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Kristallnacht in Lod?

Published: (Updated: ) in Jewish News by .

Some event might truly resemble some aspect of the Holocaust and therefore would warrant such an analogy.

The post Kristallnacht in Lod? appeared first on Jewish Journal.

“It’s Kristallnacht in Lod!” declared the mayor of one of the Israeli cities hit hardest in this week’s Arab mob violence, referring to the infamous nationwide pogrom in Nazi Germany in 1938.

Partisans and pundits have not been shy about invoking Hitler or the Holocaust in their rhetorical salvos in recent years. So far, however, Mayor Yair Revivo of Lod seems to be alone in his particular characterization of the latest violence. Why has everyone else gone silent?

At first glance, reports from Lod could appear to lend some credence to the mayor’s assertion. A Lod resident named Shiloh Fried put it this way in an interview with Israel Television’s Channel 12:

“Gangs of Arab youths [residents of Lod] are going street to street, burning stores, smashing windows… Jewish families are huddled at home, terrified of going out… Their cars are being set alight outside… Police are nowhere to be seen.”

Three synagogues and dozens (according to some accounts, hundreds) of Jewish-owned automobiles in Lod were set on fire. Some residents reported that “power was cut in their homes and petrol bombs [Molotov cocktails] were thrown through their windows,” according to the Times of Israel. “Police acknowledged having to escort some residents from a community center to their homes as Arab mobs marauded in the streets.” The national police commissioner, Kobi Shabtai, said the violence was carried out on a scale “that we have never seen before” in the history of Israel.

Kristallnacht was unique for several reasons. One was the fact that the violence was organized by the government. Obviously that’s not relevant to any discussion of what happened in Lod.

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Another reason Kristallnacht was unique was the scope of the violence —hundreds of synagogues burned down throughout Germany, thousands of windows smashed in Jewish homes and stores, nearly one hundred Jews murdered and tens of thousands more hauled off to concentration camps. Mayor Revivo obviously is not suggesting that the residents of Lod suffered on a similar scale.

It is when one considers the savagery of the attackers that the mayor’s analogy strikes a chord. Setting fire to a house of worship or trying to stone one’s neighbor to death are acts of such barbarism that they inevitably call to mind similar attacks on Jews in the past. Likewise it was the viciousness of the anti-Jewish mobs in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, in 1991 — not that number of fatalities — which led most Jews to call it a “pogrom,” even though that violence was neither government-sponsored nor on a scale comparable to the attacks in Czarist Russia from which that term derives.

The problem with using Holocaust references to characterize non-Holocaust events is not that there is something inherently wrong with comparing one historical episode to another. The problem is that too often, partisans misuse history to score political points. In the process, they exaggerate what their contemporary targets have done and implicitly minimize what the Nazis did.

When U.S. Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez compared U.S. border detention facilities to “concentration camps” two years ago, she was saying, in effect, that conditions there were as bad as in, say, Dachau. But since we know that there is no murder, torture, starvation or slave labor in the U.S. facilities, the congresswoman’s (unintended) implication was that Dachau was not so awful — or at least not any worse than the detention sites in Texas.

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The dust-up over the Ocasio-Cortez remark prompted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to go to the other extreme. Embarrassed that one of its own staff historians had publicly cheered the Ocasio-Cortez statement, the Museum not only announced that it “deeply regretted” thehistorian’s outburst, but it also declared that it “unequivocally rejects efforts to create analogies between the Holocaust and other events, whether historical or contemporary.”

The problem with such a sweeping declaration is that it leaves no room for the possibility that some event, somewhere, at some time in the future, might truly resemble some aspect of the Holocaust and therefore would warrant such an analogy.

Some event might truly resemble some aspect of the Holocaust and therefore would warrant such an analogy.

Consider the fact that it is commonplace today for scholars to refer to the Holocaust as well as the mass killings in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda and Darfur as genocides. Grouping them together constitutes a kind of analogy. It is an acknowledgment that they have certain things in common, such as the central role of a sponsoring government, the scale of the atrocities, the depraved sentiment of the individual killers and the indifference of the international community.

In other words, even if Darfur was not identical to the Holocaust, it was still a genocide, just as the Holocaust was. Even if Crown Heights was not identical to Czarist Russia, there are enough similarities to warrant calling it a pogrom.

And when the dust settles, many may come to the conclusion that even if the events in Lod differed in some important respects from the pogroms in Nazi Germany, the behavior of the mobs in Lod —from burning down synagogues to targeting longtime neighbors — should at least warrant a serious communal discussion about these issues.

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Hopefully that discussion will focus less on the minutiae of Holocaust analogies and more on urgent questions such as: What would motivate someone to single out a synagogue for destruction? How could people who lived in peaceful coexistence for so many years suddenly turn on their Jewish neighbors? And when will the international community acknowledge the uniqueness and severity of the violence Israel is suffering?

Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust.

The post Kristallnacht in Lod? appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal

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