Renowned Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen was awarded the Hannah Arendt Prize for Political Thought in Bremen, Germany, despite controversy surrounding Gessen’s recent comments on the Hamas-Israel war.
The Controversial Essay
Gessen who is Jewish, has faced criticism for an essay that compared the Gaza Strip to the ghettos established by Nazis during World War II.
In the essay, Gessen argued that viewing the Holocaust as a unique event in history prevents us from learning from it and applying those lessons to prevent future genocides. Gesssen drew parallels between the Nazi’s justification for ghettos and Israel’s rationale for isolating Gaza while acknowledging key differences.
The essay sparked controversy just as Gessen was set to receive the Hannah Arendt Prize, leading to the withdrawal of support from the award’s sponsors. Despite this, a scaled-down ceremony was held.
In a subsequent interview, Gessen defended the comparison, arguing that it is necessary to constantly evaluate current events against the atrocities of the Holocaust to uphold the promise of “Never Again.” Gessen also criticized the conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism, calling it a dangerous trend.
Read more at NPR.