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No. Jews are not Facing a Second Holocaust
Please stop making these comparisons.
The lead story in the New York Times today was about a few hundred people being let out of Gaza. Shaken, sick, injured, fearing for their lives, these people were finally able to leave after three weeks trapped in the strip and seek medical care or, in the case of the many foreign nationals among them, go home. Of course millions of Palestinians remain inside under a relentless hail of bombs and a ground invasion. Immediately next to this article was another piece headlined “Familiar Fear Gripping Jews Across Europe” with a subtitle about antisemitism surging since October 7th. I struggle to express how much I deplore the invocation of the Holocaust here. There is no denying that antisemitism is rising globally and that far-right parties have been rising in Europe for years, largely buoyed by anti-immigrant sentiments. But to invoke the Holocaust because of antisemitic incidents rising over the last three weeks is reprehensible. It manages to both minimize the Nazi genocide of Jews, and minimize what is happening to Palestinians at this very second.
I know to some this statement may sound like a reach, so allow me to break it down. I would hope and assume that I do not need to explain how the rise of antisemitic violence over the last few weeks is nothing like the Holocaust. But to briefly state it, a combination of underlying antisemitism and anger over the actions of the state of Israel has led to a rise in violence against Jews. I wrote this past weekend about how Israel seeks to bind the Jewish identity to their Zionist project, how the far-right across the globe is the number one purveyor of antisemitism, and how fascists are seeking to take advantage of this moment. And yet that is in no way comparable to an entire military and nation committing to the eradication of the Jewish people. It is not comparable to the Holocaust.
To make that comparison is one thing, and it's unacceptable. But to then place that directly next to an article about how a few hundred people were able to flee the relentless attack on the Gaza Strip is unforgivable. Placing them side-by-side works to manufacture the lie that Jewish fears in Europe, and elsewhere, are in any way comparable to the mass bombing of civilians, refugee camps, schools, and more. Palestinians are being killed by the thousands in Gaza. In the West Bank they are being attacked in a way that many Jews and other observers compare to the notorious pogroms we were subjected to in Eastern Europe and Russia. We cannot, must not pretend that our understandable fears about antisemitic attacks are in any way comprable to the mass violence that Israel is unleashing upon Palestinians right now. Our fears are reasonable, are valid, but to play up and distort our victimhood is both disingenuous and serves to provide cover for genocide and ethnic cleansing.
We must begin by being clear, perhaps even brutally clear, about what is happening in Gaza. Israel's paper of record, Haaretz, just published a searing, scorching piece by Gideon Levy on the IDF bombardment of the Jabalya Refugee Camp. Here’s just one short excerpt:
“Burnt children thrown one beside another, three and four on one filthy bed; most of them were treated on the floor for lack of enough beds. “Treatment” is the wrong word. Due to the lack of medicines, life-saving surgery was carried out not only on the floor, but without anesthesia. The Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia is now a hell.”
What else is there to say. I have been struck by that sentiment again and again. What level, what variety of atrocity is necessary for people to speak up, to demand a ceasefire, to demand an end to the horror? For some, like Lindsey Graham on CNN just the other day, there is apparently “no limit” to the number of civilians Israel could massacre, nothing that would make him tell Israel to hold off.
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But implore you to vigorously push back. I implore Jews with extra emphasis because we are keenly aware that, despite our protestations, the state of Israel repeatedly says this is being done in our name, and I implore all Americans and everyone in the West because this is also being done with our money. We must force our politicians to act, to call for a ceasefire, to stop funding this slaughter. We must force them to do everything in their considerable power to halt the genocide and the ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinians.
And part of generating the mass movement to put a stop to these atrocities is addressing the way antisemitism is being dishonestly weaponized at this moment. Israel and Zionists continually try to turn antisemitism into both a cudgel and a shield, one they hide their atrocities behind to devastating effect. And Jews are uniquely positioned to disarm this cudgel and expose what lies behind the shield. Thousands and thousands of Jews are taking radical action, disrupting business as usual, and even confronting Joe Biden as a brave Rabbi did yesterday. We can also disrupt the narrative and the propaganda war. Incredible activists at Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow are doing this daily, and the rest of us can and should join them.
We can start by being honest. We can start by eliminating the lie that the antisemitism we may be experiencing compares to being operated on without anesthetic after being blown up in our homes. We can start by acknowledging that we are not being forced to drink seawater, bury our children in mass graves, or wonder if tomorrow will be the day our house is blown up. We can start by acknowledging that while antisemitism is rising, it is Muslims and Palestinians that have been murdered in resposne to rising Islamophobia and hatred in the U.S. in recent weeks. We can start by telling the truth.
I’m so vehement about this because there’s been a noticeable wave of Zionist influencers saying things like “Jewish people all over the world are under attack” and comparing this to the Holocaust. That is then used as fodder for the New York Times. And much of this sentiment lies at the core of the problem with Zionism. What I mean by this is that while I am deeply, personally invested in the safety of the Jewish people I firmly reject the idea that it should come at the expense of others. And hyperbolic concerns about antisemitism and Jews being in danger in a way that’s anything like the Nazis committing genocide against our people are dishonest and serve to distract from and thus enable Israel’s current ethnic cleansing and genocide. I hope to help lessen that distraction and moreover make clear that addressing Israel’s actual crimes would lead to more safety for our people. It would certainly serve us better than crying wolf and obscuring the real and present dangers of antisemitism, which comes primarily from fascists, not people seeking to Free Palestine. Protecting Jews is in fact tied up with building real peace in Gaza, which means real justice for Palestinians and an end to apartheid. Solidarity with everyone pursuing justice, and the real peace and safety that will follow from there.
Thank you for reading, if you’re able to support with a paid subscription it allows me to spend more time writing for you. And I appreciate it so much - Josh