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Israel in 2014 Is Like Germany in 1933—Can the Madness Be Stopped?

A Jewish settler and an exiled Israeli anti-war activist agree.

Israeli tank crew near the Gaza strip.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock, Copyright (c) ChameleonsEye


In February 1983, at a rally in Jerusalem, peace activists demanded the resignation of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon following the outcomes of a committee that scrutinized his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon.

A grenade was thrown into the crowd by a right-wing thug, killing one man and injuring others. This was the culmination of escalating violence between a right-wing mob and left-wing demonstrators protesting the Lebanon war. Ever since that time, including the rally where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, there has not been such violence among the Israeli population, divided between supporters and opponents of the peace process.

These past few weeks have witnessed a new kind of rage. The brutal murder of Muhammad El Hadir by orthodox Jews, two of whom are teens, started a surge of violent processions, harassment of Arab passersby and violent threats on the lives of journalists, actors and other public figures who spoke up in opposition to Israel’s actions in the escalating conflict in Gaza. This phenomenon has grown in out-of-control discussions on social media and in clashes between anti-war demonstrators and thugs wearing Neo-Nazi attire (mostly orthodox Jews, oh—the irony). Those thugs are led by a rapper who calls himself “The Shadow” and who refers to his followers as “Lions” (“Lions of The Shadow”).

Elkana I. is a young Jewish man—he didn’t want his full name used—who comes from these right-wing circles but had enough of this madness. He was raised in the Jewish settlement Beth-El in the West Bank, which is politically identified with those right-wing thugs, as he too supports the right of Jews to settle in all of Israel. Elkana supports military action towards the Hamas who he does not see as a potential partner for peace. He does, however, identify the dangers the Israeli society is facing at this time when a lack of leadership is coupled with mounting fear and despair. He wrote a letter to his fellow right-wing Jewish orthodox peers. He published it on his Facebook page where it went viral within hours. As is often the case in a small tight knit place like Israel, not a day had passed and he was on every radio talk show. Why? He dared to compare modern Israel to Nazi Germany in the 1930s.  Elkana’s post and the attention it received speak to a sense of urgency, confusion and terror in Israeli society itself, something that is usually well tucked away behind a shield of support for the troop and a false sense of solidarity in the face of falling rockets.  

Another person who dared compare Israelis to Nazis was the well-respected and equally notorious Jewish scholar and philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz. Leibowitz, an orthodox Jew who lived in Jerusalem, called the Israelis to start peace negotiations days after the six-day war in 1967. He called the Israeli soldiers in the service of the occupation “Judeo-Nazis,” a phrase that kicked him far away from the consensus.

The Nazis came into power in Germany in 1933. Their propaganda against Jews was part of their leader Adolf Hitler’s racist agenda. Jews were less than 1 percent of Germany’s population, but saw themselves as an integral part of German society. They had lived there for centuries. The Nazis had one goal: purge Germany of Jews. Between 1933 and the time World War II started, in September 1939, Jews were slowly expelled from society, stripped of their rights and property. On April 1, 1933, a general boycott against German Jews was declared, in which Nazi party members stood outside Jewish-owned stores and businesses, in order to prevent customers from entering.  A week later, laws were passed banishing Jews from the civil service, judicial system, public medicine, and the German army. In September 1935 the “ Nuremberg Laws” were passed, stripping the Jews of their citizenship and forbidding intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews. By 1939 German Jews were being rounded up in ghettos and shipped to death camps. That was the beginning of Hitler’s “Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.”

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