[UPDATED] In a Cross-currents post this week, the following question is posed:
“[The children of Gaza settlers were] wearing the yellow star with the word jude in Germanic characters emblazoned upon it. Do such tactics trivialize the real Holocaust? Some say so. After all, as tragic as these evictions are, these Jews are being expelled not by Nazis who wish to destroy them, but by fellow Jews who, for the most part, have tried to display gentleness and sympathy.”
The Cross-currents post then endorses and fuels the comparison of Gaza to the Holocaust. The post states: “in the air there lingers a faint Holocaust aroma: forced evacuations; barriers of barbed wire; people forbidden to enter the area; … To be sure, not a Holocaust, but certainly redolent of it.” The post refers to the removal of Gaza settlers as a “velvet-gloved mini-Holocaust.”
UPDATE: The author has responded to critics such as yours truly. He states:
In no lexicon are terms like “faint aroma” or “redolent” anything more than suggestions of a distant recollection. Under no circumstances are they to be construed—nor were they intended—as indicating equivalence—especially when I wrote, “to be sure, not a Holocaust…” It is obvious that the horrors of the Holocaust are sui generis, and are not to be placed on the same level with any other such event in history. I certainly did not intend to compare Gaza and the Holocaust, nor do I think I articulated such sentiments (though I did use the term “mini-Holocaust”) but if I gave that impression, I apologize and will try to be more clear in the future.
MY REVISED VIEW: This response deserves to be read in full, especially where he distinguishes between detached analysis and an emotional appreciation for the evicted settlers. In a spirit of "detachment as a counterbalance to our passion," the post below is being edited to focus on a halakhic rebuke of those who compare the Gaza disengagement to the Holocaust, or Israeli forces to Nazis.
The yellow star tactic and other Nazi comparisons do trivialize the Nazi era and the Holocaust. The Holocaust and the array of Nazi persecutions should be characterized in the context of ethnic persecution and genocide. Mass murders in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Armenia, and various aboriginal peoples might be compared to the Holocaust. Many governmental actions are oppressive and immoral, but few can responsibly be labeled a “mini-Holocaust”.
What about the forced evictions? Both Western law and Jewish law give government some discretion with evictions. Even under the “rule of law” , of course, evictions may violate human rights -- hence the outcry over the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo eminent domain case. While more traumatic than Kelo, the Gaza evacuation likewise offers compensation. Plus, resettlement within the Jewish state.
While the Cross-roads post refers only to “a faint Holocaust aroma,” the yellow stars and other rhetoric send an objectionable message.
Those who compare the Gaza evacuation to the Holocaust
a "mini-Holocaust", this Cross-currents post insult the IDF and Israeli police. They defame the Israeli government and leaders. It approves the slandering of Israeli Jews as (faintly) comparable to Nazis.
Toxic speech, vitriol, constitutes a severe violation of Jewish law. Slander, defamation, and insult are prohibited through various provisions of halakhah. For instance, wronging by words (honayat devarim) “is worse than a wrong inflicted in financial dealings, because restitution can be made for one and not the other; one is financial, while the other is personal.” (Mishneh Torah, trans Birnbaum) Therefore, comparing the Gaza evacuation to the Holocaust may be a violation of Jewish law on toxic speech.
Should we excuse the Gaza settlers themselves for claiming that they are like victims of the Nazis? Maybe. They feel victimized, desperate. Yet, if we excuse their Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric, wouldn’t we also need to excuse Palestinians comparisons of Zionism to racism and IDF actions to Nazism?
Still, the post at Cross-currents So, comparisons with the Nazi era is are inexcusable. Our rabbinic leaders ought to oppose any comparison of the IDF, Israeli police, or Israel and its leaders to the Nazis. American Rabbis ought not compare the Gaza evacuation to a mini-Holocaust. The post at Cross-currents should be retracted. The post’s Defamatory language is permissible under secular law in the U.S.and Israel, thanks to freedom of speech. However, the post the yellow star and evocations of the Nazi era violate Jewish law and ethics, which the settlers author surely recognize s as morally and divinely binding.
PS Jewish law offers guidance on proper rebuke of fellow Jews. I would argue that the Nazi comparison also violates the Jewish standards for rebuke of Israel. I hope that my comments here are a proper rebuke. While rebuke is often best done in private, please note that the Cross-currents post itself invites public comment.
PSS What about Missippi Governor Haley Barbour's comparison of hurricane Katrina to Hiroshima? Well, the comparison is somewhat off-kilter, I would say, but it was said in the heat of the moment, not strategically, and I suspect it doesn't offend.