"Go back to the oven! You need a big oven, that's what you need!" This is what one young woman thought passed for acceptable discourse during an anti-Israel rally last week in, of all places, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Other chants were similarly unlovely. You can watch it on YouTube if you like.
But why bother? The Fort Lauderdale outburst is just one window on the upside-down world of Israel hatred. Across the Islamic world, and in too many points West, it is still considered a penetrating and poignant insight to call Zionists the "new Nazis." For instance, in Sunday's Gulf News, Mohammad Abdullah al Mutawa, a sociology professor at United Arab Emirates University, penned an essay titled "Zionists are the new Nazis." He began: "Today, the whole world stands as a witness to the fact that the Nazi Holocaust was a mere lie, which was devised by the Zionists to blackmail humanity."
At a Saturday protest in New York against Israel's military assault on Gaza, some carried signs that read: "Israel: The Fourth Reich," "Holocaust by Holocaust Survivors," "Stop Israel's Holocaust," "Holocaust in Gaza" and "Stop the Zionist Genocide in Gaza."
Type "Israel" and "Nazi" into any news search engine and you'll be rewarded, or punished, with a bounty of such statements from just the last week or so. Gaza is the new Auschwitz, the Israeli Defense Forces are SS troops ... I find myself tempted to simply write "et cetera" because it's all so familiar by now. But to do that is to dismiss, and therefore accept, such grotesqueries as trivialities, when in fact such charges are deeply revealing -- just not about Israel.
First, let us note that if supposedly all-powerful Israel is dedicated to exterminating the Palestinian people, it is doing a bad job. The Palestinian population has only grown since 1948. There are more Arab citizens living in Israel proper today than there were in all of Palestine the year Israel was founded.
Perhaps one reason Israel fails at genocide is that it isn't interested in genocide? That would explain why Israel warned thousands of Gazans by cell phone to leave homes near Hamas rocket stockpiles. It would clarify why, even amid all-out war, it offers aid to enemy civilians. It would even illuminate the otherwise mysterious clamor from Israelis for a viable "peace partner."
But no. For millions of Israel haters, the more plausible explanation is that the "defiant" Palestinians have miraculously survived Israel's determination to wipe them out.
Meanwhile, calls for the complete extermination of Israel are routine. The Hamas charter, invoking the fraudulent "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" as justification, demands the destruction of Israel. Hamas exists solely because it is dedicated to the complete obliteration of the "Zionist entity." Remove that "principle" and Hamas is meaningless.
A sick mixture of Holocaust envy and Holocaust denial is the defining spirit of Hamas. Indeed, Holocaust denial passes for a scholarly pursuit not just in Gaza but throughout much of the Arab and Muslim world.
The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, literally earned a doctorate in it. His doctoral thesis became a book, "The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism," in which he denounces "the Zionist fantasy, the fantastic lie that 6 million Jews were killed." In Hamas' eyes, Abbas is an incorrigible moderate.
It's Palestinian Islamists who have ideological and political ties to Nazism stretching back to the days of "Hitler's Mufti," Haj Amin al-Husseini, a happy warrior for the Nazi cause.
So why the obsession with casting the Israelis as the new Hitlerites? One answer is surely that critics know such charges are painful to a country largely born of the Holocaust and marked by its scars. It also grabs attention, galvanizes radicals, vents legitimate frustrations and anger, and helps demonize the enemy and, hence, justify the murder of "Zionists everywhere," as Hamas often declares in its communiques.
But I think the desire to cast the Israelis as Nazis is fueled, deep down, by the haters' need to see their own hatreds and ambitions mirrored in their enemy's actions. Hamas has an avowedly Hitlerite agenda. The only way to make such an agenda defensible is to convince yourself and others that the Israelis deserve it. Hence, Hamas and its allies insist that when they aim rockets at grade schools and playgrounds, they are resisting the "new Nazis." It brings to mind Huey Long's reported prophecy that if fascism ever came to America, it would be called anti-fascism. Well, with Hamas, Hitlerism comes to the Middle East wearing the mask of anti-Hitlerism.