By Khalid Amayreh
Zeev Sternhell is a Polish-born Israeli historian, political scientist, commentator on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and writer. He is one of the world's leading experts on fascism. Sternhell headed the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Last week, he convincingly argued in an article published in Le Monde that Israel today resembled to a large extent the early years of Nazi Germany.
The mostly jingoistic Israeli media ganged up on the man, accusing him of crossing all red lines. One Ynet commentator called Sternhell “an auto anti-Semite”. Others called him a self-hating Jew.
In his article, Sternhell argued that non-Jews in Israel, especially Arabs, feel they are living under a monster, given the racist laws continually promulgated in order to promote and enforce “the Jewishness” of Israel and also make non-Jews, especially Arabs, feel they are unwanted.
Israel’s Arab citizens constitute more than 20% of Israel’s population, and Israeli leaders, such as the current Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, have repeatedly called for expelling them to a would- be Palestinian state. Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories are not immigrants. They are the original inhabitants of the country. Hence comparing them with Arab expatriates living in Europe, who are recent immigrants, is outrageous to say the very least.
Critics of Sternhell’s treatise argued that it was grossly unfair to compare Israel with Nazi Germany. They regurgitated the usual hasbara items invoked by Zionist circles to deceive ordinary people who probably have no time to dig further for the truth. They pointed out that Israel’s Palestinians were full (not equal) Israeli citizens, that Arab students were studying at Israeli universities by the thousands and that many Arab doctors were working at Israeli hospitals. In short, the usual arguments intended to give a rosy outlook and hide the hard core-shell of Israeli racism and fascism. Interestingly, Sternhell critics carefully avoided any mention or allusion to some 5.5 million Palestinians languishing under a harsh military occupation in the West Bank and a draconian siege in the Gaza Strip, as if these thoroughly tormented people were a legitimate target for racism, occupation, repression and constant persecution.
However, Nazi Germany was about much more than just concentration camps, which appeared at the final stages of the Third Reich.
Indeed, Auschwitz, Mauthauzen Bergen Belsen, Dachau and Treblinka were the ultimate outcome of Nazism, not its modus operandi.
Nazism’s core modus operandi was the lethal, insidious and venomous racism against Jews and others which eventually produced the death camps.
Now, let us ask ourselves the following question: Doesn’t Israel has such a modus operandi?
I don’t write about the brutal treatment meted out to the Palestinians by Israel from a distant country so that I could be accused of being misinformed. I actually live this unrelenting agony 24 hours a day. I am in the heart of the fray. This is why I can accuse Israel of using the dishonest lawyer’s tactics to obfuscate the truth and create an alternative virtual truth based on lies and fabrications.
It is true that Israel allows Arab students to study at its universities and Arab doctors to serve at its hospitals. But it is also true that Israel has a systematic and institutionalized policy of insidious discrimination against Arabs in Israel, in addition to the manifestly brutal repression meted out to the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Needless to say, narrowing the Arab’s horizons for the purpose of prompting to immigrate has always been and continues to be Israel’s de facto policy toward the Palestinians.
Israel routinely demolishes Arab homes for a variety of reasons that are mostly disingenuous.
In the West Bank, the Israeli occupation army routinely (nearly on a daily basis) deploys bulldozers throughout the West Bank to demolish the family homes of Palestinians convicted of killing Israeli occupation soldiers or paramilitary Jewish settlers. Have you ever heard of Israel demolishing the home of a Jewish terrorist even if he committed the most hideous crime under the sun!
In Jerusalem, Israel demolished thousands of Arab homes under the pretext that these houses had been built without a valid building license. Just ask an East Jerusalemite and him or she would at yell you that obtaining a building license for Arabs is an extremely hard task, even next to impossible.
On 25 February 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish doctor who had emigrated from New York, Murdered 29 innocent Palestinian worshipers and seriously injured many others. His home was never demolished and his family continued until today to receive financial benefits from the Israeli state!
A few months ago, a group of Jewish hooligans, including adults, ganged up on an African refugee in Petah Tikva, beating him to death! This week, the Israeli media reported that the court reached a plea bargain with the defendants which would enable them to serve only a short period in jail.
Now, wouldn’t Jewish circles vociferously protest, and rightly so, if a court anywhere in the world treated the murderer of a Jew similarly leniently?
In fact, I myself continue to have unresolved grievances against Israel. On 27 Feb., 1953 (4 years before I was born), Israeli troops murdered my three paternal uncles: Hussein, Mahmoud and Yousuf. They were totally innocent shepherds who harmed no one. Until today, I have not received an acknowledgment of responsibility from Israel, a country that continues to berate Poland for restitution and indemnification for lost Jewish property going back to WWII.
You see, all these stories and events have one thing in common. It is the racist Zionist Jewish view of non-Jews as goys, children of a lesser God, and untermenschen! Was not this the defining feature of Nazism? Isn’t this the defining feature of Israel?
It is this affronting and highly revolting racism that Zeev Sternhell had in mind when he compared Israel to Nazi Germany.
Finally, I would like to ask the guardians of the Golem: what is so un-Nazi about occupying a country and tormenting, savaging and brutalizing its people for over 50 years in order to compel them to immigrate? Or does Israel think that its 50-year occupation of more than 5 million Palestinians is an act of charity rather than an act of rape?