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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The humanity in us all

Dorothy Naor • 13 June 2004

There is no doubt that Michael Handelzalts, writing in Ha'artez, (June 11, 2004) is correct that the situation in the Occupied Territories is intolerable in its own right. Had there been no holocaust, the situation would not be an iota less detestable. But it is also undoubtedly true that the holocaust plays a cogent role in Israeli attitudes and insensitivity towards Palestinian suffering.

Terms as ‘holocaust’ remind me of a tale related long ago by a Catholic friend when speaking on racism to high school students: “A new Soul had been met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter, who then took Soul for a tour of the wondrous surroundings. Soul was duly impressed with the holy choir and all the rest, but was curious to know why the door to one room remained closed while all the rest of heaven had been open to view. St. Peter replied to Soul’s query: “Oh, that’s where the Catholics are. They believe that they are the only ones here, and we do not wish to offend them.’ The Catholics in the story have a sectarian attitude towards heaven.

Similarly, the notions accompanying terms as ‘holocaust,’ ‘anti-Semitism’ and the like are separatist and sectarian; they focus attention on a given group, thus detracting attention from the broader picture.

Of course Jews have suffered. But so have numerous other peoples throughout history--the Chinese, the blacks, the Native Americans, the Armenians, Gypsies, etc.; the list can be greatly extended. To speak of the holocaust and anti-Semitism as specifically Jewish phenomena is to separate ourselves (the Jews) from the rest of humanity, and to place ourselves on a plane not only apart from the rest of humanity but in some senses superior to it. Our suffering becomes worse, more horrid, than has been anyone else’s.

Yet, if we are ever to prevent such phenomena as the holocaust and anti-Semitism, they must be seen for what they really are: anti-human phenomena rather than merely anti-Jewish phenomena. Had Hitler chosen to solve the ‘black problem’ or the ‘yellow problem’ or the ‘Muslim problem,’ killing millions of them instead of Jews, the holocaust would not have been less odious. The holocaust is genocide and ethnic cleansing. Anti-Semitism is racism. We need to think in terms of humanity at large instead of inventing and reserving terms for special groups. Let us speak, then, of genocide, racism, ethnic cleansing and the like rather than using sectarian terms.

Instead of focusing on the holocaust as a strictly Jewish phenomenon, we should ask how it transpired; how a country (Germany) was turned into being one that not only did not care about the ‘other’ but was able to commit the horrors of systematic genocide for the purpose of ethnically cleansing society and transforming it into a purely Aryan society, cleansed also of defective human beings, so as to create a perfect Superior Race.

Today in Israel, demography is a priority, seen as essential to ensuring the existence of a state for Jews only. How different is this (and in what ways) from creating a state for a pure Aryan race? Is it merely the means that the Nazis used that are different? Are there no similarities?

Perhaps if Jews (Israeli and other) could begin to look at the ‘how it came about’ of the holocaust, and the ‘why,’ they would also be able to see the similarities (as well as the differences). Then, perhaps, they would perceive the manner in which Israel has been brought to be a nation insensible to the sufferings of the ‘other’ (not only of the Palestinian, but also of foreign workers, and even those of black skin who happen to be Jewish, i.e., Ethiopians).

Yesterday at Az-Azawyia when protesting the expropriation of the village’s land and the cutting down of its trees, I sat for a few minutes under an olive tree and was reminded of our own yard at home, and how, some 12 years ago, we’d wanted to redo it with the help of a professional landscape architect. Smack in the middle of the yard is our family’s pride and joy: a huge colossus of a pecan tree. To my horror, each of the architects who came to advise readily informed me, ‘That tree has to come down.’ I politely and incredulously thanked each for his/her services and said goodbye. Spouse and I redesigned the yard ourselves; the pecan (now almost 40 years old) continues to shade us.

My attachment to even a single tree helps me understand the attachment of Palestinians to their groves of olive trees, some trees 100s of years old. I feel the pain of these people as the IOF uncaringly destroys the trees, the land, turning all into a waste land, and in so doing destroying for many Palestinians their sole remaining source of income.

But most Israelis don’t care, because they have been sold a bill of goods, have been brought to believe that the destruction of Palestinian life and the penning of them up in ghettos (i.e., in conclaves that imprison Palestinians) is legitimate, is the way to bring Israelis security. Israelis having been taught that Palestinians are the ‘enemy,’ are unable to conceive of them as human beings. One source of this is the belief that Jews need a country for Jews only so as to ensure their security, to ensure having a place in which no holocaust can again happen. This belief is so strong that it closes most Jewish eyes and hearts to what Israel does to the ‘other’; consequently Israeli Jews do not care or realize that the Israeli government is ethnically cleansing the West Bank and Israel of as many Palestinians as possible, not only by killing (the IOF kills Palestinians daily) but by starving them, by making life so unbearable that it hopes to force them to leave.

Will it work? I tend to think not. But that is a different story. Moreover, by the time it ends, the cost in human life--Israeli and Palestinian--will have been enormous and totally unnecessary.

Handelzalts' article, `This is what I saw'.




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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

17 June 2004

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One of the Nine
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IRPWA Delegation Targeted By British Army/RUC
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'The Confines of Republicanism'
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I Was Only Following Orders
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Reagan's Legacy
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The Humanity in Us All
Dorothy Naor

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