In Depth

German protestors dare to compare Israelis to Nazis

European guilt about the Holocaust is receding in the face of Israeli aggresssion – and there’s nothing anti-semitic about it

As a Jew, it's very moving to see so many people who are so outraged at Israel's actions," said the comedian Alexei Sayle after Saturday's 10,000-strong anti-war protest in London. He would certainly be moved by the reaction of the people of Europe to Israel's military aggression. Last weekend thousands of Europeans took part in anti-Israel demonstrations. In Paris, around 25,0000 demonstrators, many wearing Palestinian headscarves, marched through the city chanting slogans such as "Israel killers" and "We are all Palestinians". In the Netherlands, thousands marched through Amsterdam, criticising the Israeli attacks and the Dutch government's failure to condemn them. One banner declared: "Anne Frank is turning in her grave. Oh Israel!" Protestors have not been afraid to compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews. In Stockholm, protestors set fire to an Israeli flag painted with a swastika. In Madrid more than 1,000 people marched, many carrying banners equating Zionism with Nazism. One banner declared: "This is not a war but a genocide". Some of the biggest demonstrations were in countries where for historical reasons, people have previously felt particularly inhibited about expressing criticism of the Jewish state. In Salzburg in Austria around 2,500 people took to the streets. In Germany there were sizeable demonstrations in several cities: around 10,000 people protested in Frankfurt, a further 7,000 in Berlin. In Dusseldorf protestors held up a doll representing a bleeding baby with the placard "Made in Israel". The significance of these protests cannot be underestimated. For most of the first 60 years of its existence, Israel got an easy ride from Europeans due to European guilt over the Holocaust. But as revulsion over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians grows, the 'Holocaust card' - long used by Zionists in order to stifle legitimate debate over Israel's actions - no longer has the same impact.  Zionists will, of course, claim that the growing European opposition to Israel is a sign that the continent is reverting to anti-semitism; the staunchly pro-Israel commentator Melanie Phillips has already dismissed the anti-Israel protestors as "leftists, Jew-haters, Muslims and useful idiots".

But the most striking thing about the demonstrations to date has been the absence of anti-semitism. Anger is rising across Europe, but it is anger directed against the state of Israel - not Jews in general; in fact in some demonstrations, such as the one in London, Jewish groups themselves took part. "Everybody is somebody's Jew. And the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis", the Jewish writer and holocaust survivor Primo Levi once famously remarked. It seems an increasing number of people across Europe are coming to the same conclusion.

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