Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, as usual, took advantage of Jewish historic suffering to score a few cheap political points (the video of his Hebrew remarks is above). In this case, instead of speaking directly about the meaning of the Holocaust or plumbing the depths of this traumatic event in Jewish history, he exploited it for the sake of his own political benefit. In fact, Nir Hasson did a graphic that showed how much of the speech dealt with Iran and how little with the Holocaust:
— Gregg Carlstrom (@glcarlstrom) April 16, 2015
Netanyahu pursued a trope he’s mined repeatedly over the years: that Iran is Nazi Germany; that today is 1938 and the west, via its negotiations with Iran, is about to sell Israel out at Munich as Neville Chamberlain did.
“As the Nazis strived to trample civilization and replace it with a ‘master race’ while destroying the Jewish people, so is Iran striving to take over the region and expand further with a declared goal of destroying the Jewish state…
In the past, Bibi’s claims have gone even further, saying that Iran intends to destroy not just Israel, but the entire Jewish people. Similarly, Shimon Peres, the developer of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal, called an Iranian nuclear weapon a “flying Holocaust.”
I24 further quoted quoted Bibi in its coverage:
“Appeasing tyrannical regimes will only increase their aggression and…is liable to drag the world into larger wars.
Has the world really learned from the incomprehensible, universal and Jewish tragedy of the last century? I wish I could tell you that the answer is yes.
The bad deal with Iran signals that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned. Even if we are forced to stand alone against Iran we will not fear. In every circumstance we will preserve our right and our ability to defend ourselves…”
These historical claims are false and Iran’s leadership has never expressed an intent to destroy Israel, let alone the Jewish people. What’s further notable about the Israeli analogies is that they suggest Israelis and Jews are the world’s eternal victims. It is Israel, like European Jewry, hounded by its enemies. As we were sent to concentration camps and ovens, Israel’s enemies have the same plans in store (supposedly).
This is what Salo Baron, the 20th century’s pre-eminent scholar of Jewish history called “the lachrymose theory” of Jewish history. It is the erroneous view of Jewish existence through a vale of tears. It is reducing all of Jewish life and identity to a series of traumas. It suggests no agency, no positive identity or affirmation.
What is the truth in regards to Iran? That Israel’s assassins and covert agents have murdered Iranians on Iranian soil (and elsewhere in Lebanon and Syria as well). Israel has bombed Iranian military bases causing massive loss of life. Israel has funded Iranian dissident groups like Jundallah which committed terror attacks inside Iran. Israel has threatened countless times to attack Iran and unsuccessfully tried to persuade two presidents to join it in doing so. If anything, Iran has been the victim, not Israel.
So Israel’s claims are a distortion of fact. But they serve a useful purpose. How can you accuse a grieving widow of amassing a weapons arsenal that could kill not just her own neighborhood, but the entire town? She’s a victim. She’s in mourning. It’s unseemly to intrude upon her mourning with such uncomfortable facts. So the world treats Israel. When a nation is always suffering a trauma or anticipating one, you can’t possibly accuse it of being the aggressor, the oppressor. Quite an advantageous ploy.
Bibi’s remarks above are Iranophobic. This is not just a flip coinage. This is an important concept in the history of hate in the Middle East. Just as anti-Semitism led to the Holocaust, Iranophobia can set the stage for a military assault on Iran by Israel or the U.S. Iranophobia is hate just as anti-Semitism is. They are no different. Anyone who expresses Iran-hatred, as Netanyahu is, should be treated the same as an anti-Semite. Iranophobia has no place in civil discourse. It should be sanctioned just as misogyny, racism and anti-Semitism are.
It should go without saying that these remarks are yet another desperate ploy by Bibi to focus the world’s attention on Iran as villain. Iran as what Robert Oppenheimer called “Shiva, destroyer of worlds.” If you spin Iran as untrustworthy, as prospective genocidaire, then it’s impossible to sign a nuclear agreement with it. We must not buy into this false trope. Just as we must not allow Bibi or the Republican Congressional majority to sabotage this deal. If they do it is they who put the world in jeopardy, not Iran.