Australia’s peak Jewish group has rounded on Prime Minister Tony Abbott for suggesting Islamic State terrorists are in some ways worse than the Nazis.
Mr Abbott said on Thursday a decision on whether Australia would join the United States in launching air strikes on Syria, in addition to Iraq, would be made next week when Defence Minister Kevin Andrews returned to Australia.
The Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it
He dismissed suggestions, during an interview on Fairfax radio station 2GB, that his government was attempting to frighten people about Islamic State.
“It’s nonsense, turn on your televisions, look at what is happening. The latest atrocity apparently was four young men being strung up and burned alive,” he said.
“The Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it. These people 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.”
But the president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Robert Goot, lashed the comparison and said there was a “fundamental difference between organised acts of terrorism and a genocide systematically implemented by a state as essential policy”.
“Whilst there is no question that Islamic State is a profoundly evil organisation, the Prime Minister’s comments suggesting that it is in some respects worse than the Nazis were injudicious and unfortunate,” he said.
“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.”
“There is a fundamental difference between organised 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.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten distanced himself from any comparison between Islamic State and Nazi Germany.
“IS is terrible but I don’t think I would equate it with World War II. I agree with Mr Abbott that IS is evil. We are in it together for fighting terrorism, where it appears and in whatever form. I will not go to the Second World War analogies.”
An estimated 60 million people died in World War II, which was triggered when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.
About six million Jews from across Europe were killed as part of a systematic genocide of the Jewish people launched by the Nazis in an event known as the Holocaust.
In comparison, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that 320,000 people have died in the Syrian civil war, in which the Islamic State is fighting, since March 2011.
The observatory estimates that 3027 people have been executed by Islamic State in its Syrian-held areas in the year following its declaration of a caliphate on June 29, 2014.
This is the not first time Mr Abbott has compared Islamic State to the Nazis.
Almost exactly a year ago, Mr Abbott told the same radio program that “the atrocities that were committed by the Nazis, by the communists and others, they were ashamed of them, they tried to cover them up. This mob, by contrast, as soon as they’ve done something gruesome and ghastly and unspeakable, they’re advertising it on the internet for all to see which makes them, in my mind, nothing but a death cult”.