A video circulating on the Internet shows a group of Palestinian youth violently bullying and mocking two young Jewish men as they are chased down a street and pelted with snowballs in Jerusalem.
In an effort to imply that this gang assault is analogous to Nazi Germany, a video titled “Never Again 2013” juxtaposes the scenes in the video with iconic images of the Holocaust.
There is no doubt that the video depicts a shocking gang assault, definitely bullying and maybe even a bias crime, but to compare this incident to Nazi Germany, Kristallnacht and World War II genocide just serves to trivialize the real magnitude of the Holocaust.
We see the trivializing and distorting of the Holocaust metaphor in the context of some commentators’ claims that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to the Nazis treatment of Jews. But this video was an attempt to do the opposite by comparing the Palestinian treatment of Israelis to Nazi treatment of the Jews. Both comparisons are offensive and inaccurate.
While the hatred on both sides of the conflict, can, at times, be compared to the hatred the Nazis had for the Jews, the actions and reality are worlds apart. As tragic as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be, it is incomparable to the ghettos, slave-labor camps, death camps and the gassing of 6 million Jews.
As another example, just last week we saw a cavalier, crude and inappropriate use of the Holocaust metaphor on Drudge Report, comparing gun control to Nazism. PETA’s “Holocaust On Your Plate Campaign” was also a crude, inappropriate and grossly inaccurate metaphor to represent the viewpoint that factory farming is cruel and killing chickens is evil.
While describing the dangers of Holocaust trivialization, survivor and memoirist Elie Wiesel said it best:
“I cannot use [the word ‘Holocaust’] anymore. First, because there are no words, and also because it has become so trivialized that I cannot use it anymore. Whatever mishap occurs now, they call it ‘holocaust’. I have seen it myself in television in the country in which I live. A commentator describing the defeat of a sports team, somewhere, called it a ‘holocaust’. I have read in a very prestigious newspaper published in California, a description of the murder of six people, and the author called it a holocaust. So, I have no words anymore.”
So as not to trivialize true suffering and oppression, we should try to use accurate metaphors when seeking to score political points on the Middle East conflict or any other issue.