Yad Vashem is wrong about Hamas and the Holocaust

The museum’s bizarre opposition to comparing the crimes of today’s Islamist killers to the Nazis is a betrayal of its mandate to preserve Jewish history.

Jonathan S. Tobin (November 1, 2023 / JNS)
Magen David (“Star of David”). Credit: Dziurek/Shutterstock.
Magen David (“Star of David”). Credit: Dziurek/Shutterstock.

In 1990, just as the age of the Internet was beginning, the term “Godwin’s law” was coined by author Mark Godwin. He observed that the longer any online discussion goes, the more likely it is that someone will make a comparison of something to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. And the person who goes there first usually loses the argument. But Godwin, who is also credited with the invention of the term “meme,” was more prescient than he could have known.

In the ensuing decades, the proliferation of Holocaust and Nazi analogies became commonplace. Partly due to the massive growth in Holocaust education in the United States that sought to universalize the Nazi war to exterminate the Jews, ordinary prejudice was denounced as the first step towards another Auschwitz. Regrettably, this has given rise to an “anyone I don’t like is Hitler” rule on both the right and left in which political differences are compared to Nazi Germans.

But while we are right to demand that the Holocaust be treated as a singular event that should never be mistaken for mere political quarrel, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be compared to historical events in which actual genocide, as well as movements with genocidal intentions, are involved. The genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, for example, in which entire populations were marked for death does bear a resemblance to Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

Then came the events of Oct. 7. In committing the largest mass slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust and committing barbaric atrocities on men, women and children, including rape and torture, Hamas made it impossible not to think about the legacy of Nazis. Even those of us who have been most critical of Holocaust comparisons are now forced to concede that we’ve arrived at a moment when doing so is not only appropriate but necessary.

An apt comparison

And that is exactly what many supporters of Israel are doing as they seek to push back against the horrifying efforts to downplay or justify Hamas’s crimes by a growing anti-Jewish movement making its voices heard on the streets of the world’s cities as well as on college campuses.

One who has not shied away from this is Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. Erdan has risen to the occasion during the current crises speaking out boldly against the Jew-hatred and prejudice at the world body in the wake of the Oct. 7 atrocities. But when the United Nations refused to condemn the mass murder in Israel, Erdan had had enough. He said he would don a Holocaust-style yellow Magen David (“Star of David”) with the word “Jude” until it did so.

He has been applauded by those who believe he is right to remind the world body that the indifference to Israeli victims today is reminiscent of the world’s silence and inaction during the Holocaust. But not everyone is cheering for him.

Some “senior officials” in the Israeli Foreign Ministry—always a bastion of defenders of a belief in getting along with Israel’s enemies rather than confronting them—denounced him in the left-wing newspaper Haaretz for what the anonymous diplomats described as a political stunt.

More importantly, Erdan’s gesture was also furiously criticized by Dani Dayan, the head of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Dayan, who had already publicly cautioned against using Holocaust comparisons when speaking of Hamas, thinks that doing so belittles or marginalizes the past. He claimed that the analogy was somehow an insult to Holocaust survivors. He also bizarrely argued that any discussion of Hamas and the Holocaust must wait “until sufficient research is done delving into the underlying aspects of these two ideologies.”

That makes no sense. There is no mystery about the “underlying aspects” of Hamas ideology. The Islamist terror group is quite open about its goals of eradicating Israel and its Jewish population, just as the Nazis intended to.

Dayan is no Holocaust scholar but was awarded the prestigious post as a consolation prize after a career in business, politics and diplomacy. He started out on the political right as an advocate for the settlement movement. But ever since landing at Yad Vashem, he has been demonstrating all of the usual symptoms of that peculiar malady that affects right-wingers once they get a taste of being treated as respected figures by the left-wing establishment.

Yad Vashem and the Mufti

This was first made clear in an absurd controversy over whether Yad Vashem would display, as it once did, a photo of the meeting of Adolf Hitler with the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin el-Husseini. The Mufti was the leader of Palestinian Arabs during the British Mandate and had incited pogroms against the Jews there. He spent the war serving the Axis and recruited Bosnian Muslims to join the SS, hoping that a German victory would allow him to defeat the British and the Zionists and eliminate the Jews in what is now Israel. The Mufti didn’t give Hitler the idea for the Holocaust at their meeting and was a marginal figure in wartime Berlin. But he was an enthusiastic supporter. It also symbolized the sympathy that many if not most Arabs felt for the Nazi cause because they saw Hitler as an opponent of their British and Jewish enemies.

Mention of the support for the Nazis by the Arabs deserves a place in any museum devoted to the history of the Holocaust especially when one thinks of what might have happened to the hundreds of thousands of Jews in the yishuv had the Germans defeated the British in North Africa in 1942 and conquered Palestine.

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November 2, 2023 | 2 Comments »

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