The Executive Council of Australian Jewry labeled the comparison “injudicious and unfortunate.”
The debate took place while Tony Abbott was interviewed by firebrand broadcaster Alan Jones on Fairfax radio station 2GB. The PM stated that Canberra will decide whether to join airstrikes on Syria against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) next week when Defence Minister Kevin Andrews returns to Australia. He ruled out allegations that his government was simply trying to frighten people about IS.
“It’s nonsense, turn on your televisions, look at what is happening. The latest atrocity apparently was four young men being strung up and burnt alive,” Abbott said.
“The Nazis did terrible evil, but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it. These people [IS] boast about their evil, this is the extraordinary thing. They act in the way that medieval barbarians acted, only they broadcast it to the world with an effrontery which is hard to credit,” he added.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry President Robert Goot launched a tirade of criticism against the prime minister, saying there was a “fundamental difference between organized acts of terrorism and a genocide systematically implemented by a state as essential policy.”
“Acts of terrorism are necessarily done in the full glare of publicity for their propaganda effect. In contrast, those responsible for ordering and implementing systematic state-sponsored genocide are high government officials who often operate in secret not out of any sense of shame, but to avoid being held criminally responsible for their actions,” Goot told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“The crimes of Islamic State are indeed horrific, but cannot be compared to the systematic round-up of millions of people and their despatch to purpose-built death camps for mass murder,” he told the newspaper.
Abbott rejected criticism from the Jewish rights group, saying, “I stand [by] what I said, not by the interpretation that other people might want to put on it,” noting that he was “not in the business of trying to rank evil.”
“But I do make this point, that unlike previous evil-doers, whether we’re talking about Stalin, Hitler or whoever, that tried to cover up their evil, this wretched death cult boasts about it,” he said. ‘Death cult’ is Abbott’s preferred description of IS.
WWII lasted from 1939 to 1945 and involved over 80 countries and regions. Up to 70 million people are believed to have lost their lives. The USSR suffered the biggest losses. At least 27 million Soviet citizens died during the war. About 6 million Jews from across Europe were killed during the Holocaust, launched by the Nazis.
After capturing large parts of Iraq and Syria last summer, IS declared a caliphate. The extremist organization has a reputation for ethnic cleansings of minorities and executions of Western hostages, a number of journalists among them.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 320,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war since March 2011, in which IS is fighting. The observatory estimates that 108,086 civilians, including 11,493 children and 7,371 women have lost their lives. IS currently controls about one-third of Iraq and Syria.
The rights group released a report in July stated that IS militants used chemical weapons while shelling a Kurdish village in late June, in what is said to be the first well-documented case of such an attack against Kurds. Reports of IS militants using toxic substances such as chlorine gas in warfare began to appear after the jihadists seized a former and substantial Iraqi chemical weapons plant in June, 2014.