Sunday, March 25, 2012

Refining the Nazi Dream

By Tuvia Brodie

When Lucy Dawidowicz wrote, The war against the Jews, 1933-1945 (New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975), her point of view ultimately got her labelled as an “intentionalist”—one who believes that the Holocaust was a top-down plan formulated (or ‘intentioned’) by Hitler. Some Historians of the Holocaust did not agree with her, arguing instead that there was too much focus on the Nazi leader as the cause of the Holocaust, and too little focus on Nazi functionaries (bureaucrats) who operated below Hitler. These historians tended to believe that the Holocaust grew out of the “anarchistic character of the Nazi state, its internal rivalries and chaotic decision-making.” (see Christopher Browning, speech in Paris, 1982, examining intentionalism and functionalism as a way to describe the origins of the Holocaust, quoted in Wikipedia, Functionalism versus Intentionalism). Those who believed that the Holocaust was top-down (intentionalists) still agreed with those who said it was bottom-up (functionalists): the horror of the Holocaust was real; their dispute was, who was responsible for it—leader or bureaucrat?

This question of responsibility for a state-mandated killing of Jews provokes a question: In Israel, we regularly hear Hamas or Fatah (proto-state rulers) talking about destroying Jews—or praising those who kill Jews; does their approach to their ‘Jewish problem’ compare to the Nazi approach, or is this Arab approach different?

It seems different, for two reasons. First, every Arab leader and every Arab bureaucrat accepts the ‘kill-the-Jew/destroy Zionism’ agenda that we see in PLO/Fatah and Hamas founding documents. ‘Intention’ and ‘function’ unite: leader and bureaucrat passionately embrace the same goal.

The second reason this approach might be different is that the Arab appears to invert Nazi priorities. One might be able to argue that the primary focus of Nazism is a xenophobic Nationalism based on Aryan supremacy and an almost primal need to defend Germany against subversion and foreigners; one might therefore attempt to argue that the Jew-hate that led to the Holocaust was actually secondary to and supportive of Nazi political goals. For the Nazis, it may be possible there was never a question of what was most important, National Socialism or Jew-hate: the principles of National Socialism came first, Jew-hate second. Jew-hate was indeed central to the Nazi world-view. But it might not have been their first political priority. For the Arab, however, the reverse might be true: Jew-hate first, then nationalism.

Look at the time-period, 1945-1950, the years immediately preceding and following the creation of the state of Israel. Contemporary news stories about those days did not discuss Jewish statehood versus Arab statehood. The issue of the day was not two groups fighting to create their own state on the same piece of land (a situation that could obviously lead to war); the issue of that day was, Jews wanted their state and the Arabs wanted to kill those Jews. Moreover, the Muslim leadership of the day in Palestine, the Waqf, was rabidly anti-Jew, had openly praised Hitler’s genocide, and called repeatedly to kill Jews. Statehood was not part of Arab leadership vocabulary. Nor was it heard on the Arab street. The Arab issue of the day was, kill Jews.

While Jew-hate is fundamental to Nazism, it may not have been the raison-d ‘etre for National Socialism in 1930’s Germany; but Jew-hate was certainly the main topic of Arab public discourse from before the founding of the Jewish state until Yasser Arafat refined that discourse with his ‘Palestinian people’ campaign. Then, even after Arafat appears (the early 1960’s), you notice that the primary focus in contemporary news was not nationalism, but killing Jews or ‘destroying Zionism’. For the Arab, it has always been, kill Jews first, nationalism second. Often, nationalism is not even mentioned.

This inverting of the Nazi priority in order to emphasize killing Jews above all else may be far more dangerous than Nazism. At least with Nazis, one could find some kind of social, cultural or economic ideals; one could study or visit Nazi Germany and marvel at the power, joy and even chilling beauty of the Aryan nation (consider the films of Leni Riefenstahl). With the Arab, that sense of power, joy and beauty is missing. In its place we find victimhood, Jew-hate and the celebration of destroying ‘Zion’. Instead of Deutschland Uber Alles, we get, ‘butcher the Jew’; the aesthetic just isn’t the same.

In the 1930’s, the world ignored the threat of Nazi intentions. Some openly admired German accomplishments. Some proposed appeasement. Some said, give land (Czechoslovakia) for peace. They were all wrong—and the nation which did not have Jew-killing as its top priority went on to murder six million Jews and perhaps another sixty million people. Imagine what you’ll get when you take the same road with those who openly make killing Jews their first priority.

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