempozuelos, decided to commemorate in his town the “genocide of the Palestinian people.” At the request of the Spanish Foreign Ministry, “Palestine Genocide Day” was canceled. References to the affair were taken from the Ciempozuelos municipality website.43

The Anti-Defamation League condemned the mayor’s Holocaust-inversion attempt and addressed him a letter saying:

Your attempt to equate the industrialized mass murder of six million Jewish women, men and children, as well as millions of others, with the situation of the Palestinian people is shameful. It reflects an extremely disturbing tendency, which is particularly visible in Europe to dishonor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and de-legitimize the State of Israel by seeking to eradicate the clear moral difference between the Holocaust and the loss of Palestinian lives as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict.44

There are some Jewish Holocaust inverters as well. One is Sara Roy, a senior research scholar at the Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies. A child of Holocaust survivors herself, she used a Holocaust Memorial Lecture to suggest that Israelis are Nazis, saying: “Within the Jewish community it has always been considered a form of heresy to compare Israeli actions or policies with those of the Nazis and certainly one must be very careful in doing so.” She then insinuated that they are comparable, quoting as proof-a figment of Palestinian propaganda-that “Israeli soldiers openly admit to shooting Palestinian children for sport.”45

Fishman, in an essay on the Cold War origins of contemporary anti-Semitic terminology, lists a variety of Israelis, academics and others, who have made Holocaust-inverting remarks.46

Inversion of Symbols

Many Holocaust symbols have also been inverted. In Amsterdam in February 2007, graffiti appeared showing Anne Frank with a keffiya. One regularly finds cartoons or pictures comparing Arab cities and towns to the Warsaw Ghetto,47 and attempts to compare the killing of the Palestinian child Mohammed al-Dura-who probably died from a Palestinian bullet-to the iconic Jewish child raising his hands in the Warsaw Ghetto.48

Attorney Khaled Mahamid, an Israeli Arab from Nazareth, has founded a Holocaust museum. The Anti-Defamation League, while praising the existence of an Arab museum in Israel commemorating the Holocaust, expressed its deep concern that its approach undid much of the benefit it could have achieved.

The ADL statement continued that the museum was based

on the false premise that the Palestinian people are paying the price for European guilt over the Holocaust by having what they believe is an illegitimate Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world. By placing the PLO flag at the museum as well as posters of Palestinian refugees and photos of Palestinian victims of violence juxtaposed next to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Mr. Mahamid also seeks to create a totally inappropriate connection between the plight of the Palestinians and the Jewish Holocaust victims.49

The Arab World

Holocaust denial and Holocaust inversion are frequently found together in the Arab world. This is seemingly strange yet reflects the perpetrators’ aim of maximum demonization of Israel. Nordbruch points out that “articles denouncing Zionism as Nazism often include Holocaust denial as well.”50

The Hamas Charter is one of a large number of Arab sources that commit Holocaust inversion. Its article 20 states: “The Nazism of the Jews does not skip women and children, it scares everyone. They make war against people’s livelihood, plunder their moneys and threaten their honor. In their horrible actions they mistreat people like the more horrendous war criminals.”

The charter is repetitive; its article 31 says: “The Nazi Zionist practices against our people will not last the lifetime of their invasion, for ‘states built upon oppression last only one hour, states based upon justice will last until the hour of Resurrection.’”51

Comparing Palestinians to Shoah Victims

Another manifestation of Holocaust inversion is comparing the situation of the Palestinians to that of the Jews in concentration camps. It is found in many cartoons as well as elsewhere.

Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author José Saramago, a communist, compared the blockaded Palestinian city of Ramallah to Auschwitz.52 While visiting Brazil he declared that the Jewish people no longer deserve sympathy for the suffering they endured during the Holocaust.53

Wistrich notes that the Anglican Church Times chose to mark Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day with a particularly malevolent article by the Rev. Richard Spencer, who described events in Ramallah as a “suffering and deprivation that I could only imagine in Auschwitz.”54

Durst observes: “When one calls everything Auschwitz, you deny the Holocaust. As everything becomes terrible, there is no absolute evil anymore. This is a great relief for the heirs of guilt.”55

The Muslim World and the Nazis

Even superficial analysis shows that the main ideological similarity to Nazi thought and behavior is nowadays found in parts of the Muslim world. The influence of neo-Nazi movements in the Western world is small compared to the prominence of Nazi-like thought among Muslim societies.

The dominant example is Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His genocidal threats and incitement against Israel have deep roots both in fundamentalist Iran and among radical Muslim figures in other countries.56 He also has called the Holocaust a myth.57  

The Hamas Charter is another document calling for genocide. Its Article 7 lays the groundwork for its ideology of murder: “the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah’s promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!”

Palestinian Extremists and “Moderates”

The Palestinian incitement calling for genocide of the Jews goes back well before World War II. The abovementioned Haj Amin el-Husseini, the prewar mufti of Jerusalem, was the leader of the Palestinian Arab extremists before the War of Independence and supported Hitler’s actions against the Jews. In the late 1930s, he was financially and militarily assisted by Hitler’s Germany. As Matthias Küntzel put it: “a biography of the Mufti published in 1943 clarified the closeness in world view between National Socialism and Islamism from a German perspective.”58

For a long time the leader of the Palestinian Arab “moderates” was Ragheb bey el-Nashashibi, the mayor of Jerusalem, who also came out in favor of the mass murder of Jews. After the 1929 riots in Mandatory Palestine, the non-Jewish French writer Albert Londres asked him why the Arabs had murdered the old, pious Jews in Hebron and Safed, with whom they had no quarrel.

The mayor answered: “In a way you behave like in a war. You don’t kill what you want. You kill what you find. Next time they will all be killed, young and old.” Later on, Londres spoke again to the mayor and tested him ironically by saying: “You cannot kill all the Jews. There are 150,000 of them.” Nashashibi answered “in a soft voice, ‘Oh no, it’ll take two days.’”59

This reflected a much broader Arab mindset. It was most succinctly put by Azzam Pasha, secretary of the Arab League, who announced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.”60

Arab Countries a Haven for Nazis

Many Nazis who escaped from defeated Germany found a new home in Arab countries. Alois Brunner, an Austrian Nazi war criminal and assistant to Adolf Eichmann, fled to Syria in the mid-1950s and acted there as a government adviser.

Egypt in particular became a haven for Nazis. There, they continued their anti-Semitic activities. Among them was Johannes von Leers, a Goebbels collaborator, who was brought to Egypt by Haj Amin el-Husseini after World War II. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Omar Amin, and became a political adviser to the Information Bureau of the Egyptian government.61

When in 1953 there was a rumor that Hitler was still alive, Anwar as-Sadat, later president of Egypt, wrote in deference to him: “I congratulate you wholeheartedly…. You can be proud of it that you will be the immortal Führer of Germany. We will not be surprised when we see you rise again or when after you a new Hitler emerges.”62

Fishman shows the important role of Nazi propagandists in transplanting their propaganda themes into the Middle East and particularly into the media war against Israel. He concludes: “If today’s Arab anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda strongly resembles that of the Third Reich, there is a good reason.”63

Conclusion

Holocaust inversion attempts to delegitimize Israel by associating it with the epitome of evil and criminal behavior, Nazi Germany. It attacks and humiliates the Jewish people by equating them with the perpetrators of the brutal genocide that nearly succeeded in exterminating the Jews completely. It also serves to sanitize Germany’s immense crimes and those of other European countries by accusing Israel of acting similarly.

Yet the world’s major contemporary propagators of Nazi ideology live outside Europe. The most powerful ones can be found mainly in the Muslim world. Palestinian, often genocidal, anti-Semitic incitement is part of a broader picture of a widespread, partly theocratic, Muslim totalitarianism.

Fighting Holocaust inversion and other manipulations of the Holocaust requires first exposing the perpetrators. Thereafter the accusers must be turned into the accused.

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is an international business strategist who has been a consultant to governments, international agencies, and boards of some of the world’s largest corporations. Among the ten books he has authored are Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (JCPA, Yad Vashem, World Jewish Congress, 2003) and European-Israeli Relations: Between Confusion and Change? (JCPA, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2006).

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Publication of this issue was made possible in part by the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany (Rabbi Israel Miller Fund for Shoah Research, Documentation and Education).

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Notes

1. The author expresses his gratitude to Dr. Joel Fishman for his many valuable comments, as well as to several other members of the Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism staff meetings. He is also grateful to JCPA interns Yonit Golub, Elise Wiedre, and Romy Grace for their assistance in researching this paper.

2. Nathan Sharansky, “Foreword,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2004): 5-8.

3. www.jafi.org.il/agenda/2001/english/wk3-22/6.asp.

4. “Manifestations of Antisemitism in the EU 2002-2003,” European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, Vienna. For background on the process, see Michael Whine, “International Organizations: Combating Antisemitism in Europe,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2004).

5. Michael Whine, “The Berlin Declaration and the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism: Progress in the Struggle in Europe,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No. 41, 1 February 2006.

6. Ibid.

7. Robert Wistrich, “Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Vol. 16, Nos. 3-4 (Fall 2004): 29.

8. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Georges-Elia Sarfati, “Language as a Tool against Jews and Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No. 17, 1 February 2004.

9. Joel Fishman, “The Big Lie and the Media War against Israel: From Inversion of the Truth to Inversion of Reality,” Jewish Political Studies Review, Spring 2007, forthcoming.

10. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Deborah Lipstadt, “Denial of the Holocaust and Immoral Equivalence,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Europe’s Crumbling Myths: The Post-Holocaust Origins of Today’s Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: JCPA, Yad Vashem, World Jewish Congress, 2003), 121.

11. Anne Barnard, “Conference in Iran on Holocaust Begins,” Boston Globe, 12 December 2006.

12. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Nathan Durst, “Europe: From Guilt Feelings to Repackaging Anti-Semitism,” in Europe’s Crumbling Myths, 135.

13. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Jeffrey Gedmin, “Experiencing European Anti-Americanism and Anti-Israelism,” in Manfred Gerstenfeld, Israel and Europe: An Expanding Abyss? (Jerusalem: JCPA, Adenauer Foundation, 2005), 149-50.

14. Gerard Rabinovitch, “Petit lexique du prêt à penser,” Observatoire du Monde Juif, 2 March 2002. [French]

15. Fighting Anti-Semitism (Jerusalem: Minister for Diaspora and Jerusalem Affairs, Coordinating Forum for Countering Antisemitism, JCPA, 2004).

16. Tom Lantos, The Durban Debacle: An Insider’s View of the UN World Conference against Racism (Jerusalem: Institute of the World Jewish Congress, 2002), 17.

17. Fighting Anti-Semitism.

18. Al Goumhouriya, 24 April 1996, cited in Joël et Dan Kotek, Au nom de l’antisionisme: L’image des Juifs et d’Israël dans la caricature depuis la seconde Intifada (Brussels: Éditions Complexe, 2003), 62. [French]

19. Al Akhbar, 3 October 2000; Kotek, ibid., 60.

20. Teshreen, 15 April 1993, Kotek, ibid., 63.

21. Cartoon by Finn Graff, Dagbladet, 10 July 2006, cited in Erez Uriely, “Jew Hatred in Contemporary Norwegian Caricatures,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No. 50, 1 November 2006.

22. Kotek, Au nom de l’antisionisme, 63.

23. Kotek, ibid 161.

24. Ethnos, 7 April 2002. [Greek]

25. Kotek, Au nom de l’antisionisme, 83.

26. “Moral v. Numerical,” Time, 10 February 1961.

27. Manfred Gerstenfeld, interview with Simon Epstein, “Fifty Years of French Intellectual Bias against Israel,” Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism, No.  4, 1 January 2003.

28. J. H. Brinks, “Political Anti-Fascism in the German Democratic Republic,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1997): 207-17.

29. For sources, see Joel S. Fishman, “The Cold War Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitic Terminology,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 517, 1-16 May 2005, fn. 1.

30. Moses Altsech (Daniel Perdurant, pseud.), “Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Greek Society,” Analysis of Current Trends in Anti-Semitism, 7 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1995), 10.

31. Per Ahlmark, “Palme’s Legacy 15 Years On,” Project Syndicate, February 2001.

32. Lantos, Durban Debacle, 17.

33. Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Twenty Months of Antisemitic Invective in Greece: March 2002-October 2003,” 14 October 2003.

34. Antisemitism Worldwide, 2002-3, Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University.

35. www.icj-cij.org/icjwww/idocket/ibhy/ibhyjudgment/ibhy_ijudgment_20070226_frame.htm

36. “Israel-Kritik oder Antisemitismus?” Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 26 April 2002. [German]

37. Giles Foden and John Mullan, “When Authors Take Sides,” The Guardian, 27 April 2002.

38. “Der Vorwurf des Antisemitismus wird auch als Knuppel benutzt,” Stern, 18 June 2002. [German]

39. “Hohmann vor Parteigericht der CDU,” Die Welt, 21 April 2004. [German]

40. Aribert Heyder, Julia Iser, and Peter Schmidt, “Israelkritik oder Antisemitismus? Meinungsbildung zwischen Öffentlichkeit, Medien und Tabus,” in Wilhelm Heitmeyer, ed., Deutsche Zustände 3 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2005), 144ff. [German]. GMF stands for Gruppenbezogene Menschenfeindlichkeit (Group-Targeted Misanthropy).

41. Ibid., 151.

42. Alexandra Olson, “U.N. Adopts Holocaust Denial Resolution,” The Guardian, 27 January 2007.

43. Itamar Eichner, “‘Palestinian Genocide Day,’ instead of Holocaust Day,” ynetnews.com, 31 January 2007.

44. ADL Press Release, “Spanish Mayor’s Decision to Commemorate ‘Palestinian Genocide” on Palestinian Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Shameful,’” 26 January 2007.

45 Sara Roy, Second Annual Holocaust Remembrance Lecture, Baylor University, 8 April 2002.

46 Joel S. Fishman, “The Cold War Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitic Terminology.”

47. Kotek, Au nom de l’antisionisme, 114.

48. Ibid., 115.

49. “Tehran Rejects Israeli-Arab Seeking to Prove Shoah,” ynetnews.com, 11 December 2006.

50. Goetz Nordbruch, “The Socio-Historical Background of Holocaust Denial in Arab Countries,” Analysis of Current Trends in Anti-Semitism, 17 (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 2001), 9.

51. www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html.

52. Associated Press, “Author Compares Palestinian City to Nazi Death Camp,” Miami Herald Tribune, 27 March 2002.

53. ADL Press Release, “Portuguese Nobel Laureate’s Remarks on Jews and the Holocaust Are ‘Incendiary and Offensive,’” 15 October 2003.

54. The Church Times, 24 January 2003, quoted in Robert S. Wistrich, “European Anti-Semitism Reinvents Itself,” American Jewish Committee, 2005.

55. Gerstenfeld, interview with Durst, 135.

56. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Ahmadinejad Calls for Israel’s Elimination and Declares War on the West: A Case Study of Incitement to Genocide,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 536, 1 November 2005.

57. Manfred Gerstenfeld, “Ahmadinejad, Iran, and Holocaust Manipulation: Methods, Aims and Reactions,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, No. 551, 1 February 2007.

58. Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhass (Freiburg: ça ira, 2003), 35-46. [German]

59. Albert Londres, Le Juif Errant Est Arrivé (Paris: Arléa, 1997), 209. [French]

60. Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel (New York: Knopf, 1979), 333.

61. Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhass, 50.

62 Ibid., quoting Robert Wistrich.

63 Fishman, “The Big Lie.”

 

About Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is former Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he founded and directed the Center's Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism program. Dr. Gerstenfeld is an international business and environmental strategist. Dr. Gerstenfeld is the author of many books including Revaluing Italy; Environment and Confusion; Israel's New Future Interviews; The State as Business: Do It Yourself Political Forecasting; Judaism, Environmentalism and the Environment; and The Environment in the Jewish Tradition-A Sustainable World. His latest book, Europe's Crumbling Myths exposes the origins of post-Holocaust anti-Semitism.