Ha'aretz, by Yehuda Bauer, March 12, 2012
There is a similarity, of course. The Nazis' racist anti-Semitism eventually developed into an explicit desire to completely annihilate the Jewish people. And the Iranian leadership talks about the global Jewish enemy, though it is willing to make an exception for Jews who accept its authority (Iran's Jewish population, Haredi extremists who agree to cooperate with Tehran and the like ). This is where the similarity ends.
In the 1930s and '40s, the Jewish people was almost entirely powerless. Evidence of this can be found in the internal documents of Great Britain's Foreign Office and the U.S. Department of State. In the best case, Jews were seen as pathetic people who could not be helped; in the worst, they were seen as an unnecessary burden, as illustrated by a telegram sent by Britain's Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Richard Law to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden on March 18, 1943: "I am sorry to bother you about the Jews. I know what a bore this is."
In January 1944, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board and gave it wide-ranging powers. The board tried to take action, but nearly all its funding came from American Jews, not the government, and its achievements were negligible. Today, in contrast, there exists a Jewish state that has become a regional power, and U.S. Jews have profound influence in American politics. While it is true that Israel, for all its boasting, cannot protect all of the world's Jews, it can play a significant role in these efforts.
During the Nazi era, there was no consideration of the Jews as a genuine force. Today there is a consensus in the United States and Canada, as well as in Europe, that Israel's existence and security must be protected. True, this acknowledgment is not without its problems and may be incomplete, but 70 years ago it was completely absent.
Could it happen again? Absolutely not, because Jews are no longer powerless.
Contrary to Netanyahu's claims, Iran's nuclear facilities are not the same as Auschwitz. Is it possible to drop an atomic bomb on Israel? Of course it is possible. And our friend, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would do so if he could. Of course, an error of one degree or less would end up destroying Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, and the bomb issue has more to do with the Iranians' desire to control the petroleum reserves of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states than a credible threat to Tel Aviv - although this cannot be discounted.
Still, this is very different from going helplessly to the gas chambers. It is a different situation. Then, it was impossible to stand up against what was being done to the Jews. Today Jews have options, including military ones. The analogy is false, demagogic and infuriating, and it is more dangerous for us than it is for the Iranians. Any air strike against Iran, God forbid, will be the result of an Israeli decision. It will wreak uncontrolled disaster and delay only briefly the manufacturing of an Iranian bomb. Bombing Iran, not Iran's bomb, could destroy Israel. There is no analogy.
Professor Bauer is a member of CISA's Academic Council