Following the recent Steve Bell cartoon and the tough question it posed (of, oh, was it or wasn't it?), Australia now has a sort of re-run. This arises from a cartoon in The Age by Michael Leunig which begins with the legend 'First they came for the Palestinians, and I did not speak out because I was not a Palestinian', and goes on to 'then they came for' more and more, and still more, Palestinians. You can see the thing for yourself in this column.
I don't intend to go into the whole issue once again. In today's Age Nick Dyrenfurth makes the essential point: 'Criticising Israel', he says, 'of course need not be anti-Semitic... But criticisms can be made without resorting to Nazi comparisons'. Interesting, however, is the following passage in Leunig's self-justification:
I... learn to my amazement that to make comparisons between Israeli policy and any Nazi behaviour is in itself an anti-Semitic act. So much for free speech. I say all nations that throw their military weight around, occupying neighbouring lands and treating the residents with callous and humiliating disregard[,] are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature.
Ah, poor diddums: his right of free speech is under attack when people criticize something he says (draws, writes etc). He doesn't grasp the difference between criticism and legal sanction. As for beckoning up the shadow of genocide in connection with Israeli policy, that's OK too because 'all nations that throw their military weight around... are already sliding towards the dark possibilities in human nature'. You see how it works? Dark possibilities in human nature and - presto, genocide. I guess Leunig will be doing a lot of Nazi-genocide-evoking cartoons about a lot of different countries and movements in the coming weeks. Or, then again, maybe he won't.
Nick Dyrenfurth again:
One would have thought that "Nazi Israel" might have eradicated its enemy after 64 years. During the systemic and cold-blooded extermination that was the Holocaust, the world's Jewish population fell from 18 million to 12 million.
By contrast, since the founding of Israel in 1948, the Palestinian population in Gaza, the West Bank and Green Line Israel has grown from 1.2 million to some 5 million.