Reductio ad Hitlerum is a much overused form of argument that often proves more offensive than effective in proving a point. The hapless White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, learned that even stating debatable facts about Adolf Hitler can put someone in hot water. But Spicer’s comments — offensive as they were — did not approach real anti-Semitism. That’s a job for a certain British leftist.
“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews,” declared former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, a member of Britain’s liberal Labour Party, last year.
Livingstone’s remarks rightly caused an uproar; the party suspended him and launched an inquiry into his alleged anti-Semitism. But the matter didn’t end there. On March 30 of this year, before the Labour Party’s highest disciplinary body, Livingstone again claimed there had been “real collaboration” between Nazis and Jews.
“[Hitler] didn’t just sign the deal,” Livingstone said, according to Britain’s The Guardian. “The SS set up training camps so that German Jews who were going to go there could be trained to cope with a very different sort of country when they got there [Palestine].”
But as David Baddiel explained in a Guardian op-ed, the statement “Hitler supported Zionism” is not a fact — it’s a historical interpretation, and one much more tenuous than Spicer’s point that Hitler did not use chemical weapons in combat (although he infamously gassed defenseless human beings, mostly Jews, in concentration camps throughout the war).
In the 1930s, the National Socialist (Nazi) Party pushed the forced emigration of Jews from Germany, along with other economic incentives allowing those who fled to Palestine to reclaim some of their stolen assets.
As Baddiel — no Zionist himself — pointed out, “That is not Adolf Hitler supporting the idea of a Jewish state (even writing that sentence looks ridiculous). It is the Nazis taking advantage of the terror and despair of fleeing refugees to get more of them to leave the country.” Chillingly, the writer added, “It is just the thin edge of the wedge of Nazi horror.”
But there it is — the anti-Israel Left in the form of Livingstone has connected Adolf Hitler to the Zionist movement and therefore to the state of Israel. Fait accompli, the Jews are Hitler. Wait … isn’t fighting this kind of anti-Semitism the whole point of remembering the Holocaust and condemning Hitler in the first place?
Even Baddiel, who in the very article attacking Livingstone accuses the State of Israel of atrocities against the Palestinians, complains that the anti-Semitic leftist has no compassion for the Jews under Hitler’s thumb.
The real problem, in a way, is the tone of Livingstone when giving this interpretation. There’s no sympathy. No compassion — no sense of the tragedy behind this. It’s just complacently presented as a deal that Hitler made with German Zionists, and therefore — and this, of course, is the point, the banal, shit point — a way of confirming that Zionism is bad. Through an association with the top bad thing, Hitler.
Worse, because anti-Semitism is so rightly condemned as such, some closet anti-Semites take to using the word “Israeli” to mean “Jew,” as a way of hiding their racist sentiments. This conflation makes it all that much easier for the Left to exclude Jews from their hierarchy of oppressed classes.
As Baddiel writes, there is a “sense that runs deep in the left, that the Jews don’t quite fit into the category of The Oppressed, and so therefore don’t deserve the same protections and sympathy as other minorities in the face of racism against them.” The former London mayor himself is guilty of this: “Livingstone himself has said this in the creepingly insinuating comment that antisemitism and racism are ‘not exactly the same thing’,” Baddiel concludes.
The Left’s shifting hierarchy of grievance is hard to keep up with these days. Recently, it seems Muslims rank higher on the totem pole than gay people, as liberals hesitate to mention radical jihadists’ brutal murdering of homosexuals. But the most terrifying trend of all is the Left’s push to recognize Palestinians as the oppressed and Israelis as the oppressors.
When liberals like Livingstone actually go so far as to compare Zionists to Hitler, they reach a new era of absurdity in identity politics. The very people who suffered in the Holocaust now become associated with the evil that tormented them, and the stage is set for the very worst part of history to repeat itself.