In early 1941, a young American Jew named Theodore N. Kaufman published a slim volume calling for the sterilization of all Germans of procreative age and the division of Germany into eight parts, to be distributed among neighboring countries.
In response, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels commissioned an annotated version of Kaufman’s “Germany Must Perish!” He ordered the publication of at least 5 million copies, with the goal of warning that the Jews were trying to destroy Germany. Goebbels even described Kaufman, who owned a ticket agency in South Orange, New Jersey, as a senior adviser to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Haaretz Podcast: Why is Israel arming Azerbaijan against Armenia? Listen to Yossi Melman
I must confess that when I read this story in “Goebbels: A Biography” by German historian Peter Longerich (in the Hebrew edition, published by Dvir), what came to mind was a widely disseminated post by Heba Yazbak, written about five years before she was elected to the Knesset, representing the Joint List, an alliance of predominantly Arab political parties.
There was clearly no point in expecting the Nazi propaganda machine to ask the obvious question of why a young Jewish man would write such terrible things. Had they inquired of themselves honestly, they would have concluded that his extremism was an angry, ill-considered reaction to reports of the campaign of mass murders suffered by his people in Germany and the countries it had conquered.
Today, it’s possible to ask sane Israelis this question: Why do Israeli Arabs occasionally make extremist statements? An honest analysis would lead to the understanding that the source of this extremism lies in what is happening to their people in the besieged Gaza Strip, in the closed-off West Bank, in the Palestinian refugee camps in Arab states – and even here, with incitement and discrimination.
As a rule, I try to avoid bringing examples from the Nazi period. I think the Holocaust was the most horrifying tragedy in human history, and there’s no room for comparisons. But when statements exceed the boundaries of good taste (if good taste even exists here), and when it becomes clear that what’s happening here resembles those dark days, it’s necessary to put things in their proper context.
There are two unimpressive MKs whose public importance is near zero who repeatedly recite the same mantra – that Arab lawmakers support terrorism. The architect of this slogan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has already grown tired of repeating it, but they are continuing his work.
- Knesset Endorses UAE Deal by Large Majority; Netanyahu: Palestinians Will 'Sober Up'
- 'Everyone Is Dissatisfied' as Israeli Arab Lawmakers Try to Cover Split on LGBTQ Rights
- Ayman Odeh in Ramallah, a Bridge to Peace or Ragged Red Carpet?
Because he has stigmatized the Arab MKs as supporters of terrorism, Netanyahu is still serving as prime minister, a full year after he was indicted on three serious criminal offenses, and he is subordinating the entire political system to his legal needs. And the country is living through a nightmare.
The coronavirus is being dealt with according to the prime minister’s needs rather than the experts’ advice, sometimes even for the sake of postponing his trial. The legal system is under assault, as if the centrifuges of Iran’s nuclear program were hiding in its cellars. At any moment, the ugly mood in the streets might slide into violence and even a political murder. And the list goes one.
All of this would have been avoided had those two fake “purists” not vetoed any alternative government that was supported by the Joint List.
If we weigh the costs and benefits of maintaining Netanyahu’s government the way it is today versus ousting Netanyahu at the price of the Joint List’s participation in the cabinet, then even if we were to assume that Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh is the head of Hamas’ military wing, MK Ahmad Tibi is the commander of the Al-Aqsa Brigades and other Joint List MKs are board members of the company that makes Hamas’ Qassam missiles, we could confidently state that not even one-thousandth of the evil that is happening here now would ever have happened.
The Arabs, despite their enormous baggage in the form of a sense of injustice, are extending a hand toward the recovery of the state. Grasp it, before it’s too late.