Let’s move the ceremony to a broom closet

The Times of Israel in December:

The Russian-American writer Masha Gessen received a German literary prize Saturday in a ceremony that was delayed and scaled down in reaction to an article she penned comparing Gaza to Nazi German ghettos. The comparison in a recent New Yorker article was viewed as controversial in Germany, where government authorities strongly support Israel, in part as a form of compensation for the Holocaust and the murder of 6 million Jews.

Gessen, who was born Jewish in the Soviet Union, is critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

One can be critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians without claiming it’s comparable to the Holocaust.

In Gessen’s article, titled “In the Shadow of the Holocaust,” the author explores German Holocaust memory, arguing that Germany today stifles free and open debate on Israel. Gessen also is critical of Israel’s relationship with Palestinians, writing that Gaza is “like a Jewish ghetto in an Eastern European country occupied by Nazi Germany.”

Apart from the very significant differences.

The Böll Foundation, affiliated with Germany’s Green party, called the comparison made by the author between Israel and Nazi Germany “unacceptable.” A jury decided in the summer to award Gessen, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the foundation said it wasn’t canceling the award itself.

Gessen was originally due to receive the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought on Friday in the city hall of Bremen, in northwest Germany, but the sponsoring organization, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and the Senate of the city of Bremen withdrew from the ceremony.

It took place instead in a different location Saturday with about 50 guests crowded into a small event room and with police security, the German news agency dpa reported.

The slaughter of civilians in Gaza is horrible. It’s also not comparable to the Holocaust. The differences should be too glaring to ignore.

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