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The Real Nazis
Nope. It's not the Norwegians.


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Jonah Goldberg

I’ve gotten a lot of traction out of my seemingly banal observation that it is highly improbable that the United States will ever become a Nazi-like or otherwise totalitarian nation. For some reason, this is the sort of obvious statement which strikes lots of folks as shocking or controversial, even though it’s only slightly less of a “Well, duh” assertion than saying, “The oceans will not turn into diet Mr. Pibb in our lifetimes.”

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The feedback on my syndicated columns and G-File on the allegedly outlandish claim that America is a reliably good nation has been outstanding. Yesterday I even chatted for a half-hour with Walter Williams, who was guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh. It was a very nice and civil conversation — mostly about the nature of slippery slopes — and I only have one regret: Somehow, I managed to say that liberty is like a well-marbled piece of meat. I’m not kidding, but you had to be there. Next time I plan on expressing my well-founded belief that democracy is akin to bacon grease.

Anyway, I have to write fast because I’m giving a speech to the YAF high school kids today and I have no idea what I’m going to say. But I figured if it was so shocking to so many to hear that America isn’t a good breeding ground for Nazism, maybe it would come as an equal surprise that there’s a perfectly good candidate for Nazism, of a sort, out there.

Now, what defines Nazism? I don’t want to get too deep into the theoretical weeds of what exactly defines German fascism as opposed to, say, the Spanish or Italian varieties, so let’s just keep this simple. Nazism is a mixture of socialism (the Left loves to overlook this, as we all know), nationalism, and hatred, usually based in eugenic gobbledygook about purity and endorsed at the highest levels of politics, culture, and academia. It has other attributes too — involving notions of virility (and, hence, male insecurity), complaints about lost land and international grievances, and a burning desire to restore a past that may or may not have existed. And, let’s be fair, we can hardly leave out the fact that one of the things which makes Nazism — as opposed to Italian or Spanish fascism — so “special” is a sustained and serious commitment to exploiting popular resentments and using them as an excuse to murder vast numbers of people considered to be evil, inferior, dangerous — or all three. In terms of ideology, the most obvious and relevant of these groups is the Jews, though they were not alone in the long columns of Nazi victims.

I don’t think any of this qualifies as controversial in any legitimate sense. One might quibble about my emphases or omissions, but people of good will and sound minds know where I’m coming from.

Now, let’s see who best fits this description. Is it the Norwegians? Hmmm. Not really. They’re blond, socialist, and they don’t like Jews as much as some of us would like, but that’s about as far as it goes. How about the Argentineans? I don’t think so. They have cool military uniforms and a lot of old Germans live there, but they aren’t much interested in murdering lots of people. The Canadians? The Australians? The Kenyans? Nope, nope, nope.

I submit to you the obvious once again: the Arabs. Let’s look first — and quickly — at the text.

Now, I spent just a few minutes looking for examples of Nazi-like rhetoric and actions and found so many examples — of Arab mobs chanting “death to Jews”; Arab governments endorsing the blood libel against Jews (Syria is making a movie about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, based on their foreign minister’s book on the subject); Mein Kampf being a perennial best-seller in the Arab world; Jews being likened to vermin, poison, bacteria, disease, and so on, in grade-school textbooks and children’s TV shows — that I could use up the entire NRO server just listing examples. If you want to read such stuff yourself, just spend a day perusing Memri.org, I’ve got to keep moving. But here are a few examples picked almost at random:

Jews are the “dogs of humanity . . . Their wicked nature never changes . . . They slay women, children, and rip up pregnant women,” explains the Academy for the Study of Islam at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which claims to be and is widely recognized as the “highest center of learning in Islam.”

“Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them and those who stand by them. They are all in one trench against the Arabs,” exclaimed Ahmad Abu Halabiya, former acting rector of the Islamic University in Gaza. His rant was broadcast live on the official television channel of the Palestinian Authority, the day after two off-duty Israeli soldiers were ripped apart by a mob last year.

Now, it is inaccurate to say that anti-Semitism (by which I mean hatred of Jews; please, no silly word-games about how Arabs are Semites too) is the same thing as Nazism. In a sense that would be “unfair” to Nazism, since the former is relatively new and unique to mid-20th century Europe, and hatred of Jews is very old.

Still, it’s worth noting that the former mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, once explained matter-of-factly that there is “a definite similarity between the principles of Islam and the principles of Nazism.”

A couple years ago, Arieh Stav, director of the Ariel Center for Policy Research in Tel Aviv, published a book called Peace: The Arabian Caricature: A Study of Anti-Semitic Imagery, which documented in excruciating and endless detail the extent to which much of the thinking in the Arab world is heavily influenced by Nazism. The concepts of “kampf” and “jihad” have been linked by many Arab ideologues. Anwar Sadat wrote a letter lavishing Hitler with praise. David Duke is writing op-eds for Arab papers. Whether from Saudi television or Egyptian newspapers or the mouths of Syrian leaders, praise and admiration for Hitler and Nazism can be found with little to no effort.

Now, let’s look at the context, again with a brevity that makes the Reader’s Digest look encyclopedic.

Germany was the last major European state to industrialize, and the fastest. Millions of rural Germans were displaced into cities and factories in less than a generation. As often happens under rapid urbanization, social and political institutions were sorely tested. Nostalgia for a highly fictionalized past grew, and was amplified by the pressures of unification. Later, after World War I, when proud Germans felt they were the victims of an unfair peace imposed upon them by the “world community,” disillusionment and resentment became hallmarks of German culture. German lands were carved up and the economy was ravaged by outside forces. Young men found it difficult to work, and they had plenty of people to blame. Scapegoats were found, conspiracy theories hatched.

Meanwhile, a cult of fatalism and nihilism prospered. This cult of death was fed by boutique modernist notions from German and French schools which claimed that human will was more important than human history or humane morality.

Obviously such comparisons can be facile, but I think it’s fair to say that in Arab countries today, something similar is going on. I often hear Jim Zogby, the Arab-American apologist for all things Arab, justify the repugnant nature of Saudi Arabia by explaining that a generation ago, “Saudis” were living in tents in the desert. I’m sure this, or something similar, is true in many Arab countries. The economics are of course not identical — in part because the National Socialists, or more fairly put the nationalist socialists in Arab countries, gained power and held on to it, while the Nazis only ruled for twelve years. But it is not outlandish to say that Arab societies are undergoing an upheaval not entirely dissimilar to what Germany went through in the years leading up to World War II.

And it is even more apt to say that Islamic fanaticism is being fed in part by the inability of millions of able-bodied young men to find gainful employment — something deeply humiliating to men in all cultures, but particularly so in Muslim societies where women are second-class and dependent upon men. Indeed, as others have commented, there’s something more than vaguely sexual to much of the rhetoric and actions of these Muslim fanatics. The way they talk about Western women, the way they talk about their own manliness, the way Mohamed Atta shuddered at the merest suggestion that a woman might touch his genitals after he died: these things seem to point to some very real insecurities about their own potency.

And while these points may be debatable, it is indisputable that Arab countries have a real problem with various death cults and nihilism. You cannot read of the prosperous parents — far from Israel and the “Occupied Territories” — who openly dream about their children blowing themselves up, and deny this obvious point. I saw a picture not long ago of an “art project” at a Palestinian “University” which depicted the massacre of Jews at a pizzeria, complete with constuction-paper viscera of Jewish children. Everyone thought it was just beautiful. A culture that cheers and celebrates the wanton murder of women and children has got problems; a culture which goes into raptures at the thought of its own children dying to commit these murders is, in the most literal sense, soulless.

This death cult is fueled by fantasies of scoring vengeance and vindication in the death of Jews. The Palestinians are the Arab world’s Sudeten Germans. The “liberation” of their coreligionists and ethnic brothers is used as a utopian carrot guiding brainwashed donkey after brainwashed donkey to murder and suicide. I am not saying that Arabs or Muslims generally are Nazis or Nazi-like. That would be absurd. But I am saying that the Arab world is the only place left on this planet which bears a reasonable resemblance to Germany in the 1930s, with the open and accepted dissemination of Nazi-like ideas and ambitions.

Now, I could go on. But I won’t. Either you think I’m full of it on this score or you don’t by now. But I do think it’s worth addressing this fantasy that Israel is the true “Nazi” state. One hears this explicitly and implicitly in anti-Israel rhetoric all the time. Most of the time, I chalk it up to projection or transference or whatever it is psychologists call it when someone describes others in terms that best describe themselves.

But there’s something more to it. In the West, in America, in “civilized” circles, there’s a deep desire to deny the obvious out of shame or some other form of moral laziness. Sometimes the motive is to preserve Third World peoples as victims of the West. To these people “power” — specifically “Western” or colonial power — defines Nazism. But this is absurd. Power does not make you Nazi-like; if it did, America would be a Fourth Reich already — and again, it’s not. No, what makes you Nazi-like is the worship of power, particularly the power to murder, especially when you don’t have it. You don’t have to commit genocide to be a Nazi; you just have to want to commit genocide. Does anyone doubt that if given the chance, there would be countless Arab groups or governments who would leap at the opportunity to wipe out all of the Jews? One need only take their word for it.

Ultimately, though, by claiming that Israel is the villain in this passion play, it becomes possible to hide the truth in plain sight.

When I downplayed the threat of a possible Nazi regime in America, I heard countless people saying I was akin to the Germans who “closed their drapes” as the Jews were rounded up. Obviously, this is as stupid as it is offensive.

But there are people closing their drapes today. They’re the ones who see and hear about the things going on in the Middle East every day, but continue to hide behind silly libels against America and phrases like “Israeli oppression.”



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