Alan Dershowitz. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Hulu)
Why are so many of the grandchildren of Nazis and Nazi collaborators who brought us the Holocaust once again declaring war on the Jews? Why have we seen such an increase in anti-Semitism and irrationally virulent anti-Zionism in western Europe?
To answer these questions, a myth must first be exposed. That myth is the one perpetrated by the French, the Dutch, the Norwegians, the Swiss, the Belgians, the Austrians, and many other western Europeans: namely that the Holocaust was solely the work of German Nazis aided perhaps by some Polish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian collaborators.
The Holocaust was perpetrated by Europeans: by Nazi sympathizers and collaborators among the French, Dutch, Norwegians, Swiss, Belgians, Austrians and other Europeans, both Western and Eastern.
If the French government had not deported to the death camps more Jews than their German occupiers asked for; if so many Dutch and Belgian citizens and government officials had not cooperated in the roundup of Jews; if so many Norwegians had not supported Quisling; if Swiss government officials and bankers had not exploited Jews; if Austria had not been more Nazi than the Nazis, the Holocaust would not have had so many Jewish victims.
In light of the widespread European complicity in the destruction of European Jewry, the pervasive anti-Semitism and irrationally hateful anti-Zionism that has recently surfaced throughout western Europe toward Israel should surprise no one.
“Oh no,” we hear from European apologists. “This is different. We don’t hate the Jews. We only hate their nation-state. Moreover, the Nazis were right-wing. We’re left-wing, so we can’t be anti-Semites.”
The hard left has a history of anti-Semitism as deep and enduring as the hard right. The line from Voltaire to Karl Marx, to Lavrentiy Beria, to Robert Faurisson, to today’s hard-left Israel-bashers is as straight as the line from Wilhelm Marr to the persecutors of Alfred Dreyfus to Hitler.
The Jews of Europe have always been crushed between the Black and the Red – victims of extremism whether it be the ultra-nationalism of Khmelnitsky to the ultra-anti-Semitism of Stalin.
“But some of the most strident anti-Zionists are Jews, such as Norman Finkelstein and even Israelis such as Gilad Atzmon. Surely they can’t be anti-Semites?”
Why not? Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas collaborated with the Gestapo. Atzmon, a hard leftist, describes himself as a proud self-hating Jew and admits that his ideas derive from a notorious anti-Semite.
He denies that the Holocaust is historically proved but he believes that Jews may well have killed Christian children to use their blood to bake Passover matzah. And he thinks it’s “rational” to burn down synagogues.
Finkelstein believes in an international Jewish conspiracy that includes Steven Spielberg, Leon Uris, Eli Wiesel, and Andrew Lloyd Webber!
“But Israel is doing bad things to the Palestinians,” the European apologists insist, “and we are sensitive to the plight of the underdog.”
No, you’re not! Where are your demonstrations on behalf of the oppressed Tibetans, Georgians, Syrians, Armenians, Kurds, or even Ukrainians? Where are your BDS movements against the Chinese, the Russians, the Cubans, the Turks, or the Assad regime?
Only the Palestinians, only Israel? Why? Not because the Palestinians are more oppressed than these and other groups.
Only because their alleged oppressors are Jews and the nation-state of the Jews. Would there be demonstrations and BDS campaigns on behalf of the Palestinians if they were oppressed by Jordan or Egypt?
Oh, wait! The Palestinians were oppressed by Egypt and Jordan. Gaza was an open-air prison between 1948 and 1967, when Egypt was the occupying power. And remember Black September, when Jordan killed more Palestinians than Israel did in a century? I don’t remember any demonstration or BDS campaigns – because there weren’t any.
When Arabs occupy or kill Arabs, Europeans go ho-hum. But when Israel opens a soda machine factory in Maale Adumim, which even the Palestinian leadership acknowledges will remain part of Israel in any peace deal, Oxfam parts ways with Scarlett Johansson for advertising a soda machine company that employs hundreds of Palestinians.
Keep in mind that Oxfam has provided “aid and material support” to two anti-Israel terrorist groups, according to the Tel Aviv-based Israeli Law Center.
The hypocrisy of so many hard-left western Europeans would be staggering if it were not so predictable based on the sordid history of western Europe’s treatment of the Jews.
Even England, which was on the right side of the war against Nazism, has a long history of anti-Semitism, beginning with the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 to the notorious White Paper of 1939, which prevented the Jews of Europe from seeking asylum from the Nazis in British-mandated Palestine. And Ireland, which vacillated in the war against Hitler, boasts some of the most virulent anti-Israel rhetoric.
The simple reality is that one cannot understand the current western European left-wing war against the nation-state of the Jewish people without first acknowledging the long-term European war against the Jewish people themselves.
Theodor Herzl understood the pervasiveness and irrationality of European anti-Semitism, which led him to the conclusion that the only solution to Europe’s Jewish problem was for European Jews to leave that bastion of Jew-hatred and return to their original homeland, which is now the state of Israel.
None of this is to deny Israel’s imperfections or the criticism it justly deserves for some of its policies. But these imperfections and deserved criticism cannot even begin to explain, must less justify, the disproportionate hatred directed against the only nation-state of the Jewish people and the disproportionate silence regarding the far greater imperfections and deserved criticism of other nations and groups including the Palestinians.
Nor is this to deny that many western European individuals and some western European countries have refused to succumb to the hatred against the Jews or their state. The Czech Republic comes to mind. But far too many western Europeans are as irrational in their hatred toward Israel as their forbearers were in their hatred toward their Jewish neighbors.
As author Amos Oz once aptly observed: the walls of his grandparents’ Europe were covered with graffiti saying, “Jews, go to Palestine.” Now they say, “Jews, get out of Palestine ” – by which is meant Israel.
Who do these western European bigots think they’re fooling? Only fools who want to be fooled in the interest of denying that they are manifesting new variations on their grandparents’ old biases.
Any objective person with an open mind, open eyes, and an open heart must see the double standard being applied to the nation-state of the Jewish people. Many doing so are the grandchildren of those who lethally applied a double standard to the Jews of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. They must be shamed into looking themselves in the mirror of morality and acknowledging their own bigotry.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of The Case Against the Democrats Impeaching Trump, Skyhorse Publishing, 2018. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post on July 21, 2014 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.