Democracy of Avowals: Who Profits from the Ban of Nazi Comparisons?

Those who claim the Nazi crimes were unique and beyond comparison hang those crimes so high that they get out of reach. How can anyone think or talk about something that cannot be compared; i.e., a virtually ahistorical singularity? Those, on the other hand, who want to repress German history in an attempt to draw a final stroke can comfortably hide behind the theory of uniqueness and content themselves with formulistic avowals instead of a necessary serious analysis. Avowals “against right-wing extremism”, “against anti-Semitism” and “for Israel” will suffice to show correctness. They don’t hurt and sound well, even if they don’t mean anything.

But is it not splendid when Germans take their guilt so seriously that they render it in terms of absolutes? And do not those who draw Nazi comparisons qualify and belittle the cruelty of Auschwitz? Who profits from comparisons, and what benefit can they bring, at all? Isn’t the discussion better off without such emotionally overcharged thoughts? Those questions have often been posed, for example, in the German Historikerstreit (“historians’ quarrel”) from 1986/87. One question, however, went largely untouched: Who profits from NOT drawing comparisons? In other words: Who profits from a democracy of avowals in which we don’t have to think?

A short while ago, 359 survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide have actually drawn such a comparison with Gaza and Palestine in mind by stating: “‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!” So they compared Israel with Nazi Germany, mentioning explicitly the “ongoing genocide” and “racism” and demanding “the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.”  Note well: It was not an equalization, but it was a clear comparison.

Germany today is repressing that in Israel there are anti-Arab slogans on house walls and in shop windows strikingly similar to those in Nazi Germany. Dispossessions, collective punishments, thug squads, ghettos, pogroms, race laws and other essential characteristics of the Nazi state have been observed in Israel. The quasi-ban of comparisons made it possible for Germany to be in solidarity with this state and, to make matters worse, deliver arms to it. This procedure goes hand in hand with an ostracization of critics who mention those obvious and more and more drastic parallels. They are labeled as one-sided, as anti-Semites, right-wing extremists, cross-front (German “querfront”), fanatics, terrorists, conspiracy theorists and the like, something that strongly undermines the freedom of the press, the freedom of opinion and the freedom of conscience; i.e., the backbone of our democracy.

This has led to a pattern of power over the decades, for it needs power to break the backbone of a democracy. We could say now: Well, this is only about Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs, nobody needs them, anyway! But this consideration is too narrow: Those who have recognized the patterns can utilize them in every given group and for the most diverse purposes, for we learn from childhood on that power is stronger than arguments and that victims can be punished for the deeds of perpetrators. There is no other way to explain that we vote for and tolerate, even admire those politicians who come out on top in the nihilist jungle by means of cunning tricks. Weak minds will try to chum up with this power, be it in the families, in professional life, in the public or in social activities. And the money, too, will flow much better if one does not stick out by posing questions and criticism.

Concerning the criticism of Israel we witness a routine impunity for the war criminals while critics increasingly get problems and hardly receive solidarity, due to successful intimidations. It’s better to sit on the fence. We do have our opinions, we love to complain, too, but we cannot change things, anyway, can we? Now, if this attitude reminds you of Nazi times, then you will probably not have understood yet that the Nazis were extraterrestrials that can be kept away with amulets and avowals.

Anis Hamadeh is a German artist with a MA in Islamic Studies. His writings include Palestine/Israel/Germany. He is the author of Understanding Islam: A Practical Handbook (2013 in German). Anis, who is also a songwriter, does live appearances, studio productions, etc. Read other articles by Anis, or visit Anis's website.