(JTA) — Yair Netanyahu, the son of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, compared Israel’s kibbutz movement to Nazi Germany and other totalitarian regimes.
“Kibbutzim are something that doesn’t exist outside of North Korea,” Yair Netanyahu said during a recent radio interview. “We always know how ideas for utopian societies end. In the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, there was a desire to create exemplary societies and utopian societies. It never ends well, the desire to engineer human society.”
His declaration comes amid the debate over the boundaries and propriety of Holocaust comparisons — one that has long raged in Israel and gained increased attention in American Jewish discourse during the Trump administration and this year’s election campaign.
On Thursday, CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour invoked Kristallnacht, the 1938 Nazi pogrom, in comparing President Donald Trump to the Nazis. The Israeli government has called on her to apologize, as have some American Jewish organizations. There have not been similar widespread calls for an apology from Netanyahu.
Kibbutzim, a network of Israeli collective farms that played a central role in the nation’s founding, have been seen traditionally as strongholds of the left there. In recent decades, as the Israeli economy has become increasingly less socialist, kibbutzim have struggled economically and privatized their economies, moving away from the hardcore socialism they once practiced.
While obviously no kibbutzim supported Nazi Germany, there was a contingent of the kibbutz movement that was explicitly pro-Soviet as late as the 1950s, when some kibbutzim even mourned the death of Joseph Stalin. The kibbutz where Bernie Sanders would volunteer during the following decade was among that group.
In response to a tweet of the video by Haaretz journalist Noa Landau, Netanyahu tweeted, “If you can do it, we can do it,” and claimed that Haaretz compares his father and Trump to Hitler “every day.” (A search of Haaretz shows that while such comparisons have been made, they appear to be far from daily occurrences.)