IT is often said that people bring the Nazis into an argument when they are losing it.
But that is where we are today. Some on the far right are seriously advancing the idea that Hamas is worse than the Nazis.
In the context of the war in Gaza, the functional aim of such a discussion is clear.
It is to provide a justification for all the outrages the Israelis are perpetrating against the Palestinian people, and for still worse to come, at a time when those outrages are provoking growing international condemnation.
After all, the argument runs, the allied powers held nothing back in extirpating Nazism from Europe, and vast numbers of German civilians paid the price without many eyelids being batted (although the blanket bombing of German cities was queried by some).
The contemporary argument has been advanced by the right-wing polemicist Douglas Murray, who has form on relativising Hitlerism.
He frivolously told a National Conservativism Conference earlier this year that the Nazis had “mucked up” the perfectly acceptable doctrine of nationalism.
Murray makes his living by performative provocation. But the idea has been taken up by Andrew Roberts who, while very right-wing himself, is also undoubtedly a serious historian.
He argues that the Nazis were concerned to keep their crimes against Jewish people hidden, whereas Hamas live-streamed their attack on Israel on October 7, which included atrocities against civilians.
He also states that the Nazis never took infants hostage, and that a far greater proportion of Palestinians in Gaza support Hamas than Germans supported Hitler in his eliminationist anti-semitism.
This line of reasoning obscures more than it reveals. Take the differences in aims — Hamas seeks the liberation of Palestine, which explains its support, its methods notwithstanding.
Despite religious rhetoric, it does not demand the death or expulsion of all Jewish people from Israel/Palestine, and it certainly does not aim at the murder of any Jews elsewhere.
The Nazis sought the imperial domination of Europe in its entirety and the murder of every single Jewish person they could lay hands on.
Nor were they as shy about their work as Roberts suggests. Hitler had publicly stated before the war that its advent would lead to the extermination of the Jews.
The Nazis endeavoured to conceal their practical traces because they feared punishment. Roberts asserts that they only killed when they thought they could get away with it — when they would win the war and as victors be not judged.
Yet the Nazis pursued the Holocaust manically down to the very end, long past the point when defeat was inevitable.
And as for killing children, the Nazis slaughtered on a horrifying scale. Some German soldiers surely felt remorseful about this, but many were entirely indifferent.
The campaign waged by Hamas could be brought to an end more or less immediately by a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Nothing could have stopped the Hitlerites massacring Jews except total defeat.
It is wrong when some compare Israel’s conduct to that of the Nazis — an offensive exaggeration which obscures the actual roots of Israeli misconduct in British colonialism.
In Israel’s pitiless offensive in Gaza we see the depravity of imperialism and ethnic supremacism, but its genocide is one of expulsion and national erasure rather than universal physical obliteration.
It is also wrong to paint every opponent of Western imperialism today as “new Nazis.” Such rhetoric has covered monstrous outrages from Iraq to Libya to Gaza today and deadens understanding.
The cause of peace today is better served by leaving the Nazis to the history books wherein they wrote such a ghastly page.
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