Monday, 16 December 2013

Smoke on the Waters

Roger Waters

There is a phrase in Hebrew, "Ocher Israel" (עוכר ישראל), that occasionally gets used to label those going against mainstream Israeli culture or Judaism. Particularly people of left wing leanings, and particularly Israelis/Jews of left wing leanings.
I was trying to find a good English translation to the term. Google translates it to "hater of Israel", which is not that accurate; DuckDuckGo suggested a more accurate "disturber of Israel", but it also fails to hold on to the original term's charm. I asked my friends to come up with a worthy translation; one suggestion was "Moshe Reuveni", which is probably very accurate, but misses the point somewhat. It was also pointed out to me the original Hebrew Biblical phrase was translated to English as "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?", but again - it doesn't sound as good.
So I'll stick with Ocher Israel.

All of the above was in order to inform you there is a new Ocher Israel in town, Roger Waters. Waters, in case you are unfamiliar, is one of the key people behind Pink Floyd (the main composer, nonetheless), which thus makes him one of the most influential people upon yours truly. It seems as if Waters' latest crime is comparing Israelis with Nazis, which earned him the wrath of Israelis and Jews alike. In other words, he's a Moshe Reuveni (or rather, an Ocher Israel).
This post is not about whether Waters' comparison is right or wrong, but rather about the act of comparing itself. This is because Waters does not seem to have received responses telling him he's wrong, but rather received tons of responses telling him that comparing Jews/Israelis to Nazis is sacrilege, an act filled with antisemitism which puts the heritage of six million Jewish victims in shame.
I wish to question that.
The way I see it, there are some comparisons between Israel and the Nazis that are obviously and undoubtedly correct. For example, both were/are land occupiers: the Nazis occupied many parts of Europe while Israel is occupying the West Bank and is still controlling Gaza. So there you go: a valid comparison.
By the same token, it is also clear there are things where Israel cannot be compared to the Nazis. As much as one can dislike Israel, one can still not blame Israel for creating mass production death camps.
Now, I don't know where on the continuum between the two comparisons Waters' is. My point, however, is that comparisons can be drawn.
I would also argue that comparisons should be drawn. After all, the Nazis have taken the part of the universally accepted manifestation of ultimate evil upon themselves; while it is all too easy to always draw comparisons with them, a good comparison can be educational. That is, after all, the whole point of learning from historical mistakes so as to prevent them from happening again.
That is why I think this particular example, one that compares Australia's treatment of asylum seekers with the Nazis, is quite valid. It was made in response to this Amnesty report, telling us asylum seekers are held in extreme heat conditions yet receive less than adequate amounts of water. The report on ABC spoke of half a litre per person, with said persons held in temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius. To me, this sounds very much like concentration camp conditions.
Regardless, the comparison was made yet no one bothered to raise the claim held up against Roger Waters. No one went on record saying that Pirate Party Australia, who made the comparison I linked to, puts the heritage of six million Jewish victims in shame.

I can thus conclude that the only Nazi comparisons one is disallowed to make are those comparing between Nazis and Israelis/Jews. The rest are fair game.
In other words, it is clear that the bulk of criticism against Roger Waters is nothing but ad hominem.

Image by Guillermo Cadiz, Creative Commons licence

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