Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Holocaust Analogy Fallacy

Gideon Levy, a regular columnist for Ha'aretz and one who I do not always agree with wrote a piece which for the most part embodies exactly what I think about some of the more insidious criticisms or attacks leveled at Israel: that Israeli presence and actions in the occupied territories are somehow comparable to the Holocaust and the Nazis.

Levy writes:

"In Europe, this designation is becoming more and more common. The IDF are
Nazis and Israel is a Nazi, Jews afflicting unto others all that was done to

A large part of the world's leftists - many of whom consider themselves to be
friends of Israel, some of them even Jewish - see the Israeli occupation as
a manifestation of renewed Nazism.

I reject that comparison with anger and contempt. It is incorrect,
horrifically infuriating and harmful to the just Palestinian cause. The
occupation is cruel enough, and while comparison to the Holocaust not only
cheapens that historical memory, it also undervalues the crimes of the Israeli

There is no one absolute evil. Comparison between the Israeli occupation and
Nazism is like comparing an elephant to a fly. What do they have in common?
Practically nothing."

Yes! Thank you for that Mr. Levy, but take it somewhat further. The fact is, that comparisons between the Nazis and the current state of the Middle East reflects a grave misunderstanding of one, both of these historic/ongoing events. What the Nazis did to the Jews, the Gypsies, Homosexuals, the Infirm, Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles, Soviets, Communists and anyone else they didn't like has not since been repeated in scale, organization, institutionalization or quantity since nor had anything like it taken place before. Yes, the evil required for the Holocaust was not unique, it's been seen in Turkey, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Uganda, today in Darfur and in many other less known but equally shocking and abhorrent instances, but what the Nazis wreaked has never been repeated upon anyone else. Therefore, it is disingenuous and inaccurate to compare almost anyone or any group to Hitler or the Nazis, especially when the comparison is made when dealing with more trivial matters. Such comparisons are simply wrong and weaken the arguments of those making them. Hearing such comparisons raise the flag that any argument being presented in the same breath as a comparison to Nazis could be fallacious not only because it reports to mere name calling, but that it attempts to draw a false, emotional connection between the hatred and evil of Nazis with the target of the argument.

The inappropriateness of this comparison (with the exception of people who call themselves Nazis) ought to apply to everyone including, and again I agree with Mr. Levy on this point, Israelis who make this claim about others and even about their own Israeli political opponents.

Perhaps Levy should have a chat with the Iranian involved in yesterday's outburst at the Durban conference where he called the crowd protesting against him zio-nazis. That would be a good place to make this important argument. In many ways, making this case in Ha'Aretz is preaching to the choir.


Anonymous said...

Over 6,000,000 Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis, and even many more millions of Jews suffered from persecution short-of-death from the Nazis. Approximately 5,000,000 "Non-Jews" were also slaughtered by the Nazis, including 100,000 homosexuals, 200,000 gypsies, and 200,000 disabled persons.

Compare those "millions" of victims with the "handful" of Jehovah's Witnesses. There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis.

During that same time period, there were more Jehovah's Witnesses arrested and jailed in the United States than in Germany. In fact, from 1941 until 1945, approximately 4500 American Jehovah's Witnesses "elected" to go to prison rather than serve in the U.S. Military and go fight against those same Nazis who were committing those atrocities.

Approximately 3000 of those 4500 American JWs were even offered "conscientious objector" status, in which they were offered "non-combatant" work as a substitute, but 99% of those JWs refused to even help out that much.

In fact, it is an insult to mention Jehovah's Witnesses alongside Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis.

The WatchTower Society teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses". In fact, the title "Jehovah's Witnesses" was originally applied to the Jews by the Prophet Isaiah, and is even quoted on the wall at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.

The WatchTower Society, in calling its own members "Jehovah's Witnesses" is attempting to steal that designation away from the Jews. The WatchTower Society even teaches that all of the Bible's promises of restoration for the Jewish people now belongs to the followers of the WatchTower Society.

Charlie H. Ettinson said...

Thanks for the comment.

I'm not really sure where you're coming from. It may be true that less Jehovah's witness were killed than Jews, it may also be true that only a handful were killed, I really cannot speak with authority on the matter and would be interested to know where you found these stats. Nonetheless, these people were persecuted by the Nazis, had to wear similar special identifiable marks on their clothing, went to labour/concentration camps and were considered undesirable by the Nazis. It's true that the scale of the persecution of the Jews surpassed any other group persecuted by the Nazis but that doesn't diminish the suffering of other groups.

As for Jehovah's witnesses hating Jews. Well, again, I cannot speak to that. But it's widely known that the Poles, the Russians and other persecuted by the Nazis also held antisemitic sentiments. Their suffering in the holocaust is as valid as Jewish suffering in the holocaust. I also know of plenty of Jews who tried to escape military service during the war as well. All this to say, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at or what perspective you're trying to approach this issue with.