By the end of 1941, most of Europe was under the control of Nazi Germany, and this put Europe’s 11 million Jews in serious jeopardy.
The Nazis were realising that killing one Jew at a time was incredibly inefficient, so they needed a better strategy. So, Adolf Eichman, a logistics expert, was appointed an administrator to carry out this strategy – to rid Europe of Jews once and for all. This was the beginning of the Final Solution, which led to the extermination of 6 million Jews.
But how did the Nazis achieve this, given that they were spread thin around Europe? One answer: local collaborators.
The role that ordinary men and women played in the killing of their Jewish neighbours is much less known and discussed. However, the story of what happened in village after village across Nazi-occupied territories is chillingly grim – normal people rounding up and killing hundreds of Jews at a time everywhere.
What had possessed humanity to commit such atrocities?
That question is pertinent at a time like this when the world is witnessing yet another tit-for-tat episode of violence in the Holy Land. Over 3,150 rockets have been fired towards Israel and 820 targets hit by Israel in Gaza. The death toll is 215 and counting.
This is nothing new. We have seen all this before, as recently as 2006 and 2014. However, how do people process this information? Put simply, Israel is strong hence wrong, and Palestine is weak hence right.
So, poems will be written, articles published, and demonstrations organised to simultaneously denounce Israel and support Palestine. This position is usually characterised by emotions so explosive that any attempt to balance the prevailing narrative will lead to one being branded a Zionist and, if Christian, a Bible Thumper!
Still, a question has to be asked – why do people feel so strongly against Israel?
The likeliest answer is possibly what is called Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. This is without a doubt a difficult subject, with roots in mass immigration of European Jews to the Holy Land in the late 1800s. Even if the premise is valid, does the occupation justify responses to it?
In other words, there are many territories which are under occupation today, including Russia’s occupation of Crimea, China’s occupation of Tibet and Xinjiang, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara. Do people have similar emotional responses to such occupations?
The Western Sahara issue used to be quite prominent in the news in the 1980s, and some of us have never forgotten names such as the Polisario Front. The UN considers ‘the Polisario Front’ a ‘legitimate representative of Western Sahara’ and supports the right of ‘self-determination’ of the Sahrawi people. But who is talking of Western Sahara nowadays? And do people suffer from sub-psychotic episodes of anger when they hear of Morocco?
Further to the occupation, some may cite, possibly, Israel’s and Egypt’s – often forgotten – blockade of Gaza too. Nonetheless, why are similar reactions not directed towards others too?
For example, in Xinjiang province China has instituted ‘vocational training centres’ which are popularly known as ‘re-education camps’ for purposes of combating Muslim Uighurs extremism. At least 1.3 million Uighurs were forced into what the Americans call ‘the internment camps’. Are there any poems being written in solidarity with the ‘oppressed’ people of Xinjiang?
Now, it is not our objective to question the validity of the initial arguments, neither to simplistically question what happens in other places. Similarly, far be it from us to argue that one wrong in one place justifies another elsewhere. However, the question must be asked – why only Israel?
There appears to be an eerie obsession with Israel, and Israel alone. For example, in 2020, the UN made 17 resolutions condemning Israel compared with six for the rest of the world. Does that mean that Israel commits three times the number of serious evils committed by the rest of the world combined?
This is what is called anti-Semitism. In one documentary highlighting anti-Semitism in American universities, the participants firstly held the flag of a prominent jihadist group and displayed themselves to see how students would react. Afterwards, they held Israel’s flag and repeated the process. They observed that students simply ignored the ‘jihadists’ – and some even gave them the thumbs-ups! But, in the case of Israel, the reactions were strong and negative. Apparently, there is greater tolerance for jihadists than Israel in American universities, a fact which is supported by statistics there.
While anti-Semitism has a long history, in this conflict it rears its ugly head by its religious nature. Hamas Charter (1988) starts by quoting the words of Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna: ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’ What follows afterwards is shocking – put simply, a plan for another Holocaust. That is what Israel is dealing with, while Hamas, cheered on by many well-meaning but naïve individuals, coasts through without criticism.
Prejudice kills. That was evident in WW2, in Rwanda in 1994, and in many other places in history. Probably we should ask ourselves – are we being rational or simply emotional?