Monday, June 8, 2009

False analogies

President Obama gave a big boost, during his trip to the Middle East and Europe, to two ideas that are coming into vogue:

-- that the suffering of the Palestinians today is equivalent to that of the Jews during the Holocaust. This Obama did by linking the two rhetorically with "on the one hand" and "on the other hand."

-- that the firebombing of Dresden was the equivalent of the Holocaust. This, John Rosenthal argues, was accomplished by visiting first Buchenwald, then Dresden, including the recently-restored Frauenkirche which for many Germans has become, not a symbol of reconciliation, but of German suffering at the hands of the Allies.

Neither of these ideas is true, but each seeks to appropriate the moral outrage usually associated with the Holocaust for other ends. In the first case, the idea is to promote the Palestinian cause while implicitly (and increasingly, explicitly) equating Israelis with Nazis. In the second case, the suffering of those firebombed in Dresden is no longer compared with the suffering of those in the European cities bombed by Germany during the war, but to that of innocent people in concentration and death camps. Indeed, the intent is to classify the firebombing of Dresden as a war crime equivalent to that of the Holocaust.

I can understand why some Palestinians and Germans would support and promote these ideas. What I can't understand is why a U.S. president would.

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