Holocaust Inversion and the Meaning of Genocide

Solomon D. Stevens

Solomon D. Stevens

Words sometimes lose their meaning over time.

This happened to the word “disinterested.” It originally meant “to be objective, not influenced by personal interest,” as in the sentence: The judge rendered a disinterested opinion. But today most people use the word to mean “uninterested,” or just not interested in something. I still cringe when I hear the word used this way, but I know that we all need to adapt to change. After all, what does it matter if this word loses its meaning?

But this is not always the case. Sometimes there is a concerted effort to delegitimize a word for political reasons, and there can be dangerous consequences when this happens. Today, we see this happening with how the word “genocide” is being used.

To understand the true meaning of genocide, we need to analyze Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jews. He sought to eliminate us because he believed that we were poisoning the purity of German blood. The problem with Jews was not that we were enemies of Germany. The problem was only that we were alive. To protect the purity of German blood, all Jews needed to die, regardless of how loyal they were to the Reich. The term genocide was created to identify this kind of slaughter, when there is a systematic program to eliminate the existence of an entire people.

The word genocide is not properly used to describe the loss of life that takes place during a war. It is a terrible fact that when wars take place, many people are killed. When the Allies attacked Hitler’s Germany, many civilians perished — sometimes when a military target was the goal, and sometimes when broader damage was intended. It’s a simple but sad fact of war. But the Allies were not guilty of genocide. There is an important distinction between war and genocide: in a war, the goal is not to eradicate an entire people; it is to defeat an enemy, even if that involves significant loss of life. And today Israel is fighting a war to eliminate a terror threat, not to eliminate a people.

The current assertion by Hamas and its supporters that Israel is engaged in genocide is intentionally dishonest, as is the charge of genocide before the International Court of Justice. They know very well that Israel has no interest in eradicating the entire Palestinian people. But it serves their interest to manipulate the current situation because it contributes to a powerful form of what is often referred to as Holocaust inversion.

If Hamas and its friends can appropriate the word genocide and use it to describe the deaths in Gaza that are resulting from Israel’s war of defense against terrorism, they can deny the significance of the Holocaust itself. And this tortured reasoning makes it possible for them to claim that the Holocaust was no worse than what is happening in Gaza. Each is a holocaust. By changing the meaning of genocide so that it applies in any situation when many people are killed, then there is nothing distinctive about what the Nazis did to the Jews.

This paves the way for Hamas and its supporters can make what sounds like a reasonable point: “One Holocaust does not justify another.” Genocide of the Jews by Nazis should not justify genocide of Palestinians by Jews.” But, in fact, this is a lie. As Lesley D. Klaff points out in her article “Holocaust Inversion and Contemporary Antisemitism,” Holocaust inversion “involves an inversion of reality” and an “inversion of morality,” because it allows for a “moral indictment” of Jews.

Unfortunately, the intentional transformation of the word genocide has been quite successful — even to the point that some Jews will now use the word to describe what Israel is doing in Gaza. These Jews are not all antisemites; they are just emotionally affected by the number of Palestinians who have been killed or displaced by the war. And how can one not be emotionally affected? War brings devastation, and that is terrible to behold. But by using the word genocide to describe the war, these Jews unintentionally contribute to antisemitism.

And there can be completely legitimate criticism of Israel’s war. There are members of the Israeli government who have made extreme statements. In addition, Israel — like any other country — can make mistakes when it conducts a war. Speaking out about these things is not, by itself, antisemitism. All wars deserve tough scrutiny.

But words matter. HaShem created the world with words, and we can destroy the world

with words. We need to maintain clarity about the meaning of genocide.

Solomon D. Stevens has a Ph.D. from Boston College and has published multiple books.


  1. Keep up our Your Good Work! Today, We,15 MillionJews are only .2% of our Earth’s population of over +8 Billion Prople! Why are we still seemingly God’s convenient Scape Goats 🐐for All of the Rest of the People of Our Good 🌎Earth Enough; Already!
    This is too much for us Good Poor Jews ✡️Living in the 21st Century,nu?


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