On the sidelines of the pro-Palestinian demonstration on October 22, a person was taken into custody for “inciting hatred”: he was brandishing a sign “Zionism equals Nazism”. A new habit of virulent anti-Zionist networks. “Hitler is an altar boy next to Netanyahu,” Mahiedine Mekhissi, an Olympic athletics medalist, tweeted on October 31, adding to his message words such as “Nazisrael,” “IsraeliNewNazism,” or “Zionists.” In a supposedly more humorous register, Guillaume Meurice, employee of Radio France, also drew a parallel between the Israeli Prime Minister and Nazism. “Halloween is approaching and everyone is starting to look for a disguise to scare people. At the moment, Netanyahu’s disguise is working quite well. He’s a kind of Nazi, without a foreskin,” he declared on France Inter, on October 29.
The comparison notably made the female rabbi Delphine Horvilleur react: “Foreskin or not, I would rather be in favor of circumcising Guillaume Meurice’s air time”, she tweeted, adding the hashtag #nazifierlesjuifsunenouvellemode. The chronicle stated on France is in fact not the only example of this rhetoric. This November 2, the Cuban embassy in France thus shared a caricature of a soldier wearing a helmet in the colors of the Israeli flag, also wearing a Nazi armband. In description: “the irony of becoming what you hated the most”. And the Cuban embassy accompanied the image with a comment: “Exactly”. The comparison, confined to extreme political fringes in the early 2000s, has effectively spread into the public sphere in recent years, and even more so in recent weeks. For L’Express, political scientist Jean-Yves Camus, specialist in the far right, analyzes its spread.
L’Express: On Twitter, Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur wrote that “nazifying the Jews” was “a new fashion”. What do you think ?
Jean-Yves Camus: There is indeed a growing tendency to see the Nazis compared with either successive Israeli governments or the Jews. This is a fairly old phenomenon now. In April 2002, in the wake of the second Intifada and the rise of anti-Semitic acts in France, a pamphlet entitled “Ariel Sharon’s Judeo-Nazi Manifesto” was circulated. This text, attributed to the former Israeli Prime Minister, is obviously an apocryphal text, which never existed. It recounted a so-called “plan to genocide the Palestinians.” This never existed, neither written by Ariel Sharon nor by anyone else. We are faced with a falsehood – just as false as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
It actually comes from a small group of activists who are both very complacent with regard to Holocaust denial and very committed to maximalist support for the Palestinian cause. It is a pamphlet that could be found in a certain number of Islamist bookstores. I found it in a bookstore on rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. Journalists had seen it for sale at the annual conference of the UOIF, the annual meeting of Muslims in France – which was held from 1984 to 2019 at Le Bourget. This is the first time, in recent times, that I have seen this type of propaganda circulating. I subsequently saw him again in a certain number of Parisian demonstrations, notably in 2009, when a confrontation was already taking place in Gaza between Israelis and Hamas. There were two visuals on the signs: the first related to the Nazi extermination camps. The second represented the bombings in Gaza. Between the two you had an equals sign.
What is the purpose of this equivalence?
It is about “demonizing”, through the Israeli government, the Jews. It is explained that yesterday’s victims have become today’s executioners. This rhetoric spread in the public sphere through the negationist writer Roger Garaudy, then by Alain Soral, and was spread particularly on the fringes of the demonstrations for Palestine. She evolves in a very small environment which includes both Islamist activists, former ultra-left activists, sometimes ultra-right for whom, obviously, more than their hatred of Arabs and Muslims, the Jews remain the main enemies. For these people, it is obviously very interesting to nazify the Jews in order to erase their own commitment to the ultra-right. At the end of the 1990s, at the beginning of the 2000s, we also had a small movement called the Party of Muslims of France which rode a lot on this trend towards “Nazification”. It was one of the small groups which distributed the famous manifesto that we mentioned.
You mention “margins”. It is difficult, however, to assimilate the comments made by Guillaume Meurice on France Inter to the movements that you cite above.
This is not the case ! When this column was broadcast on France Inter, its author was not influenced by the anti-Semitic pamphlet I was talking to you about. On the other hand, it is probably caused by the ambient atmosphere. This “Nazification” rhetoric is no longer limited to small groups, but now has multiple transmitters. There is, particularly on social networks, a surge of messages of “nazification” of Jews. We are faced with “consumers” who are different from this type of discourse.
Nazifying Netanyahu is crossing a line. For comparison, saying that he is far-right – which in my opinion is stupidity – is not defamatory. It’s not excessive. We can then have a debate. But to say that he is a Nazi insinuates that he, somewhere, with others, wrote a plan for the extermination of the Palestinian people. However, this plan does not exist, once again. From now on, even without having a political culture, the person who, on social networks, makes Jews the Nazis of 2023, is someone who knows, even in a rather crude way, that Nazism in Western civilization is the pure evil. What is he looking for? He seeks to explain that today, absolute evil has another face, that of the Jew.
This has been the case for centuries: in Western societies, the Jew was portrayed as absolute evil. He was the one who killed the children of Christians, poisoned wells, spread the plague. It was logical, in a society of “the teaching of contempt”, conveyed by the Catholic Church, where the Jews were a cursed people because they had refused the revelation represented by the arrival of Jesus. The Muslim world is not left out in the Nazification of the Israeli government and of Jews in general, with also surahs of the Koran which pose a problem. There is also a very clear tendency to make Jews, because they refused to recognize the prophet of Islam, enemies with evil powers.
Beyond these references, do you think that we are also witnessing a “trivialization” of the term “Nazi”?
Absolutely: today we are witnessing a demonetization of this period of history. The memory of the Shoah is fading, historical references are fading more and more because teaching is no longer able to transmit them to students. I see a general knowledge gap, including among postgraduate students. This climate is further aggravated by the proliferation, on television sets, of somewhat improvised Middle East experts. There is indeed a trivialization of the term. In the Western collective imagination since 1945, any far-right man is potentially a Nazi. We also see it in our treatment of the National Rally: either we say “there were former Nazis in the National Rally” or we say “there are still Nazis, who pretend not to be Nazis” but who hide what they really think. It must obviously be remembered: when the National Front was created, there were people who had fought under the Nazi uniform. But this does not prejudge what the executives of this party and its activists are today.
This type of analysis is appalling: in our Western political configuration, what closes the debate and definitively excludes you is being assimilated, or having connections with Nazis. The use of the term has become a banal insult, a way of blocking analysis. This means that the term has become widespread, and has therefore become devoid of any historical significance. However, the definition is clear: the Nazis are the followers of an ideology: National Socialism. I condemn the ease of using this term to avoid having a detailed analysis of what the extreme right is. It’s a shame because, at the same time, the capacity to respond to the extreme right is blunted due to the lack of finesse of the analysis. All this must be seen in the general loss of meaning of the term “Nazi”. Pierre-André Taguieff has been writing about this for over thirty years. The term Nazi has lost all scientific and historical content. It is a term that has passed into the register of discredit and insult. But words have meaning! A Nazi is not just someone who is evil and attacks others. Nazism was a totalitarian regime that implemented a plan for the systematic extermination of Jews because they were Jewish.