On February 27, Nahum Barnea, a mainstream Israeli-Jewish columnist, writing in one of the most widely circulated tabloid newspapers in Israel, compared the 17-hour orgy of burning, beating, terrorizing, looting and killing by Israeli “settlers” in the Palestinian town of Huwwara to Kristallnacht.
Most people in this country have no clue as to what Kristallnacht means. Or, the significance of the comparison to what just happened in Israel.
But people need to know.
Germany under Hitler, from the early 1930s until the end of World War II (1945), systematically murdered millions of Jewish people in Germany and throughout Europe.
That didn’t happen overnight, or all at once.
With the coming to power of Hitler, Jews were systematically dehumanized in the media, portrayed as subhuman rats (literally). The alienation and suffering of sections of people, especially middle-class people, was directed away from their oppressors and at Jewish people, who in some cases might have had just a little nicer house or a better job, or were in professions like teaching, science, and the arts. And Jews were disproportionately involved in radical or revolutionary politics. In stages, but relentlessly, Jews were driven out of their positions and their homes, and increasingly sent to concentration camps. Efforts to resist were branded as criminal acts of “terrorism.”
And then there was Kristallnacht.
On November 9-10, 1938, hundreds of Jewish people in NAZI Germany were killed, and tens of thousands of Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Jewish homes, hospitals, and schools were ransacked. Synagogues were burned. Thousands of Jewish businesses were destroyed or damaged. The attacks were carried out by fascist thugs, and enabled by the police. The mob violence and death became known as Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass in German) because in its wake, the streets were covered with shattered glass from the windows of synagogues and Jewish-owned homes and businesses.
Kristallnacht was preceded by laws that stripped Jewish people in Germany of the rights of citizens. “Mixed-race” marriages were banned. (It must be noted that here, and in other ways, the NAZIs explicitly “borrowed from” racist, white supremacist laws in effect in much of the United States at that time.) And Jews were forced to wear yellow six-pointed stars in public, subjecting them to police terror and thug attacks.
Kristallnacht became a pivotal event in what was to become the systematic, machine-like murder of millions of Jewish people (along with others) by the NAZIs. It sent a message that anything could be done to Jews with impunity. Fascist thugs were further emboldened. People who hated Hitler were isolated. The “good Germans” who were disgusted by Hitler fearfully, and shamefully, self-silenced (something honestly and powerfully confronted in the work of German pastor Martin Niemöller).
In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the NAZIs barred Jews from all public schools and universities, as well as from cinemas, theaters, and sports facilities. Jewish-owned businesses were forbidden to engage in work contracted by the government, forcing them out of business. In many cities, Jews were forbidden to enter designated “Aryan” zones. A 1939 law forced Jews to turn in gold, silver, diamonds, and other valuables to the state without compensation (a list of laws is found at the Holocaust Encyclopedia). Jewish people were ruined, isolated, and under siege.
Finally, in 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, the NAZIs implemented the “final solution,” the systematic rounding up, torture, starvation and murder of millions of Jews throughout Europe. This was one of the greatest crimes in human history.
Israel’s Kristallnacht in Huwwara
The event that provoked Nahum Barnea’s column took place on February 26, in the town of Huwwara (also spelled Huwara in English) in the West Bank region of Palestine (a region illegally occupied by Israel). In retaliation for the alleged killing by a Palestinian of two Jewish Israeli men (reportedly in retaliation for an earlier Israeli raid that killed 11 Palestinians), hundreds of Zionist “settlers” took part in an orgy of violence and terror against the entire population of the town of Huwwara.
Israeli “settlements” have long been built on land violently seized from Palestinians. In recent years, settlements have increasingly become paramilitary bases from which openly genocidal Jewish fundamentalists carry out constant terrorist raids on Palestinian communities.
In the attack on Huwwara, “settlers” set 30 houses on fire. They broke doors and windows in houses and looted them. They burned so many cars that charred remains filled entire blocks. More than 100 Palestinians were injured. Young children were terrorized and traumatized. And 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash was shot dead.
Omar Idrees was leaving a supermarket in Huwwara with his wife, their two-year-old daughter and his parents when Israeli settlers attacked them with rocks, rods and pepper spray.
Iyas Safadi, another Palestinian child, is quoted on social media saying, "I felt that this was the last day of my life... For all those watching, protect us, we need protection.”
From Facebook, DOAM (Documenting Oppression Against Muslims)
In Middle East Eye, another resident of Huwwara, Hussein al-Suwaiti wrote: “Our home disappeared under all of the smoke and tear gas; we were suffocating. We couldn't do anything except pray, scream for help, and shout at the settlers. When settlers were at our front door trying to break in, I started throwing shoes at them, from a shoe rack near me, through the window. While this was taking place, Israeli soldiers were just standing there, watching.”
Israeli military forces occupy the West Bank. They are quick to attack even peaceful funerals of Palestinians with stormtrooper-style brutality. But they stood by observing and enabling these Israeli mobs that attacked Huwwara for seventeen hours. Only six of the many hundreds who participated in the burning, brutalizing, terrorizing and murder were arrested. All had been freed by the following morning.
State-Sponsored and -Enabled Terrorism
Top Israeli officials issued calls that amounted to a huge flashing “GO” message leading up to the assault on Huwwara. A senior cabinet member in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank, Bezalel Smotrich, called for Huwwara to be “wiped out” by the State of Israel. First, he “liked” a tweet by a local Israeli official that called for people “to wipe out the village of Huwara today.” When asked why, he told a reporter, “Because I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it.”
On the eve of an upcoming visit to the U.S., Smotrich “walked back” his call with “explanations” like how this genocidal incitement was “a slip of the tongue in a storm of emotions.” And he claimed it “goes without saying” that he didn’t mean to call for violence(!). At this writing, despite global outrage from different perspectives, the U.S. government is not barring Smotrich from visiting the U.S., and unnamed Biden administration sources have been quoted saying the administration is unlikely to bar Smotrich’s entry. (Revolution will address the intense conflicts and contradictions in the Israeli ruling class and in the U.S.-Israel “special relationship” in a coming article—stay tuned.)
Two Opposite Interpretations of the NAZI Holocaust
At the beginning of this piece, we noted that most people in this country are basically clueless as to the crimes of the NAZIs, their genocidal mass murder of millions of Jews, and the kind of dehumanizing antisemitism that set the stage for that. (The silence in the face of, and tolerance of Ye’s pro-Hitler, antisemitic rants, including among oppressed people in this country, is an alarming example of that.)
But in Israel, people do know what the NAZIs did to the Jews. In fact, the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, where non-Jews—the Palestinians—are violently oppressed, is justified by Zionists on the basis of the Holocaust. Powerful forces in Israel claim that anything Israel does to the Palestinians is justified by the Holocaust. In 2008, during one of Israel’s periodic massacres against the Palestinian people in Gaza, Israel’s deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli Army Radio that if forces in Gaza fired makeshift rockets into Israel (weapons exponentially less deadly than the slaughter Israel was carrying out), “They will bring upon themselves a bigger ‘shoah’ [the Hebrew language word for the Holocaust].” Despite global outrage, Vilnai went on to continue a long, successful career in the Israeli government.
Then there are those who say, never again should such horrors happen to anyone—never again should crimes against humanity be allowed to go on while people plead ignorance or impotence as an excuse to do nothing to stop those crimes.
In the following video clip from his dialogue with Cornel West (“Bob Avakian on Revenge vs. the Emancipation of ALL Humanity”), the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian speaks to these opposite ways to understand the lesson of the Holocaust, and how to act in the interests of humanity. It is an understanding and a stand that needs to reach everyone outraged by unfolding events in Israel.
And be acted on.
Bob Avakian on Revenge vs. the Emancipation of ALL Humanity
A selection from REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN