Near-universal rage has been directed at presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who yesterday said Obama would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven” with the Iran deal.

As one with countless family members who were murdered in the Holocaust, I too joined those enraged by Huckabee’s vile exploitation of Jewish victims:

However, the unfortunate truth is that Huckabee’s comments stand out because of the disgusting imagery he used, not because the utilization of Holocaust comparisons is unique with regard to Iran-deal critiques.

Indeed, Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has made statements similar to those for which Huckabee has rightly been scorned. This includes a speech he delivered recently at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, where he compared Iran to Nazi Germany and those negotiating with Iran – President Obama included – as Nazi appeasers:

“The Nazis sought to crush civilization and have a master race rule the Earth while destroying the Jewish people. In that same way, Iran seeks to dominate the region and to spread outward from there, with the declared intention of destroying the Jewish state.”

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Appeasing tyrannical regimes will only increase their aggression and is an approach that is liable to drag the world into larger wars. The bad deal with Iran signals that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned.”

Such Holocaust allusions are as disturbing as they are wrong. To suggest that those negotiating with Iran are modern-day Nazi appeasers – that President Obama did not learn the lessons of the Holocaust – is to use Jewish trauma and suffering for political gain. The military might of Israel alone (with its nuclear arsenal) makes such allusions disingenuous at best.

Perhaps this is partially why some of Israel’s security establishment has broken with Netanyahu to come out in favor of the diplomatic agreement reached with Iran. For many see Netanyahu as the greatest danger to Israeli security, and not Iran or those ‘appeasers’ negotiating with them.

Now, despite the fact that Netanyahu and Israeli leaders have repeatedly conjured Holocaust comparisons with regard to the Iran deal, American Jewish organizations have almost uniformly condemned Huckabee’s words. Perhaps viewing the disgusting imagery Arkansas’ former governor employed as too much. Perhaps due to his pattern of bigotry. Perhaps because he’s not Jewish.

However, not every major American Jewish organization has distanced themselves from Huckabee. Indeed, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) today announced its support for Huckabee, citing Netanyahu’s own usage as evidence Huckabee’s “march them to the door of the oven” quip is just fine:

The ZOA agrees with Governor Huckabee that this Iran deal could lead to a Holocaust-like massacre of the Jews. In such circumstances, when the Jewish state is threatened with nuclear annihilation, a Holocaust analogy such as Governor Huckabee used is acceptable and not out of place.

Indeed, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observed earlier this year during an address at Yad Vashem that, “Democracies cannot turn their eyes away from the dictatorships of the world that seek to spread their influence… ahead of World War II, the world attempted to appease the Nazis. They wanted quiet at any price, and the terrible price did come… Just as the Nazis aspired to crush civilization and to establish a ‘master race’ as ruler of the world while annihilating the Jewish people, so too does Iran strive to gain control over the region and then spread further, with the explicit intent of obliterating the Jewish state.”

I reject this sanctioning of Holocaust exploitation, whether the one doing the exploiting is a ridiculous Huckabee or dangerous Netanyahu. And I believe most American Jews would agree with me on this.

Why do I believe this? Not just because the majority of American Jews support the Iran deal, which is telling enough. But because this is the same population which – when asked, “What does being Jewish mean in America?” by Pew – identified “remembering the Holocaust” more than anything else. (Seventy-three percent of American Jews answered that remembering the Holocaust is central to being a Jew in America, with leading an ethical/moral life coming in second at 69 percent.)

American Jews, who view the Holocaust as central to their identity (for better or worse), are today rejecting the Iran deal in the face of Holocaust allusions being presented to them by Israel’s leader, among others. It seems American Jews don’t don’t respond well to such Holocaust comparisons. So when Netanyahu and Jewish leaders make such comparisons, why do we not have the same level of public outrage as we had with Huckabee?

It’s a good question, and one all American Jews should consider.

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What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.

Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.


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