TEL AVIV – Saturated with their often tragic history, Jews tend to pay great reverence to the past. But the past, especially when not handled with care, can be the enemy of the future and distort our reading of the challenges of the present. This is certainly the case with the analogy that Israeli leaders insist on drawing between the destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust and the threat posed to the Jewish state by a nuclear-armed Iran.
Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem this year again saw Israeli leaders competing with each other in feeding the gloom of the national psyche and public hysteria surrounding Iran’s intentions.
President Shimon Peres, who, unlike Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is skeptical of the utility of an attack on Iran’s nuclear installations, spoke of the “threat of extermination” facing Israel. Even Defense Minister Ehud Barak, usually a coolly rational thinker, chose Yad Mordechai, a Kibbutz named after Mordechai Anilewitz, the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, to alert world opinion against “Holocaust deniers, first and foremost the Iranian president, who calls for the destruction of the Jewish people.”
Netanyahu, not surprisingly, was especially outspoken. To him, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is another Hitler, and the world is now facing the same challenges that it faced on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power. Iran’s race to develop nuclear weapons, Netanyahu warned, can be understood only in the context of its leaders’ “repeated vows to wipe the Jewish state off the face of the earth.” Supposedly, now, as then, the world is criminally indifferent.