Comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler has become a popular thing to do.
People have noted, for instance, that just as the president-elect was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year this month, so Hitler received the same distinction in 1938, less than a year before he invaded Poland and started the Second World War.
Intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky have spoken out to make the comparison. Chomsky equated watching the election results come in on Nov. 8, the night Trump won the presidency, to his feelings after listening to Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies as a boy.
Eldad Beck has been the Berlin-based correspondent of Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth since 2002. He has written a book, “Germany, at Odds,” which, among other things, questions whether Germany has truly confronted its past.
Beck was in Atlanta in early December to speak about his book and stopped by the AJT offices, so we asked the veteran journalist what he thinks of the Trump-Hitler comparison.
“I’ve been confronted with members of Jewish communities in America comparing the situation here now to Germany of the 1930s,” Beck said. “I really can hardly understand what is behind these comparisons.
“There is absolutely no comparison whatsoever between Hitler’s ascension to power and the democratic election of Trump. I think once people would start seeing the global context of things it would calm them down.”
Beck, who visited Atlanta and spoke to the AJT before Trump announced bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman as his pick for ambassador to Israel, sees what is happening in America with the election of Trump as part of a larger phenomenon in the Western world. He said the gap between populations and political elites has become “extremely large.”
As a result, the anti-establishment movement that helped elect Trump is not unique to America. And although some see the movement as anti-Jewish, it isn’t, Beck said.
“In America, not so much as in Europe,” he said. “The Jews are very much integrated into the establishment. So I could understand that the anti-establishment movement could be interpreted by some as anti-Jewish. But the reaction shouldn’t be panic or fantasies of an American holocaust, but trying to understand what’s going on and trying to communicate with changing realities.”
The Israeli journalist did say, though, that the campaign and election of Donald Trump led to an increase in the flow of radical ideas and opinions.
“It is undeniable that the Trump phenomenon has freed some genies from the bottle,” Beck said. “People that felt unfree to voice their radical opinions before do so very openly now.”
But despite a slight rise in anti-establishment feelings, Beck believes that Trump will be a better American president for Israel and the Middle East than Hillary Clinton would have been.
“Let’s say that Clinton would have been elected,” he said. “I’m not so sure that she would have been able to ignore the growing voices that are extremely anti-Israeli. I’m not saying that she would have had an anti-Israeli policy, but I’m saying that she would not have been able to ignore it. One has to hope that Trump would seize the golden opportunity that he was given with the majority in both houses and in the coming years would enable America to change course and improve their stature in the entire Middle East.”