Every time I hear of leaders around the world gather at monuments to solemnly commemorate the Holocaust of the previous century, I want to shout out so loud about another holocaust that has been going on before our eyes for the past 65 years and more.
It is orchestrated by none other than the descendants of the first Holocaust, and who today form the Israeli government. Israeli occupation forces have been systematically murdering and maiming the innocent in Palestine for over six decades now.
The free world could be forgiven back during Second World War days for the crimes Hitler committed against the various groups. News did not travel very fast in those days, and neither were there instantaneous broadcasts of live pictures and film illustrating the viciousness of the Nazi occupation.
Today we should not forgive ourselves for keeping quiet. For we have been witnessing live some of the events as they have unfolded. Who can forget the tragic image of a father shielding his 8-year-old son, as Israeli forces callously shot him dead while the cameras were running? Or the image of Rachel Corrie, an American from Seattle who defiantly stood in the face of Israeli bulldozers out gorging for more land, only to be violently crushed to death. Or the images of an 8-year-old girl shot in the head by an Israeli sniper out for target practice. Or more recently, of an 8-year-old and a 10-year-old child slaughtered as they played outside their homes. Or four Palestinian children playing by the sea mercilessly shot down by Israeli aircraft? All this at the hands of Benjamin Netanyahu who like his predecessor Ariel Sharon is a man with war crimes coursing through his soul, and with no obvious intention towards peace.
Disregard for restraint
Does no one wonder about a monstrous and illegitimate wall being built in and around Palestinian lands? In the face of objections from some quarters around the world, Israel continues to go ahead. Is this what you expect as a peaceful overture from a government which does not hesitate to remind the world of Holocaust 1, but continues to disregard most international calls for restraint? From the killing fields of Sabra and Shatilla back in the eighties, to the documented cases of ethnic cleansing in Jericho, in Jenin, in Bethlehem, and a host of towns and villages across Palestine the cries for justice ring hollow in the minds of Netanyahu and his henchmen, as they continue to remind the world of the first Holocaust and demand collective guilt.In 2012, Hagit Ofran of the Israeli colony watchdog Peace Now denounced Netanyahu’s government for encouraging and legitimising new colonies ‘in a deceitful way’. “The Israeli government is proving its true policy, that instead of going [for] peace it is building new colonies. This is the first time since 1990 that the government of Israel decides on establishing new colonies, and the government’s manoeuvre, of establishing a committee to establish the colonies, is a trick aimed at hiding the true policy from the public. All the years these outposts weren’t legal, the state said they aren’t for real, and now they suddenly are,” she said.A few months ago, a noted American author and icon Noam Chomsky added his own thoughts to the fray. An 86-year old Jew and an individual who had lived through the holocaust of the Second World War, Chomsky said “I thought 40 years ago and I think today that people who call themselves supporters of Israel are, in fact, supporting its moral degeneration, its increased international isolation and possibly its ultimate destruction,” he said. “I think these policies are suicidal and immoral.”
Chomsky dismissed Israel’s claim that the country’s security was threatened by its Arab neighbours. “To the extent that Israel is threatened, it’s Israel’s own choice. For the past 40 years, Israel has pursued a policy very consciously of preferring expansion rather than security,” he asserted.
More recently, a prominent Israeli journalist who had previously worked for the right-wing Jerusalem Post admitted that his country had indeed become an ‘apartheid’ state. Bradley Burston, who currently writes for Haaretz, another Israeli paper, said: “I used to be one of those people who took issue with the label of apartheid as applied to Israel… I was one of those people who could be counted on to argue that, while the country’s colony and occupation policies were anti-democratic and brutal and slow-dose suicidal, the word apartheid did not apply. I’m not one of those people any more. Not after the last few weeks. Not after terrorists firebombed a West Bank Palestinian home, annihilating a family, murdering an 18-month-old boy and his father, burning his mother over 90 per cent of her body — only to have Israel’s government rule the family ineligible for the financial support and compensation automatically granted Israeli victims of terrorism, [colonists] included.
“I can’t pretend anymore. Not after Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, explicitly declaring stone-throwing to be terrorism, drove the passage of a bill holding stone-throwers liable to up to 20 years in prison. The law did not specify that it targeted only Palestinian stone-throwers. It didn’t have to. Just one week later, pro-[colony] Jews hurled rocks, furniture, and bottles of urine at Israeli soldiers and police at a West Bank [colony], and in response, Benjamin Netanyahu immediately rewarded the Jewish stone-throwers with a pledge to build hundreds of new [colonist] homes. This is what has become of the rule of law. Two sets of books. One for Us, and one to throw at Them… Apartheid.”
Holocaust 2 has been displayed more graphically during our generation through an expansive medium. And it is no less ugly and revolting. Let us erect monuments in every town and village in Palestine and in major cities around the world to honour the dead who have fallen in the face of this ugly aggression. Let us pay annual homage, and publicly recognise this aberration amidst us. Let the current holocaust demand the same wide audience and through a larger medium.
Holocaust 1 was then, but Holocaust 2 is now. And it’s just as real.
This article appeared at Gulf News.