Why Israel is being equated with Nazi Germany

Sara Gon writes that such propaganda is intended to erase the Jews' status as victims

Hitler did a sterling job #gas chambers needed

I wish Hitler was alive and his gas chambers were still in use

I regret Hitler didn't clean sweep, poor Palestinians have to do it now

move to Europe or Auschwitz

Hitler did right to kill these cockroaches

Yes man, you were right. I could have killed all of the Jews, but I left some of them to let you know why I was killing them

Was Hitler wrong about the Jewish evil?

Let me salute to Hitler the Great

Jews are pigs. I think we should kill you SA Jews and kill your kids and let you know what the Palestinians are feeling

These are the tweets issued by Mahlaba, Saffiya, Johan, Thembelane, Rene Smit, Rachel, unknown and Ziyaad as quoted by Wendy Kahn, National Director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies in a disturbing article she wrote which appeared in The Star, 18 July 2014, entitled Anti-Semitism is given fresh vent.

Kahn also quotes someone who phoned in to Cape Talk/Radio 586 stating: "The Germans should have wiped out every Jew on Earth."

I quoted them for convenience but could have quoted a slew of similar comments that I have read in the past couple of weeks in tweets and in comments to blogs.

Similar sentients have been expressed in formal media releases to Politicsweb from the ANC, SACP, ANCYL. As I write there is a media release by Khaya Xaba, YCLSA's National Spokesperson describing a proposed rally by a group of Jews in support of Israel:

"The planned rally evokes images of Nazi Germany and its many supporters who gathered to cheer Hitler and the army on as they wrought death and destruction throughout Europe. South African Zionists have objected to Israel being compared to the Nazi regime which killed millions of Jews. We advise Zionists to stop the mass murder of Palestinians if they want to avoid the comparisons to Nazis."

The reasons for this is starkly simple. Mr. Xaba, Ronnie Kasrils, Jessie Duarte  et al invoke these images in relation to Israel because they know that they will hurt, offend and enrage Jews.

When you have chosen a narrative of Israeli aggressor and Palestinian victim with no regard to the nuances, complexities and liability on both sides, the Nazi analogy is the gift that keeps giving.

In 1982 Hafez al-Assad (Bashar's father) murdered between 20 000 and 40 000 people (including children) in Homs to bring an end to the Muslim Brotherhood's influence in Syria. This was the culmination of action against the Islamists. I do not have figures for the period that preceded this event.

In the 3 years of the current Syrian civil war, nearly 200 000 people (including children) have been killed including an estimated 1300 from a gas attack by Assad's forces.

The Black September War of 1970-71 between the Jordanian Kingdom and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation over who should rule Jordan, cost between 5000 and 25000 lives (including children) depending on which sources one relies. The PLO was expelled to Lebanon.

Casualties in the 3 years of the Bosnian war (including children) are estimated at 100 000.

Today BBC World television reported that in the past week, ISIS militants have killed 1700 people and that some of the images were too gruesome to broadcast. I understand that this is because some of the images inlcude beheadings. Seven hundred soldiers were killed in Syria over the weekend and about 120 civilians are dying daily, according to BBC.

In 66 years of conflict between Israel and Palestine there have been approximately 20 000 deaths. But only this conflict draws the Nazi analogy. Why?

There are a number of reasons. The Holocaust resulted in the death of well over 6 million Jews. Against the background of milennia of anti-Semitism, the Holocaust forced the world to consider irrefutably the Jews as victims. The only way to remove the tag of innocent victim into to vile perpetrator, is to delegitimise the "status" of victimhood by comparing Jewish deeds, and none other, to Nazism. Thus the victimhood of the Jews is removed and transferred to the Palestinians, and the Nazi perpetrator status is accorded to the Jews.

But this is only the end result of a hatred that cannot simply be explained as aimed at Israel only. When Xaba refers to "South African Zionists" he is referring to Jews not Israelis.

Anti-Semitism has its roots in the foundation of the 2 largest montheistic religions. Thus anti-Semitism is rooted from birth and the de-victimisation of Jews becomes easier with every aggressive action Israel takes.

I would guess that Mahlaba, Saffiya, Johan, Thembelane, Rene, Rachel and Ziyaad were brought up from the moment they were born as Christians or Muslims. What they may or may not be now doesn't matter. In their religious education, formal and other, they are likely to have been exposed to the concept of Jews as "Christ killers", the ungrateful people who would not convert to the new and better monotheistic religion in the name of Christ, the son of God who died for them, or in the name of Allah.

But the event that sealed anti-Semitism, so to speak, was the Jew as "child murderer" created by the infamous "blood libel" of Norwich in the 12th century. A boy named William was found dead in the woods outside York. A monk, Thomas of Monmouth, accused local Jews of torturing and murdering him in mockery of the crucifixion of Jesus. Although many townspeople did not believe this claim, a cult venerating the boy eventually sprang up.

The myth began to circulate that each year Jewish leaders around the world met to choose a country and a town from which a Christian would be apprehended and murdered.

The blood libel spread throughout the Christian world in the Middle Ages. When a Christian child went missing, it was not uncommon for local Jews to be blamed. The absence of evidence of Jewish involvement did not prevent Jews from being tortured until they confessed. Some Christians believed that the four cups of wine that Jews drink at the Passover Seder celebrations were actually blood. Others claimed that Jews used Christian blood as a medicine or even as an aphrodisiac. Scholars have documented about 100 blood libels that took place from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries. Many of them resulted in massacres of Jews.

Thomas would probably have been one of the very few literate people in York. So none of the citizens were in a position to form a view that wasn't presented to them by a dominant religious figure

In 1840, members of the Damascus Jewish community were charged with kidnapping and killing a Christian priest who had disappeared. Several notable Jews from Damascus were tortured to extract confessions, and an angry mob destroyed a synagogue. The libel gradually became imported into the Muslim world, from Christian society.

Islam as the third monotheistic religion became the ultimate version authorised by God, and thus Christians and Jews became second class citizens in Islamic lands although they were allowed to retain their religions. Islam, as the dominant world force, lasted until the16th century when the empire faded and the Muslim world split into a variety of conservative tribal states. Into this environment the libel and other lies took root in the 19th century.

The libel is alive in many Muslim states; as is the easy availibilty of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion which puported to be a tract setting out how the Jews were going to attain world domination. It is an anti-Semitic hoax published in Russia by the Tsar's secret police in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early 20th century. Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s.

The Nazis publicised the text as though it were a valid document, although it had already been exposed as fraudulent. After the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, it ordered the text to be studied in German classrooms. It has been suggested that that Hitler used the Protocols as his "warrant for genocide".

Even though Nazi anti-Semitism is described as biological, it's origins lie in the immutable strength of religious anti-Semitism set in stone by powerful, literate men, with religious zeal amongst poor, illiterate populations, living very hard lives. Jews were often presented as the same threat as guilt, sin, the devil, and taxes.

The churches that gave most succour to these beliefs were the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Lutheranism.

A regular columnist for The Star, Janet Smith, refers to a rally against Israel that included a placard saying "Child Killers". She didn't decry the placard. She just noted its expression of the depth of feeling. Israel has been charged with targeting children. In a crowded area such as Gaza the tragic likelihood of children being killed, as opposed to deliberately being targeted, is enhanced by the fact that about 45% of the population of Gaza is 14 years or younger.

Poor Rene! She has been identified and she has urged others to spread her "good word". So she, and not the others, is being taken to the Human Rights Commission for hate speech. The others can continue on their merry, anti-Semitic way because Twitter allows them to be anonymous. Their "courage" to express their hate is probably largely encouraged by said anonymity.

But the sentiments are there. History has shown that to move hate to murder is not that difficult. Ordinary hate-filled people just have to be led by persistent leaders with the same abhorrent views. These views just have to be expressed publicly and often. And then anything becomes possible. If you don't believe the Jews, ask the Tutsis. The ruling party and its allies are certainly leading the charge currently.

Xaba congratulates the 52 "leading South African Jews who signed a letter on the Cape Times front page on Friday 18 July, calling on our government to expel the Israeli ambassador and decrying the aggression directed at Palestinians citizens of Gaza. Brave whites stood up and defied the apartheid regime in South Africa, brave Jews, today are standing against Zionism and its evil atrocities."

The 52 Jews should not be overly reassured by Xaba's praise. When hate turns to murder the identity of the victim is that which the perpetrator confers on the victim, not that conferred on the victims by the victims themselves

US orientalist Bernard Lewis has said that there is only one question to ask to determine whether this conflict can be resolved: "What is this conflict about? Is it about the size of Israel or about its existence?"

If it's the former then "it is not easy but is possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime. But if the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise between existing and not existing. And no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether the country should or should not exist." The answer should result in the moral clarity required.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has dispatched Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad to try to apply our local experience and moral authority to this conflict. The Deputy Minister need only ask the leadership of Hamas this question even he asks no other.

Mr. Xaba, what is the question for you?

Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter