The Other “N” Word

31 Jan

Jan. 31.  Usually when you say “the ‘n’ word” you’re talking about the disgusting racist word for blacks.  The “n” word is found in “Huckleberry Finn” 213 times.  Every once in a while there’s a debate whether school kids should see the original book.  For years the word was forbidden in film until the “French Connection” brought it back under the rationale of “realism”.  Now?  Quentin Tarantino recently used it in “Django Unchained” 100 times.

There’s another “n” word that’s causing problems today.  In the Israeli parliament they’re thinking of making the word “Nazi” illegal.  It would be a crime punishable with a fine up to $29,000 to use the word in a “wrong or inappropriate way”.

According to the New York Times it’s not just the word “Nazi”, but “everything that has to do with it and everything that connects to Nazism and the regime of the Third Reich and those who were the head of it.”’

The bill sponsor Shimon Ohayon said, “”We want to prevent disrespect of the Holocaust.  We allow too many freedoms, which are taking over in a way that is harming us.”  Supposedly people are angry that the word is used trivially.  Someone does something to make you angry and you call him a “Nazi”.  You may recall the U.S. comedian Seinfeld featured a whole show about a “soup nazi”.

Well, it would be inappropriate to call your teacher a “nazi” if he gave you bad grade, but what about people in Israel who actually act like nazis, that is vicious racists? What about people who use the word “nazi” when talking about vile and violent racists? One suspects that the main effect of the law would be to punish those who use the word “Nazis” accurately.

During the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon (future Israel Prize winner)  Yeshayahu Leibowitz  coined the term Judeo-Nazi to describe what some Israeli soldiers were doing.  A decade or so later an Israeli historian named Moshe Zimmerman compared settler children to the Hitler Youth.   They would be prosecuted under the proposed law.

Right now the main use of the word in Israel is by the Right as a way to slander someone.  Several people have suggested that under the law Netanyahu himself would have to be arrested for comparing Ahmadinejad of Iran to Hitler.  One should also mention an earlier incident.  In October 1995 Netanyahu was routinely denouncing Prime Minister Rabin for signing an accord with Yasir Arafat.  At a rally on October 5 many in the crowd held signs with a doctored photo of Rabin wearing a Nazi SS uniform.  There were banners calling Rabin “Arafat’s Dog,” and chanting, “Death to Rabin! Nazis!”.  An adviser criticized Netanyahu about the signs, but he ignored him.  A month later Rabin was shot to death by an Israeli Jew.

Of course, the trivialization of the Holocaust is a minor affair compared to the constant incitement against Palestinians and Africans.  A year ago the office of the Israeli soccer team was burned down after it hired its first Muslim players from Chechnya.  Crowds scream “Death to the Arabs” at soccer games as if they were yelling “Manchester United”.

And how would you talks about the 2012 assault in Zion Square in Jerusalem and the response by Lehava?  A mob of 15-50 youths attacked four Palestinians.  The motive was either that they or one of them or some other Arab may have flirted with a Jewish girl or that the Arabs were…Arabs.  One young man was kicked repeatedly and went into a coma for several days and lived “by a miracle”.  The attack was condemned (at least formally) by many sectors of Israeli Jewish society, but not by all.

The Jerusalem Post reported, ““This week, Lehava (an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “preventing assimilation in the Holy Land”) began circulating flyers in Jerusalem that warn Arab men against flirting with or talking to Jewish girls, saying “We don’t want you to get hurt, respect our girls’ honor because they are dear to our hearts.”

The incident reminds one of the murder of Emmitt Till in the 1950’s or the frame-up case against the Scottsboro Boys decades earlier.   So how can we describe the Lehava statement?  Isn’t it N….   N….   N…. N…  not nice?


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