Shmuel Rosner writes: The seven days between Holocaust Memorial Day (last Thursday) and Independence Day (this Thursday) are packed with national symbolism. Seven days to remind the Jews of Israel of their trajectory from near annihilation to sovereign revival. Seven days for much sorrow and much pride.
And seven perfect days for political messaging.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the season last week by dismissing those who “prefer that we not speak of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat” and “do not like it when I speak such uncomfortable truths.” These “truths” are in fact a matter of much debate, and yet Netanyahu can’t really go wrong asserting them as fact. However remote the possibility that a nuclearized Iran would actually spell calamity for Israel, that outcome is too serious not to strike fear.
It wasn’t the first time Netanyahu used the specter of the Holocaust to characterize the danger posed by Iran. I remember hearing him make the case at the annual gathering of the Jewish Federations of North America in Los Angeles in 2006. “It is 1938,” he said back then. “Iran is Germany, and it is about to arm itself with nuclear weapons.”
Six years later, for Netanyahu at least, it’s still 1938 — maybe 1939 — and Iran is still comparable to Nazi Germany. During his speech last week, Netanyahu told his many critics that those who do not understand in the same terms as he does the gravity of the threat “have learned nothing from the Holocaust.”
Apparently one of those know-nothings is the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. “Iran is a danger, but to claim that it is creating a second Auschwitz? I compare nothing to the Holocaust,” Wiesel told the Globes last week. He believes that to invoke the Holocaust like this is to trivialize it.
Yes, to invoke the Holocaust in response to every Israeli fear is to trivialize it — but it also isolates the Holocaust from the horror of a war in which as many as 70 million people died. Those who beat the drums of war need to remember how hard war is to contain and how unpredictable its outcome. Netanyahu doesn’t just trivialize the Holocaust; he trivializes war itself.