By Bennett Ruda
(December 12, 2021 / Jewish Press) When Holocaust deniers are not going around denying that the Holocaust ever happened or claiming that it is exaggerated, they like to make comparisons between Israel and Nazis.
In an interview in 2011 with Haaretz, the Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt called these sorts of comparisons “Holocaust abuse”:
Renowned Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt says that American and Israeli politicians who invoke the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes are engaging in “Holocaust abuse”, which is similar to “soft-core denial” of the Holocaust…
“When you take these terrible moments in our history, and you use it for contemporary purposes, in order to fulfill your political objectives, you mangle history, you trample on it,” she said. [emphasis added]
Strong words. And Lipstadt knows what she is talking about.
After all, this past July Biden nominated Lipstadt as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
So how did Lipstadt react a little over a month later, when Biden was on the presidential campaign and said about Trump:
He’s sort of like Goebbels. You say the lie long enough, keep repeating it, repeating it, repeating it, it becomes common knowledge
Goebbels was very successful at what he did, and I think the comparison by Vice President Biden was a very apt comparison because we’re seeing a lot of this now.
In a tweet that she later deleted, Lipstadt went further, claiming that:
had VP Biden — or anyone else — compared him to what Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, or Eichmann did, she/he would have been wrong. But a comparison to the master of the big lie, Josef Goebbels? That’s historically apt. It’s all about historical nuance.
Goebbels was more than a master propagandist. He was a supporter of the Final Solution. Nuance only goes so far.
But it wasn’t apt at all. The comparison was indefensible. Not only was it an egregiously unjustified smear against Trump; more importantly, it downplayed the evil of Goebbels and grossly disrespected the memory of those who were slaughtered in the Holocaust.
For it wasn’t simply that Goebbels was a lying propagandist. It was that he was a Nazi committed to the extermination of the Jews. To compare Trump to such an individual was ridiculous and shameful, and should have been robustly condemned.
And 3 days after Biden’s comment, when the Jewish Democratic Council of America released a video comparing the Trump presidency to the Nazi era…
Lipstadt again supported the use of Nazi images for political purposes:
But in the current era, Lipstadt said, the key to acceptable Holocaust comparisons is precision and nuance. Is it the Holocaust? No. But does the current era presage an authoritarian takeover? Maybe.
“People ask me, is this Kristallnacht?” she said. “Is this the beginning of pogroms, etc.? I don’t think those comparisons are correct. “However, I do think certain comparisons are fitting … it’s certainly not 1938,” when Nazis led the Kristallnacht pogroms throughout Germany. “It’s not even September 1935, and the Nuremberg Laws” institutionalizing racist policies.
“What it well might be is December 1932, Hitler comes to power on Jan. 30, 1933 — it might be Jan. 15, 1933.” [emphasis added]
So contrary to her comment in the tweet she deleted, Lipstadt draws a connection between Trump and Hitler.
Now that Lipstadt has helpfully established that Holocaust comparisons are permitted when they adhere to “precision and nuance,” are the people most likely to exploit Holocaust comparisons really going to care — and how would Lipstadt as Antisemitism Envoy condemn Holocaust comparisons without those doing it laughing at her for her hypocrisy?
Another question is: what about Democrats — has Lipstadt been as critical of them?
President Biden’s nominee to serve as U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism once blasted Rep. Ilhan Omar’s controversial statements criticizing Israel.
President Biden’s pick to serve as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism has previously slammed Rep. Ilhan Omar for criticizing Israel.
But actually, in contrast to her comments on Trump that were made in public, Lipstadt’s comments about Omar were made in response to a question during an interview:
Adam Rubenstein: As you begin to define antisemitism in your new book, Antisemitism: Here and Now, you write that “Antisemitism is not simply the hatred of something ‘foreign’ but the hatred of a perpetual evil in this world.” So on Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent comment about “foreign allegiance” in the context of pro-Israel Americans, and in discussion of her Jewish colleagues; what do you make of it? Is this textbook antisemitism?
Deborah Lipstadt: Sadly, I believe it is. Dual loyalties is part of the textbook accusations against Jews. They are cosmopolitans, globalists, not loyal to their country or fellow citizens.
Further on in the interview, it becomes clear that the Lipstadt neither “blasts” nor “smashes” Omar’s comments — she manages to criticize the statements, without condemning the person, unlike in her comments about Trump, though she bends over backwards to do so:
AR: In your view, are Rep. Omar’s statements antisemitic or are they simply anti-Israel? Antisemitism and anti-Zionism aren’t in theory the same thing, but they often have connection points. Is what Rep. Omar says, her “foreign allegiance” comment, her support for BDS, and that support for Israel in Congress is “about the Benjamins,” i.e. Jewish money, simply “critical of Israel” or does it cross the line into antisemitism?
DL: This is such a nuanced topic and I deal with it in depth in the book. But simply put, (and giving her the benefit of the doubt… which is harder to do each time she engages in one of these attacks), she may think she is only criticizing Israel and its policies but one cannot ignore the fact that she is relying on traditional antisemitic tropes to do so…
Lipstadt goes even further in this comment, putting Omar in a select category of antisemitism:
What it suggests to me is that, at best, these people exist in a place where antisemitism is out in the ethosphere; they hear it, breath it in, and don’t even recognize it as antisemitism.
Similarly, in the case of Rev. Raphael Warnock, during the special election for senator of Georgia — despite the anti-Israel sermon he gave in 2018, Lipstadt defended Warnock’s later claim in 2020 that he was pro-Israel.
Here is the key excerpt of the sermon:
Warnock’s 2018 sermon was delivered shortly after the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. “It’s been a tough week,” Warnock noted. “The administration opened up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Standing there [were] the president’s family and a few mealy-mouthed evangelical preachers who are responsible for the mess that we found ourselves in, both there and here — misquoting and misinterpreting the Scripture, talking about peace.”
Warnock went on to compare the struggle for Palestinian rights with the Black Lives Matter movement. “Meanwhile, young Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their very lives, struggling for water and struggling for their human dignity stood up in a non-violent protest, saying, ‘If we’re going to die, we’re going to die struggling.’ And yes, there may have been some folk who were violent, but we oughta know how that works out,” Warnock said. “We know what it’s like to stand up and have a peaceful demonstration and have the media focus on a few violent uprisings. But you have to look at those Palestinian sisters and brothers, who are struggling for their human dignity and they have a right to self-determination, they have a right to breathe free.”
“We need a two-state solution where all of God’s children can live together,” Warnock proclaimed in the 2018 video before proceeding to charge Israel with shooting innocent Palestinians. “We saw the government of Israel shoot down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey. And I don’t care who does it, it is wrong. It is wrong to shoot down God’s children like they don’t matter at all. And it’s no more antisemitic for me to say that than it is anti-white for me to say that Black lives matter. Palestinian lives matter.” [emphasis added]
Faced with his past remarks accusing Israel of killing peaceful Palestinian Arabs, Warnock’s campaign gave an evasive response that this showed that the other campaign was rummaging around video to ‘misrepresent’ his actual views.
In March 2019, Warnock signed onto Group Pilgrimage Statement on Israel and Palestine, which featured common distortions about Israel, including associating it with apartheid:
- We saw the patterns that seem to have been borrowed and perfected from other previous oppressive regimes:
- The ever-present physical walls that wall in Palestinians in a political wall reminiscent of the Berlin Wall.
- Roads built through occupied Palestinian villages, on which Palestinians are not permitted to drive; and homes and families divided by walls and barriers.
- The heavy militarization of the West Bank, reminiscent of the military occupation of Namibia by apartheid South Africa.
- The laws of segregation that allow one thing for the Jewish people and another for the Palestinians; we saw evidence of forced removals; homes abandoned, olive trees uprooted or confiscated and taken over, shops and businesses bolted with doors welded to close out any commercial activities. [emphasis added]
Yet Warnock’s stand on Israel just a year after that is supposed to show that he did an about-face, now supporting Israel and even appearing at AIPAC. Lipstadt writes:
How, I wondered, could someone who had said that, show up at AIPAC? To answer this question, I read his policy paper on Israel. In it, he expressed unequivocal support for Israel, for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, for a two-state solution, and for the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding, which when signed in 2016 constituted the largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in U.S. history. He also unequivocally opposed conditioning aid to Israel, as some have proposed.
Lipstadt says that Warnock’s new support for Israel answers the question of how he could appear at AIPAC. One might argue that such an abrupt change just one year later only deepens questions.
In a piece for The Washington Examiner, Jackson Richman includes Lipstadt’s support for Warnock as one of the reasons that Deborah Lipstadt should be voted down by the Senate:
Lipstadt said Warnock had come around on Israel-related issues — never mind that he did not apologize or repudiate his past statements and activities on that issue — such as opposing conditioning U.S. assistance to the Jewish state. She argued, “It would be hard for Warnock to repudiate his most recent views as expressed in his Israel policy paper and numerous interviews.”
Except it would not have been hard to offer a sincere apology.
It’s an odd argument to make — vote for Warnock, because even if he is not sincere in his current pro-Israel position, at least he won’t be able to easily go back to his previously anti-Israel position.
But all this talk about Lipstadt being Antisemitism Envoy may be for naught, anyway.
Not because her nomination has stalled in the Senate.But who’s to say that Biden will pay any attention to Lipstadt anyway, when it is politically inconvenient?
Fox News reported on the White House reaction to Lipstadt’s criticism of Omar: there wasn’t any:
However; when asked if the administration agreed with its nominee’s views on Omar’s comments, the White House was silent, not responding to Fox News’ request for comment.
The Squad can rest easy.
This article was originally published in the Jewish Press and can be viewed here.