Gideon Levy / The Holocaust and Israeli Occupation Cannot Be Compared

Calling the occupation a manifestation of Nazism is incorrect, horrifically infuriating and harmful to the just Palestinian cause.

The Israeli soldiers played backgammon in their tent as a Palestinian ambulance stood waiting, its red lights flashing.

The sight of the ambulance, holding an agonized woman, was not enough to cause any of the soldiers to take a break from their game.

This went on for half an hour, until my patience finally ran out. It was the height of the second Intifada, and we were lined up at checkpoint 250, which at that point besieged the West Bank town of Jenin. I exited the vehicle and approached the soldiers, raising my distraught voice at them.

"They always keep us hanging like this," the ambulance driver had just told me, in contemporary Hebrew slang.

I asked the soldiers how they would have felt had it been their father or mother laying there in the ambulance. That query flurried through their minds, brainwashed against seeing Palestinians as a fellow human.

In my rage, I then told the soldiers that only monsters could play backgammon as an ailing woman suffers nearby. One of the soldiers cocked a gun at my head and unfastened the safety.

In the "investigation" held following the incident, the soldier claimed I told them they were Nazis. As far as they were concerned, the words "monster" and "Nazi" were synonymous.

I have never called Israel Defense Forces soldiers Nazis and I never will. The Holocaust and the Nazis could not and should not be compared to any other inhumane behaviors.

In Europe, this designation is becoming more and more common. The IDF are Nazis and Israel is a Nazi, Jews afflicting unto others all that was done to them.

A large part of the world's leftists - many of whom consider themselves to be friends of Israel, some of them even Jewish - see the Israeli occupation as a manifestation of renewed Nazism.

I reject that comparison with anger and contempt. It is incorrect, horrifically infuriating and harmful to the just Palestinian cause. The occupation is cruel enough, and while comparison to the Holocaust not only cheapens that historical memory, it also undervalues the crimes of the Israeli occupation.

There is no one absolute evil. Comparison between the Israeli occupation and Nazism is like comparing an elephant to a fly. What do they have in common? Practically nothing.

Worrying Racism

It's not clear who started it. Maybe it was us. Abba Eban, the legendary Labor foreign minister, once called the borders established following the 1967 Six-Day War "Auschwitz borders" - no less. Decades later, Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a "modern-day Hitler" - no less.

Portuguese author Jose Saramago was also tempted to make the comparison. After visiting the occupied territories in 2002, he said they resembled Auschwitz.

MK Issam Makhoul once gave a raised arm salute over the Knesset podium, calling out "Heil Sharon."

From both the right and the left, in Israel and abroad, comparisons rise.

All of these comparisons should be rejected. Anyone who likens the 1967 borders to Auschwitz and the president of Iran to Hitler is just as infuriating as those who compare the IDF to Nazis.

The Israeli occupation is both brutal and cruel. Israel in 2009 is beginning to resemble 1930s Germany more and more. The dehumanization process Palestinians experience, encouraged by the media and executed by the IDF, brings to mind horrific images.

Anyone facing the barbed-wire fences surrounding Qalqilya, for example, cannot help but think of a concentration camp. A concentration camp - not an extermination camp. The person who smeared graffiti on the separation wall calling Abu Dis a ghetto, as it severed by an 8-meter high concrete wall, did so with good reason.

The racism exhibited toward Israeli Arab, wherever they may go, should also stir profound concern. Arab students are unable to rent apartments in Jewish cities and a Ramat Aviv grocery shop owner has said that quite a few of the upscale neighborhood's residents refuse to have Arab employees deliver their groceries. That too should ring some bells.

Arabs were fired from Israel Railways, essentially because of their ethnic affiliation, and others struggle to be accepted into government positions, for the same reason. So-called selections - yes, that's the name for it - prevents young Arabs from entering city night clubs. Security checkups in Ben-Gurion Airport, which separates people according to their ethnicity, and the checkups based on someone's accent, are sickening.

There are more than a few IDF orders and Knesset laws that if translated to German, would certainly cause alarm. The demand to require Arab citizens to pass a loyalty test would have sounded horrible in German. Also, the prevalent claims that Israel's problems could have been solved had we only barricaded the Palestinians behind fences or borders are just as horrifying.

The term "demographic threat" should sound familiar to the Holocaust generation, to subsequent generations, as should the discussion - shameful in its accepted legitimacy, - of how to deal with this apparent "threat." The citizenship law should have, as they say in English, "rang a few bells."