It happens again and again. Last week at Sarona Market, Saturday in Orlando, and exactly 75 years ago, June 1941, during the Shavuot holiday, in Baghdad, Iraq, when a mob set out on a pogrom against the Jews. Some 180 Jews were murdered in the "Farhud," the Iraqi version of Kristallnacht. That isn't a mistake. It was a night of bloodshed preceded by Nazi propaganda directed by the German ambassador in Baghdad, Dr. Fritz Grobba.
Iraq was in those days an independent country. Grobba's influence on the local elite was large. Inter alia, he sent delegations to Berlin, bought a newspaper and took pains to publish therein Hitler's Mein Kampf in installments. The hatred of Jews was not because of Zionism. The majority of Iraq's Jews were not then Zionists. They were, precisely like the Jews of Germany, part of the backbone of the economy, development and progress. During those years, Grobba ensured a steady and virulent drip of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. The drip worked: The government took a series of steps against Jews, and their situation worsened.
Later, after having successfully spread the al-Aqsa plot hoax throughout Palestine and after getting into trouble with the British Mandate authorities, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, came to Baghdad and added fuel to the fire. Two months before the Farhud, a pro-Nazi coup took place in Iraq, headed by Rashid Ali al-Gaylani. The Second World War was at its height, and the British were advancing on Baghdad. Al-Gaylani and the mufti, the largest inciters, fled to Berlin, where they were received as heroes. The two left the massacre of the Jews of Baghdad to the incited local crowd.
Certain anti-Zionist Jews try to cultivate the legend of the Farhud pogroms as being the result of Arab fears of the Zionist enterprise. These people have made the justification for Arab anti-Semitism and terrorism their life's work. They want to see that revolution as a sort of opposition to colonialism and Zionism. Seventy-five years have passed, and the terrorist attack at Sarona Market is also receiving justifications. It isn't incitement, some are trying to tell us, it's opposition to the occupation.
As long as these were the fringe of the fringe—so be it. Such hallucinatory phenomena have always existed. But last week, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai himself tried to explain that Israel was to blame for the Sarona attack. Until larger attacks happen, he added, Israelis won't understand. What won't they understand? That we must end the occupation.
Huldai "transformed" the murderers who came to Tel Aviv to peace activists. They didn't know that they were, but Huldai knows. Yes, Israel offered the Palestinians a state; yes, they rejected Barak's offer at Camp, Clinton's deal in 2000, and two drafts by John Kerry in 2014, but Huldai blames Israel. Huldai, not the regular loathsome anti-Zionists to whose grating voices we have become accustomed.
This time, it's the person who is a potential candidate for the leadership of the Labor party. We can assume that the mayor of Orlando will not tell the people of his city that they deserved it, and that it's because of the American occupation in Iraq. He also won't tell them that Americans deserve a much more serious attack so that they can understand the attackers' motives.
Seventy-five years separate the attack in Baghdad from the attacks in Sarona and Orlando. It didn't happen then for freedom and liberation, and today it didn't happen to promote freedom and liberation. Then and now, they were murderous hate crimes.
When I heard about Huldai, if I may admit, I felt a pang in my heart. Palestinians deserve freedom and self-determination. The current government is bad for Israel, and we should replace it. But when Huldai and those like him who understand and justify terrorism are the alternative, then the right will remain in power forever.