Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Four Letter Word

Warning: This entry is emotional and highly subjective. If you don't like politics, I suggest you stop here.

For me, Nazi is a four letter word.

One of the things which never ceases to frustrate me is the struggle for legitimacy via usage of other nation's tragedies to coin one's own experiences, as if you could compare and equate the suffering. I find it infuriating when the Palestinians use the term "Holocaust" when they discuss nakba. I don't like it when the term "apartheid" is bandied about, as it deligitimizes their experience by making it common, unconsciously minimizingthe pain, suffering and humiliation of the South African's who initially had the term applied to them.

But what really gets me is when the term Nazi is used. It is so ridiculously overused and has lost its meaning over the years. I think the all-time low was the Seinfeld "Soup Nazi" episode. I realize that it was not meant to minimize the Holocaust, but never the less, it degrades the term and softens the severity which accompanies the mental image which the terminology invokes. My sensitivity to the issue has been heightened due to my work at Yad Vashem, and I have respect for the complex issues and meanings which certain terms contain, especially after spending the past year working with students who span the Jewish denominational board. The word nazi is short for Nationalsocializmus, the National Socialists party, whose doctrine was based on Hitler's Mein Kampf, a vicious political ideology emphasising the necessity to eliminate the Jewish people. When I hear nazi, the image that comes to mind is of an individual who is a small, hateful person, whose intentions were compelled by racial motivation and hatred of non-aryans, especially and specifically Jews.

I write all of this as a reaction to the Ynet article, when a Machsom Watch activist called an IDF soldier a nazi:

Soldiers told Ynet the incident occurred at the beginning of the month at a checkpoint near Tul Karm. A Machsom Watch activist approached the soldier as he asked two Palestinians to queue for inspection and launched a verbal attack against him. "She promptly approached him and swore at him, told him he is a 'Nazi' and a 'beast'," soldiers told Ynet. Soldiers who were present at the checkpoint at the time said their comrade acted according to IDF regulations and the activist's reaction was inexplicable and "degrading." "There are a lot of situations where we carry on as usual and don't respond, but this was too much and he was offended," soldiers said.
Police said they are currently searching for the activist who is wanted for interrogation. In the written apology sent to the soldier's commander the Machsom Watch activist wrote that hearing the soldier giving instructions to the Palestinian was "unbearable."

How dare this woman equate the men and women who risk their lives defending Israel with the monsters who tried their hardest to annihilate the Jewish people. Is it difficult and at times degrading for Palestinians to go through checkpoints? Absolutely. Is it a necessity for the safety of Israeli citizens, whether they be Jewish, Muslim or Chrisitian? Absolutely, for suicide bombers don't discriminate. I would love to see a peaceful border, where people could pass freely and safely from side to side, be they Israeli or Palestinian, without worry. But it's simply not reality. Galgalaz (Israeli radio) reported today that there has been a sharp rise in the number of attempted terror attempts. The checkpoints serve the purpose of keeping all Israelis safe, and put our boys, my brothers, in harms way as they are the ones which physically prevent tragedy and terror.

Our army is one of the most humanitarian in the world. IDF officers have even met with Machsom Watch activists, to speak with them regarding ways of improving checkpoint conditions. There are even checkpoints being set up which allow Palestinians to pass through without ever being in contact with an Israeli soldier. What other country would go to such lengths for a people who wish to destroy them?

Instead of harrasing our boys, the Machsom Watch activists should be thanking them for keeping their ungrateful, sorry asses alive.


Blogger IsraLuv said...

Amen Sistah!

11:17 AM  
Blogger Goofunk said...

I couldn't agree more. Goddamn right wingers think that they can do whatever they want.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Mobius said...

one time i was at a house demolition in a palestinian village as a monitor for the israeli commitee against house demolitions. that day, the idf demolished the homes of two palestinian civilian families whose crime was building their homes in defiance of discriminatory housing policy. as the bulldozers reduced each family's home to rubble while the families watched in tears, the soldiers stood by laughing and cracking jokes.

i asked one of them, "how can you stand there and laugh as a family is being made homeless?"

"i am only following orders," he said.

"that's what the nazis said to my grandparents," i replied.

2:01 AM  
Blogger Aliza said...

Mobius - Regarding your comment, I find it repulsive that humans find humor in the tragedy of others. Should the soldiers have been laughing at the families whose homes were being destroyed? Absolutely not, it's despicable to celebrate the suffering of others. Judaism emphasises this, for example, during the Pesach seder, when we remove wine from our cups to commemorate the Egyptian loss of life. Or the fact that Israel erected a monument in Jerusalem to commemorate fallen Jordanian soldiers during the '67 war, despite the fact that they were the enemy. The soldier you spoke to was following orders regarding demolition, not to laugh, as should be clear to you. And comparing a soldier who needs a some compassion training to a Nazi who was actively part of deporting, confining and murdering an entire people because his leader felt like it, is wrong. Find a different analogy, for the Holocaust comparisons ring hollow.

9:19 AM  
Blogger RR said...

I agree with you completely. I hate hearing the word "Nazi" bandied about so easily- what do we then call the REAL Nazis?

4:23 PM  
Blogger tafka PP said...

Comparisons might "ring hollow", Aliza, but Mobius' highlights where it is possible, and further, it is inevitable. Obviously it is an entirely different situation, Israel is not perpetuating racist genocide on Palestinians, but the checkpoints provide ample fodder for black humour on the part of the soldiers, and of course, comparisons. This woman (who is not representative of any Machsom Watch party line) is not the first and will not be the last to say something like this: Remember what happened to Yaffa Yarkoni and Tommy Lapid who both made comparisons during the intifada? I'm not justifying it, but I think the media overplayed it.

Also you should note that many members of Machsom Watch are Holocaust Survivors, and almost all have been thru the army. They aren't a bunch of wet-nosed liberals, much as the media would like to portray otherwise.

Finally, in terms of invoking inappropriate imagery, I'd also like to remind you of the slogan used by the Gush Katif campaign, and further images I'm sure you can't forget either of children wearing Orange stars this summer. I don't think any Jew is clean of not invoking this inappropriate imagery when it suits them. Yet *all* invocations remain a gross insult to the memory of those who were murdered.

1:05 AM  
Blogger NeshamaSearcher said...

"Our army is one of the most humanitarian in the world"

and for this reason Israel doesn't need concerned, democratic citizens supervising the morality of the IDF?

what do you think makes the IDF a humanitarian army?
I concede your point on the abuse of the word, "nazi" but to refer to the machsom watch activists as ungrateful sorry asses is to degrade the very checks that ensure the IDF works in the framework of Israel's liberal democracy... and lest you forget the alternative to this system is the authoritarian dictatorship model (excuse my reference but the same one used in 1930 Germany)

7:15 PM  
Blogger Aliza said...

Neshamasearcher: Supervision, yes. But supervision by "concerned individuals" who harass the soldiers? Its one thing if the Machsom Watch activists took notes and reported inappropriate activity or behavior to the company commander or appropriate authorities, its another when Machsom Watch consistently harasses and disrupts the soldiers work, endangering both themselves, the soldiers and holding up the Palestinians who are waiting.
The term "ungrateful sorry asses" was chosen with care, as the Machsom Watch activist would like to see the checkpoints abolished, yet I as a survivor of 3 suicide bombings, am quite happy that they are there. Is it sad that we need check points? Absolutely. But it is sheer idiocy and obtuseness which enable these women to think that they are not a necessity and that the soldiers manning them are not saving lives every single day.

11:57 PM  

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