As an Israeli psychoanalyst once noted with bitter irony, the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. The corollary to this observation is that Europeans will never forgive the Israelis and the Jews for Auschwitz.
How can one explain the latest outbreak of European loathing for the Jewish state after it intercepted a flotilla heading for Gaza in open violation of a naval blockade? The widespread condemnation Europeans have expressed toward Israel after its commandos boarded the so-called peace flotilla on May 31 – and used force only when threatened with death – signals a desire to turn every Israeli action of self-defense into absolution for the crimes of the Holocaust.
While the European Union and the UN Human Rights Council somehow manage to contain their displeasure over brutal human rights violations in Libya, Iran, Turkey, China and Russia, both organizations reacted in their standard Pavlovian way to Israel's justified measures of self-defense aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.
The UN Human Rights Council – chaired by none other than Colonel Khaddafi's government – issued a resolution condemning Israel. Meanwhile, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom blasted Israel's “disproportionate” response, and their handmaidens in the European media turned Israel into a punching bag.
The Europeans' vicious attacks on Israel are animated less by the Jewish state's foreign policy than by Europe's ongoing fixation on the Holocaust. What else could explain the presence of posters equating Israel with Nazi Germany at pro-Hamas demonstrations in Vienna? According to one recent German university study, 45.7 percent of the European respondents supported the contention that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”
In their eyes, apparently, maintaining a naval blockade against a government sworn to destroy you – while providing the unfortunate people living under that government with tens of thousands of tons of supplies and humanitarian aid – now equates to looting and butchering six million people.
Wolfgang Benz, the controversial director of the Berlin Center for the study of anti-Semitism, neatly summed up this incongruity on German television when he insisted that “anti-Semitism is different from anti-Zionism.”
Benz embodies the European wish to alleviate guilt by denying the weight of the Holocaust. (As the head of a center for the study of anti-Semitism, he's a particularly strange case; the German political scientist Dr. Clemens Heni discovered that Benz's beloved academic mentor was the now-deceased Karl Bosl, an outspoken Nazi who contributed enormously to spreading Hitler's ideology.)
Of course, nothing Israel has ever done can even begin to compare to the crimes of the Shoah. But to help alleviate their feelings of guilt, Europeans delegitimize Israel, ignore modern anti-Semitism, and portray Muslims – who number over one billion and whom no one seeks to eradicate from the earth – as the new persecuted Jews of Europe.
Israel's measures against the phony peace flotilla also provided Europeans an opportunity to demonstrate their hypocrisy when it comes to Jews flexing some muscle. Many of these same Europeans, after all, have attempted to shift at least some blame to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust for their own suffering, arguing that the Jews allowed themselves to be carted off to extermination camps without resistance.
That helps explain the crude theory of Ekkehart Krippendorff, a Berlin Free University professor in the 1990s, who wrote in the left-liberal Tagesszeitung, “Imagine if no German Jews had followed orders to assemble at the designated collection points for group transports – a few dozen, a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, the Germans could have dragged individually from their homes and loaded on trucks; but hundreds of thousands? Or imagine that the colonies of hundreds and thousands on the way to the train stations had simply sat down, we call them 'sit-down' strikes today .”
Europe is infatuated with passive Jews and memorial events for dead ones. When Jews actually strike back, Europeans cry that they have reacted disproportionately and failed to engage in diplomacy with the terrorist entities that seek their demise.
Europeans also vent pathological guilt about the Shoah by elevating Jewish conduct to a higher standard because of it. The standard European posture toward Israel is to present Auschwitz as a cynical form of cognitive and behavioral therapy. This particular European view has caught on with Turkey's Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who recently told The New York Times that the Israelis are uniquely positioned to be reminded about the “the dangers and inhumanity of ghettoes [such] as the one we currently witness in occupied Gaza.”
The equation of Gaza with the Warsaw ghetto is perhaps the most prevalent analogy used by Europeans in their attempts to shake off guilt about the Holocaust. Consider the German Catholic bishops Gregor Maria Hanke and Walter Mixa, who, while visiting Israel in March 2007, equated it with Nazi Germany.
“This morning we saw pictures of the Warsaw Ghetto at Yad Vashem and this evening we are going to the Ramallah ghetto,” Hanke said. To Mixa, Ramallah was “ghetto-like” and “almost racism.” While Pope Benedict XVI sacked his Bavarian friend Mixa in April on the basis of financial and sexual improprieties, that view enjoys many proponents across Europe.
The shoddy one-sided accounts of the flotilla raid with which Europeans have comforted themselves, and the continual denial of any Jewish right to self-defense, reveal exactly what the psychoanalyst observed: a Europe that will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.