J.J. Goldberg

Who Are You Calling Nazi? Why, Pretty Much Everybody.

By J.J. Goldberg

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The Anti-Defamation League reports in an October 15 press release that it has received an apology from the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Liberty Commission, Richard Land, for a September 26 speech to the Christian Coalition in which he described the congressional Democrats’ health care reforms as “exactly what the Nazis did.” In the same speech Land also quipped that he had given “the Dr. Josef Mengele Award” to Ezekiel Emanuel, President Obama’s chief health care adviser (and Rahm’s brother), for his “advocacy of health care rationing.”

In an October 14 letter to ADL national director Abraham Foxman, Land said he had been “using hyperbole for effect and never intended to actually equate anyone in the Obama administration with Dr. Mengele.” He promised to “refrain from making such references in the future,” and added: “I apologize to everyone who found such references hurtful.”

Land was responding to an October 9 letter from Foxman, complaining that the “Nazi comparison is inappropriate, insensitive and unjustified. As a Holocaust survivor, I take particular offense. Such comparisons diminish the history and the memory of the 6 million Jews and 5 million others who died at the hands of the Nazis and insults those who fought bravely against Hitler.”

Foxman had a busy summer on the health-care-is-Nazism front. Among those he scolded was Rush Limbaugh, who, among other things, repeated Glenn Beck’s riff about the Obama health-care logo looking Hitlerian. Another scoldee was syndicated radio talk jockey Bill Press, who had accused opponents of health care reform of using tactics that were “straight out of the Nazi playbook.”

The battle didn’t start this summer, though. Holocaust abuse is a continuing theme among Jewish community advocates. Sometimes, as in the case of Land, it yields results. Other abusers, like Limbaugh, remain unbowed.

One of the most celebrated successes was the 1998 campaign by the Zionist Organization of America to derail the appointment of Holocaust scholar John Roth as chief historian of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial

Museum, primarily because of a 1988 essay in which Roth compared the angry mood in America in the late 1970s, leading up to the election of Ronald Reagan, to the mood in Germany before the rise of the Nazis. Roth didn’t get the job.

Holocaust scholar Rafael Medoff of the Philadelphia-based David Wyman Center wrote a useful piece in 2004, “Those Hitler Analogies: Dumb and Dangerous,” in which he lists a string of offensive comparisons. Among them: talk-show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, speaking of day care centers; conservative strategist Grover Norquist, attacking the estate tax, and Nobel laureate novelist Jose Saramago attacking Israeli anti-terrorism strategies.

Unfortunately, Medoff turns out to be capable of pretty much the same thing himself when it serves—for instance, in a 2003 essay, “Saddam on Trial: Lessons from the Eichmann Case.”

But it’s unfair to single out Medoff. In fact, questionable Holocaust analogies are standard fare in Jewish communal discourse. Just this week, the Los Angeles-based Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors sent out a mass email blast from Israeli blogger Barry Shaw, attacking the Goldstone Report as a case of Nazi-style “inverted justice.”

And why stop there? We could mention Chicago commentator Emanuel Winston, a champion Holocaust analogist who writes a weekly column in the mass-circulation Brooklyn-based weekly, The Jewish Press. Over the years he has called Israel’s Kadima and Labor parties “Judenrat” and urged Nuremberg-type trials for them, compared Ariel Sharon and his Gaza disengagement to “Hitler’s SS), accused the Pentagon of Nazi-style behavior and repeatedly likened President Bush’s Middle East Road Map to the Nazis’ Final Solution.

Apologies for those transgressions were neither sought nor given. There’s probably some systematic measure for determining which inappropriate Holocaust analogies require apologies to the Jewish people, and which ones are just fine. What the standard is, though, isn’t immediately obvious. At least, I hope not.

No apologies were sought, for example, from Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu for calling Yasser Arafat “Hitler,”. Nor have apologies been sought or given, despite all the grief that resulted, in the case of the endless Saddam Hussein-Hitler analogies of George W. Bush, U.S News and World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman and, in a memorable declaration, former Republican senators Ted Stevens and John Warner in a Washington Times op-ed essay.

The last word, then, will be reserved for Republican veteran and CNN pundit Patrick Buchanan, who publicly rebuked Warner and Stevens for their inappropriate Hitler analogy — although, awkwardly enough, Buchanan’s objection was actually to the unfair maligning of Hitler.

Joe Feld Tue. Oct 20, 2009

Holocaust fatigue. For decades survivors did their best to avoid talking about their experiences. More frequently as survivors are decreasing in number, more have spoken out and it has become a theme of many movies and other media. This itself is a good thing -- people need to come to terms with what the most scientifically and technologically advanced Western Christian society could produce by mixing pseudo-science [evolution and survival of the fittest]with a tradition of religious hatred [Christ killers] and an assumed superiority [racial progress]. Like anything 'overdone' it becomes part of our everyday language and loses some of its original meaning.

Susanne Fri. Oct 23, 2009

Well, Bush had at least a Nazi grandfather (even though he himself was born with a silver spoon in his mouth). So this is not as far-fetched as it sounds.

John Rogers Tue. Nov 3, 2009

The Holocaust never did take place. Hypocits and greedy liars, that's all you are.

James Sun. Nov 22, 2009

"Well, Bush had at least a Nazi grandfather (even though he himself was born with a silver spoon in his mouth). So this is not as far-fetched as it sound" from Susanne.

How ludicrous. Anyone who criticizes Bush's genetic purity from Nazis should be ashamed of themselves. Not the sins of the Father, but the sins of the grandfather?

Incidentally, why was there no mention of the thousands of "George Bush is a Nazi" hysterics? There have been more of those than the rest of these side comments combined. Ludicrous for you to exclude that.

But I agree with the point of the article, even if it has only negative things to say of right-wingers who screech "National Socialist" rather than left-wingers.

Miriam Chartier Wed. Dec 9, 2009

Don't bher about that, "they said," G-D knows! Down through out generations we have beeb in defeat because we are ignorant of our access to G-D.

Have you placed the law on your inward parts? have you intered in the hidden part? Has truth made you to know wisdom? Have you the fire from above, that bruns night and day? You should read Psalm 51.... Ps. 2 you will see and hear if you open your eyes, for all of the world have fallen in a fearful deep sleep like Abraham. It is time to wake up. Psalm 2... you will hear and see the Declared Decree that G-D wants all of us to obey. We are all to become sons of G-D, by not our blood or flesh, It is the Mother the Spirit of G-D in holy union with the Almighty that will bring forth a holy child, that is given up to them (Us, as it is wirtten in Isaiah 9) read...it will give you peace.

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