January 16, 2019

Following a Visit to Berlin – Can We Compare?

During a speech given at a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony back in April, the IDF deputy chief, Yair Golan, said a few words that sparked a controversy.  “If there is something that frightens me in the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying horrifying processes that occurred in Europe… 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding evidence of their existence here in our midst, today, in 2016.” (translation by The Times of Israel)

Even though he later cleared the air, stating that he did not intend to compare Israel to the Nazis, the media reports have already taken their course, giving those who seek to delegitimize Israel the fuel they needed.

But a bigger issue rose, following these statements. In response to people condemning Golan, my Facebook feed was filled with numerous shares of one image, a screenshot of a collection of Facebook comments made by Israelis, aimed at the Israeli-Arab population. One was a comment to a news report about 6 year-old Mohammad who suffers from a disease that can lead to his death, and how a special drug will be funded for him. The commenter wished for him to get rat poison instead.

The people who shared this image contemplated on the statement saying we “cannot compare” anything to the Holocaust and the processes that led to it. They pondered on whether the behavior Israeli Jews show to Israeli Arabs is similar to the way Germans treated Jews after the rise of the Nazi party.

This question, on whether we can draw this comparison, has been discussed ever since on social media. To be honest, I've had mixed feelings on the matter for a while, but after a recent visit to Berlin, I have reached a conclusion – we each should judge ourselves for our behavior, keeping what happened in Europe prior to WWII in mind, but we should never ever compare.

Berlin is a city where history surrounds you everywhere you go. Every wall is a monument, every street corner is a memorial. During my stay, I got to learn a lot about what led to the “Final Solution,” and the social and political processes that led to the rise of the Nazi party. I learned a lot about the terrible financial and social situation Germany was under after WWI, and how the Nazi party used this low as a leverage to their sick agenda.

The Nazis used clever propaganda to win the people's support, by blaming minorities for the people's troubles, and the Germans saw Hitler as a symbol of strength and security following the rough years of the Weimar Republic.