Monday, April 4, 2016

Nazi Terminology

A proposed law currently making its way through the pipelines of the Israeli legislature, which would forbid use of the word "Nazi" and the terminology or images of the Third Reich for anything other than historical or educational purposes, not only contradicts the principles of free speech, but also runs against hallowed tradition in Israeli politics, right back to the days of David Ben-Gurion.

Israel's first prime minister was in the habit of using such terminology when referring to his chief ideological rival, leader of the Revisionist Movement Zeev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky – long before the foundation of the state and even before the Holocaust. In 1933, with conflict between the two wings of the Zionist movement at its height, Ben-Gurion repeatedly compared Jabotinsky to Hitler in print and in speeches, including one where he called him "Vladimir Hitler."

Ben-Gurion reserved the comparison also for Jabotinsky's successor, Menachem Begin. In 1963, in a letter to author Chaim Guri, Ben Gurion wrote that "Begin is a distinct Hitlerist type" and predicted that if he would ever come to power "he will replace the army and police headquarters with his goons, and rule as Hitler did in Germany."
Begin for his part called Ben-Gurion a Nazi once during the heated Knesset debate over the government's decision in 1951 to accept reparations from the Germans for the Holocaust. As prime minister, Begin kept the Nazi imagery for the Arabs, likening his decision to go after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Beirut to attacking "Hitler in his bunker" and saying in cabinet that "the alternative (to launching the Lebanon War) is Auschwitz."

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