|PETRAS ESSAYS IN ENGLISH|
April 2 2002
The images of Israel's military force have been transmitted worldwide. Soldiers shooting the wounded in the head. Tanks smashing the walls of houses, offices, Arafat's compound. Hundreds of boys and men, their heads hooded, being driven with rifle butts into concentration camps; helicopter gun ships destroying markets; tanks destroying olive, orange and lemon trees. The streets of Ramallah ravaged. Mosques and schools pock-marked with bullets, children's drawings shredded, crucifixes shattered, walls autographed by the military marauders. Millions of Palestinians surrounded by tanks: cut off from electricity, water, telephones, food: the storm troopers smashing doors and furniture and cooking utensils, whatever makes life possible. Today can anyone claim they didn't know that the Israelis were carrying out genocide against a whole people, crowded in the basements, under the ruins of their homes? The living among the wounded, the dying, deliberately denied medical care, systematic and methodical decisions by the Israel High Command to block all ambulances, to arrest and even shoot drivers and emergency medical workers. We have the dubious privilege of watching and reading as this horror unfolds-by the descendants of the Holocaust, who with cant and rancor claim a monopoly on the use of a word which best describes the attack on a whole people, with the complicity of most Israelis-save a few courageous souls.
The Israeli public, its media, intellectuals, and journalists were scandalized when the Portuguese Nobel prize winning author, Jose Saramago, confronted them with the historical truth: "What is happening in Palestine is a crime that we can compare to what occurred in Auschwitz."
The Israeli public, instead of reflecting on their violent deeds instead turned on Saramago for daring to compare them with the Nazis. In his moral blindness, Amos Oz, the Israeli writer and sometime pacifist-until Israel goes to war-accused Saramago of being an "anti-Semite" and "incredible moral blindness". The profound immorality of a war against an entire people is a crime against humanity. There are no special exemptions. It is precisely those Israeli and diaspora intellectuals who claim to be "progressive" who have exposed their own national blindness and moral cowardice, cloaking their apologetics for Israeli terror today with the shrouds of the victims of the Holocaust 50 years past.
One only has to read the Israeli press to understand the validity of Saramago's historical analogy. Everyday prominent and respectable leaders, elected by the Jewish electorate, 'bestialize' their Palestinian adversaries, all the better to justify their own unrestrained violence. According to the Israeli daily Ma ariv-quoted by Robert Fisk-an Israeli officer advises his troops to study the tactics adopted by the Nazis in the Second World War, "If our job is to seize a densely packed refugee camps or take over the Nablus Casbah...an officer...must...analyze...the lessons of past battles even...to analyze how the German army operated int he Warsaw ghetto." When the Hebrew press accused Saramago of being an anti- Semite were they willing to extend that calumny to its military officers, their troops for drawing the same analogies? Will Israeli officers also plead that they were merely "taking orders" in blowing up buildings with women, children, old people inside?
In the world's forums-from the European Union to the United Nations and throughout the Third World-Israel is condemned for acts against humanity. Israeli apologists will discover that calling critics "anti-Semites" no longer intimidates people. World public opinion has seen and read too much. We are realizing that victims can become executioners; that military occupation leads to ethnic cleansing and mass expulsions; that scratches can become gangrene.
Predictably, Washington responds to the powerful Jewish organizations in and the ultra-right militarists: it is the only government which endorses Israeli state terror, against the leaders of the Christian and Muslim faith, and contrary to the interests of the major petroleum companies and their Saudi and Kuwaiti allies.
While small groups of Israeli dissidents protest and many reservists refuse to serve in the occupation army, Saramago's commentary on the general Israeli public applies equally to the majority of the pro-Israeli diaspora: "A sense of impunity characterizes today the Israeli people and its army. They have been converted into rentiers of the Holocaust." In the fashion of all police- states, Israel has removed all of Saramago's books from the bookstores and libraries. Equally serious in preparing for genocide the Israeli state has banned all journalists from the Palestinian ghettoes, except those who re-write Israeli military press releases.
Like in Nazi Germany, all Palestinian males from 16 to 60 years are rounded up, many are stripped naked, handcuffed, interrogated, many are tortured. Families of Palestinian resistance fighters are held hostage, without water, food, electricity. Israeli soldiers pillage houses and steal any valuables, destroying furniture. As with the Nazis, hundreds of wounded Palestinians are left to die, as Israeli troops block all ambulances. Hundreds of thousands face dehydration and death through starvation, as all water and food has been cut off. Israeli troops, tanks and helicopters have smashed into all the major towns and refugee camps: Tulkarm, Al Bireh, Bethlehem, Al Jader, Beit Jala, Qalqilya, Hebron. The discovery of a single resistance fighter results in collective guilt and punishment: fathers, sons, uncles and neighbors are rounded up and taken to the concentration camps, reconverted football stadiums and children's playgrounds.
It is evident that Israeli and Jewish outrage at Saramago's equation of Israeli terrorism with Auschwitz struck a sensitive memory: the self-hate of executioners who realize that they are disciples of their persecutors and, at all costs, must deny it. To date, all appeals by Arab moderates for Bush to intervene to end the Israeli slaughter have been futile. Washington has reiterated its support for Sharon, the invasion and the war against the Palestinians. There is no power in the U.S. which can counter the money and influence of the Israeli lobby and its powerful Jewish allies. Elsewhere, however, there is hope. Via Campesino and the supporters of Bove have called for an international boycott of Israeli goods and services. Israel depends heavily on its exports to the European Union. Reductions in oil shipments by the oil-exporting countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and Libya would provoke a steep rise in oil prices and a major economic crisis in the U.S., Europe and Japan. This could stiffen the spine of the Europeans and awaken the conscience of the U.S. public. What is absolutely clear is that while Tel Aviv has the leverage of the Israeli lobby in Washington and Bush's support, any number of United Nations resolutions, Geneva Conventions and European appeals will be completely ignored. In the bunker mentality of Sharon and his paranoid Israeli followers-they are all anti- Semites, followers of the Protocols of Zion, attempting to demoralize the Israelis from realizing the Biblical mission of a Greater Israel, one people, one nation, one God; the expulsion of all Palestinians from their Promised Land. World public opinion must not stand passive and repeat the tragedy of the 20th century Jewish Holocaust in the 21st century. There is still time. But how long can even a heroic people resist without food and water? Sharon's offer to Arafat-freedom to leave without return, is meant for all the Palestinian people.