A few signs depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as Adolf Hitler were postered in Sydney over the weekend. The police reportedly are investigating and urging people to contact Crime Stoppers if they have any “information in relation to the incident”.
It would be hard for a general member of the public to gather information, however, seeing as the ABC in its coverage has blurred out an offending poster as it might some pornographic image in the evening news. Apparently, the editors deem the picture more liable to cause distress than any of the photos of dead children, grieving families or destroyed hospitals coming out of Gaza.
Reporter Isobel Roe refers to the posters as “the latest in a string of apparent anti-Jewish incidents”. Let’s run with that line for a moment.
In 2011, the ABC ran a story calling Libyan ruler Muamar Gaddafi the “new Hitler”. That was the latest in a string of anti-Libyan “incidents”, which the police never investigated and for which the ABC has never apologised.
Saddam Hussein was also Hitler, according to US presidents George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush—and according to the media that slavishly promoted both of their invasions of Iraq. The anti-Arab animus that was generated by the Western media enabled “a string of incidents” including the murder of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq.
The ABC didn’t run any articles about the horrific Islamophobia being generated in Australia—because it was participating in it, such is the outlet’s real concern for social cohesion and combatting bigotry. There was no police response, either to the Hitler comparisons or the mass slaughter.
Ironically (the word seems too benign to describe what follows), Prescot Bush, H.W.’s father and W.’s grandfather, helped finance the rise of the Nazis in Germany. A former war crimes prosecutor said that he should have been indicted. But there was no police response to that either.
In a string of anti-Egyptian incidents in the 1950s, which police also failed to investigate and that media also never apologised for, President Gamal Abdel Nasser was repeatedly compared to the Nazi leader by French Prime Minister Guy Mollet, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell, and by the New York Times, which referred to him as “Hitler on the Nile”.
Cuban President Fidel Castro was akin to Hitler, according to Vernon Walters, permanent US representative to the United Nations in the 1980s. Strangely, there was no police response to this, which was just the latest in a string of anti-Cuban “incidents” including terrorist attacks and assassination attempts sponsored by the US.
Slobodan Milošević of Serbia was Hitler according to US President Bill Clinton, Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark and many Albanians, some of whom displayed placards comparing the two. No detectives were put on the case.
Vladimir Putin has been Hitler since at least 2014, when prince, now king, Charles said as much. The comparison is now routine, and European protesters have displayed placards comparing the two. The images were not blurred out, there were no weepy ABC stories about the effects of this on people with Russian backgrounds (the country lost an estimated 26 million citizens fighting the Nazis) and the police thus far have not been involved in tracking down the despicable demonstrators.
Bashar al-Assad is Hitler, according to US former Secretary of State John Kerry, and according to Rafael Medoff, founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, writing in the Jerusalem Post. No apologies have been offered; no police investigations announced.
Pope Francis this year compared Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to Hitler. It is unclear whether the Gendarmerie Corps of Vatican City have responded. His Holiness has not apologised, although the other crimes of the Catholic Church are surely graver than this transgression.
The list goes on.
There are of course always legitimate objections to the Hitler analogy being used. Many people argue that such comparisons are at best misplaced because they downplay the depravity of the Nazi’s agenda. After all, Hitler didn’t just commit war crimes; his party attempted the wholesale extermination of European Jewry.
But these objections misunderstand the political motivations of Western leaders’ Hitler comparisons. They have been made regularly over the decades not out of a desire to save humanity from another Holocaust. If an enemy of the West can be compared to Hitler, then a war against that enemy can be compared to World War Two. And if that war taught us anything, it’s that mass civilian casualties are inevitable if good is to defeat evil.
That’s precisely the argument being made today. Not by a few random anti-war protesters who don’t represent anything, but by leading figures of a state carrying out an actual war.
“When you fight Nazi Germany, you knew that there were many, many civilians [that] got attacked from your attacks on German cities”, Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely told British media commentator Piers Morgan last month. “Dresden was a symbol, but you attacked Hamburg, you attacked other cities, and altogether it was over 600,000 civilian Germans that got killed. And was it worth it in order to defeat Nazi Germany? And the answer was yes.”
Actually, the answer was “no”. The fire-bombing of Dresden by Allied forces was inflicted on a country already defeated. It was not at all required to defeat Nazism; it was an atrocity carried out to demoralise and brutalise the civilian population of Germany, and to warn Stalin about the West’s willingness to kill as many people as necessary to get its way (as was the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
The Hitler comparisons are very specifically not about learning the lessons of the Holocaust, because they are so often applied to inappropriate targets with the aim of generating animosity and some level of domestic and/or international consent for the attendant atrocities carried out against the enemy—in this case the Palestinians, using the Hamas attack as a pretext.
Obviously, such comparisons can never be applied to allies of the West. Indeed, it is forbidden to point out obvious similarities between Western imperialism’s crimes and those of many other imperialist powers, such as Germany or Russia.
The ABC’s moralising about a few posters is wholly in the spirit of cynically using the cover of the Holocaust to defend the war crimes of Western imperialism, of which Israel is key part. It speaks volumes that the broadcaster’s main concern over the weekend was for the feelings of a section of the domestic population aligned with the oppressor state of Israel, rather than the families of a people facing genocide at the hands of that state.