Israel Independence performance draws Nazi comparisons | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 15.05.2016
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Middle East

Israel Independence performance draws Nazi comparisons

Israeli officials are struggling to explain an unexpected turn at the Independence Day festivities. On Thursday, Israel celebrated 68 years as a nation with fireworks, speeches and a very controversial performance.

Social media in Israel is still abuzz days after an Independence Day gaffe reminded many Israelis more of a famous Nazi slogan than their own civic pride.

Only days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a statement by the Israel Defense Forces deputy chief, who had compared the country's increasingly fervent nationalism to that of Nazi Germany, a disturbing slogan appeared on live broadcasts of the official Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony: a sign of moving from grief over fallen soldiers to celebrations.

This year's theme, "Civic Heroism," was celebrated with fireworks and speeches about the achievements of Israelis who have made significant contributions to society. While marching on the parade grounds of Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, soldiers formed various popular Israeli symbols and idioms, but one of them was the sentence "one people, one state."

Critics were outraged by the choice of phrasing. "Am I the only one seeing a terrifying resemblance to the notorious Nazi slogan?" one Twitter user asked, referring to words made famous by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler: "One people, one empire, one Führer."

Israel Gedenken an den Holocaust Schweigeminute

While marching on the parade ground of Mount Herzl, soldiers formed various Israeli symbols

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev, who was responsible for the ceremony, released a statement claiming that "the phrase 'one people, one nation' is in fact an expression of the aspiration of the Zionist movement since its inception: to establish a Jewish state."

But, as pointed out by many online, Nazi similarities aside, Regev seemed to have ignored the fact that 20 percent of Israel's population are Palestinians - and that's excluding the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"We have come to know the term 'Jewish and democratic state' or the 'nation-state of the Jewish people,' but what does 'one nation, one state' even mean?" the renowned TV critic Rogel Alpher wrote in a column for the "Haaretz" newspaper the following day. "Who is that nation to which the slogan refers to?"

"The live national ceremony included an unequivocal political statement: no two states for two peoples," Alpher wrote. "And certainly not a binational state."

'Slippery slope'

Some users of social media have employed Photoshop to add the original "one Führer" into the picture, pointing to what they called the "slippery slope" that Israel seems to be heading toward.

"When it was decided which shapes the color guard will form, and someone offered 'one people, one state' - how wasn't there anyone in the room who immediately completed the sentence and added 'one race!'" one user tweeted.

"It's incredible that someone actually approved the phrase 'one people, one country' in a pageant in front of ambassadors, and that no one protested. If I were an Arab citizen, I would be sweating," another tweet read.

But some users of social media have claimed that the hype around the phrasing is overblown. "'One people, one nation' is not unique to the Nazis or to Israel," one Twitter user wrote. "Doesn't every nation have this?"

Another wrote: "Well, 'reich' and 'nation' are not really the same. 2 peoples can become 1 nation. 1 nation can become 2 states. #solutions."

Many Israelis wonder whether the Independence Day organizers simply didn't pay attention to the similarity, or if it was intentional, or if the rise in nationalist sentiment many perceive could portend even scarier developments.

"There is no danger that Israel will ever look like Nazi Germany," "Haaretz" columnist Asher Schecter wrote. "But it is going through something deeply troubling. Don't believe it? Just look at the picture. There is now photographic evidence."

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