I received an e-mail recently from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz with the subject line: Stand up to — Iran's President — Ahmadinejad. Inside was a picture of an exuberant Ahmadinejad and the punch line: “We cannot live with a nuclear Iran.” The banner was linked to a two minute video by Aish.com.
This, in turn, is really a slideshow starting with a picture of Adolf Hitler. Followed by a gruesome picture of undernourished adult males in what I assume is a liberated concentration camp. The narrator says: "Imagine. you could have stopped Hitler in 1938." Showing Ahmadinejad above the quote: Israel must be wiped off the map, the narrator announces: "Today a new Hitler is on the world stage calling for the destruction of the state of Israel." The narrator falls silent for the display of two more pictures of Ahmadinejad above the quotes: "The Zionist regime is a dried up and rotten tree which will be annihilated with one storm." And: "The elimination of the Zionist regime will be smooth and simple."
The first quote about wiping out Israel is a matter of international debate. Some analysts say Ahmadinejad never made such a statement, and that it is an intentional mistranslation by Israel or their supporters to overstate the danger from Iran. If they are right and only the latter two quotes can be accredited to Ahmadinejad, he is not alone in wanting Zionism to be eliminated, which doesn't necessarily mean exterminating Jews or obliterating Israel. In my recent interview with Israeli author and academic Ilan Pape, he said: "Israel has to be de-Zionised to a point before any genuine reconciliation can be attempted." He was talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Whether Ahmadinejad said "Israel must be wiped off the map" or not, the comparison to Hitler and the Holocaust is a blatant misrepresentation of one of the world's most horrific acts. In 1938 the world was a different place, not least in the perception of Jews. in the 30s was an era when stereotypes were treated as fact and taught to children. Discrimination was accepted, in some cases even expected of people. Jews were stereotypically evil, greedy and devious – and persecuted because of it.
When Hitler's views began emerging, entrenched stereotypes made them indifferent, and even those who didn’t hate Jews. In short, the Jews had no friends in the world capable of or willing to stop Hitler. Today the situation is very different.
The Holocaust was a horrific and tragic occurrence. The world did not even attempt to stop it pre-emptively. However, the world's postwar guilt led, even if only indirectly, to the partitioning of Palestine for a Jewish homeland.
Second Holocaust Foiled
In its infancy, Israel faced threats from Arab countries surrounding it, who really did want to carry out a second holocaust, and who wanted to wipe Israel off the map. As Egypt's President announced before the Sinai war: "Egypt has decided to dispatch her heroes, the disciples of pharaoh and the sons of Islam and they will cleanse the Land of Israel….There will be no peace on Israel's border because we demand vengeance, and vengeance is Israel's death." The U.S. began supporting Israel militarily in the 60s and rescued Israel from the brink of defeat by airlifting military supplies during the Yom Kippur war: the aggressors Egypt and other neighboring Arab states learned that the U.S. wasn't going to let Israel be defeated. Since then, Israel faces only a very small threat from neighboring countries, and some have signed peace accords. The others are reduced to funding internal resistance groups against Israel's occupation, none of which are anywhere near capable of wiping Israel off the map.