This is interesting timing. I just finished a Holocaust memoir -- To Survive Sobibor, by Dov Freiberg -- in which, in the last few chapters, the author writes repeatedly of his dismay at spurious Holocaust comparisons -- for example, between the Nazis and the British who, after the war, attacked a ship filled with over a thousand Jewish refugees trying to get to Israel. The British forced the ship (the Exodus, of Leon Uris fame) to go back to Europe -- and not just to Europe; to Germany. It was an act of cruelty, callousness, and gross insensitivity, and Freiberg despised the British for sending a ship full of Holocaust survivors back to the country that had all but exterminated the Jewish people. But when some of his comrades compared the British to the Nazis, Freiberg didn't like it. The British weren't putting Jews on boxcars and sending them to places like Sobibor, and although Jewish refugees yearning for their homeland suffered both physically and emotionally because of British refusal to allow them to emigrate to Israel, it was not the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had lived and died in Sobibor. Freiberg spent 18 months there, and was the only one of his entire family to survive the Holocaust, and he did not appreciate facile equations made mostly by people who had not experienced the Hell on earth that was Sobibor Death Camp.
So having finished the book just earlier this evening, I came across this piece from Israel News:
Shas minister: Americans' attitude to report reminiscent of Auschwitz
Yitzhak Cohen says during cabinet meeting 'US intelligence report was ordered by someone who wants dialogue with Tehran. Minister Eli Yishai: 'We must not play dumb in the face of the report's findings'
Published: 12.09.07, 14:30 / Israel News
"The manner in which the Americans relate to the intelligence report on Iran is similar to the way in which they viewed those reports they received during the Holocaust on railways transporting hundreds of thousands of Jews to their death at Auschwitz," Minister Yitzhak Cohen of Shas said during a security cabinet meeting Sunday morning on the Iranian nuclear issue.
"It can not be that (US President George W.) Bush is committed to peace as was declared at Annapolis, and then the Americans propagate such an intelligence report which contradicts the information we have proving Iran intends to obtain nuclear weapons," Cohen said. "How can we rely on the Americans if they publish this report that emasculates what the world explicitly knows regarding Iran, and renders impotent the entire struggle against the Iranians?"
Minister Cohen asserted that the report must have been "ordered by someone who wants dialogue with Tehran" and formulated an historical analogy to express just how serious the situation is: "In the middle of the previous century the Americans received intelligence reports from Auschwitz on the packed trains going to the extermination camps. They claimed then that the railways were industrial. Their attitude today to the information coming out of Iran on the Iranians' intention to produce a nuclear bomb reminds one of their attitude during the holocaust."
Minister Cohen is a little confused. He seems to be referring to the American decision not to bomb the rail lines over which Jews were being transported to the death camps -- Auschwitz in particular. But that decision was not justified with the claim that the railroads "were industrial." The U.S. government, in point of fact, knew what the rail lines were used for, and they did not pretend not to know. The excuse (and it was an excuse, with very little basis in reality) the FDR administration used to reject the many pleas from Jewish organizations to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz was that they could not spare the planes or the bombs, and that bombing the rail lines would endanger the war effort. That was not true, and maybe at some point I will write a post about it -- but the point here is that, in refusing to bomb and destroy the railroad leading to Auschwitz, the U.S. government was -- quite deliberately and with full knowledge of what was at stake for millions of Jews -- abandoning those Jews to the gas chambers and the crematoria, for reasons that were invalid and had no factual basis. FDR knew the consequences for the Jews in Auschwitz of allowing the rail lines to go unbombed when they could have been bombed without compromising an Allied victory in the overall war, and he and his administration decided they were okay with that.
Contrast that situation with the recent National Intelligence Estimate indicating that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Cohen and his band of far right nuts have no facts or evidence whatsoever to support their assertion that Iran does have an active nuclear weapons program; the best they can come up with is this comment from a "senior security official":
A senior security official who has seen the materials Israel possesses claims that there is enough incriminating information regarding Iran's intentions.
"Even if the world lacks clear evidence, the (Iranian) agenda is clear. We have no doubt that it is (President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollahs who are directing the program. Israel has gathered enough information to obligate the international community to continue with its intensive activity against creating a bomb," he said.
There was no "lack of clear evidence" that the Nazis had already murdered millions of Jews by the time the requests to bomb the Auschwitz rail lines began to be made. There was no "lack of clear evidence" that they were continuing to murder Jews at the rate of 10,000 a day or more (the gas chambers at Auschwitz and the other death camps could each hold 2,000 people at a time -- and Auschwitz as well as other death camps had more than one gas chamber in operation).
Which brings me to the larger point. How can anyone have the audacity to draw a comparison between Iran, or any country, having the "desire" or the "intention" to build a nuclear weapon -- without any evidence that they are doing so or that they could do so within any time frame shorter than 10 years -- and thousands upon thousands of human beings, mostly women and children, being forced to undress and then crammed, naked, into gas chambers and murdered en masse with cyanide gas, which took about three minutes to kill every living being in the gas chamber?
That the people making this comparison are Israeli -- Jewish citizens of the nation that became the sanctuary and the refuge of the last remnants of an exterminated people -- raises the audacity to a level even beyond disgraceful.