Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dissecting Amira Hass

My comments are in Red.

Dissecting: Amira Hass

The Holocaust as political asset
by Amira Hass; Ha’aretz; April 29, 2007

I have read Hass before on several occasions (I generally don’t agree with her – but hey that’s no surprise). She and her colleague Gideon Levy (both Israelis) are two of the most passionate champions of the Palestinian voice in Israeli media – often bordering on excusing anti-Israel terrorism –in their enthusiasm. However the fact that both her and Levy and many others can publish freely is a further reflection of the openness of Israeli press (even Chomsky has agreed with this in the past). I doubt whether there are corresponding proponents of the Israeli voice in the Arab Media - which is a different story altogether. Nevertheless this obvious disparity has not stopped the Anti-Semitic British Union of Journalists from calling for a boycott of Israel. I will let you judge that double standard there.
This is made worse by the fact that Palestinian terrorists are currently holding a BBC journalist, Alan Johnston, hostage.

Here are some thoughts on the subject:
Craig McGinty, a freelance journalist and member of the Union of Journalists asked on his blog, "How boycotting any nation's goods, whether it's Israel, China or Umpah Lumpah Land will help improve the lot of both staff and freelance journalists."
Former Guardian reporter and Yahoo Europe news director Lloyd Shepherd quipped that he now looked "forward to similar boycotts of Saudi oil (abuse of women and human rights), Turkish desserts (limits to freedom of speech) and, of course, the immediate replacement of all stationery in the NUJ's offices which has been made or assembled in China."
Source of above two quotes :

Back to the Article.
The cynicism inherent in the attitude of the institutions of the Jewish state to Holocaust survivors is not a revelation to those born and living among them. We grew up with the yawning gap between the presentation of the State of Israel as the place of the Jewish people's rebirth and the void that exists for every Holocaust survivor and his family. The personal "rehabilitation" was dependent on the circumstances of each person: the stronger ones versus the others, who did not find support from the institutions of the state. During the 1950s and 1960s we saw the demeaning view of our parents as having gone "like sheep to the slaughter," the shame of the new Jews, the Sabras, over their misfortunate, Diaspora relatives. Maybe amongst Hass and her family I know of Holocaust survivor’s who would beg to differ. Nevertheless I can see her point here as the contrast between the evils of the holocaust (one emotional extreme) and the joy of Israel’s birth (another emotional extreme) can create a myriad of feelings.

It can be argued that during the first two decades, much of this attitude could be attributed to the lack of information and the very human lack of an ability to grasp the full meaning of the industrialized genocide perpetrated by Germany. But the awareness of the material aspects of the Holocaust started very early, with Jewish and Zionist institutions starting in the early 1940s to discuss the possibility of demanding reparations. (I have never been a supporter of reparations but thats just me). In 1952, the reparations agreement with Germany was signed, by which that country agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel to cover the absorption costs of the survivors and pay for their rehabilitation. The agreement obligated Germany to compensate survivors individually as well, but the German law differentiated between those who belonged to the "circle of German culture" and others. Those who were able to prove a connection to the superior circle received higher sums, even if they emigrated in time from Germany. Concentration camp survivors from outside the "circle" received the ridiculous sum of 5 marks per day. The Israeli representatives swallowed this distortion.

This is part of the roots of financial cynicism that the media is being exposed to today, due to several reasons: the advanced age and declining health of survivors, the intentional weakening of the welfare state, the presence of survivors from the former Soviet Union who are not included in the reparations agreement, the media activism of nongovernmental welfare organizations and the welcome enlistment of social affairs journalists. (ok. Relatively Innocuous – not much to criticize here).They are shocked by the gap between the official appropriation of the Holocaust, which is perceived in Israel as understood and justified, and the abandonment of survivors. (My main problem with Reparations – who eventually sees the money?)

Turning the Holocaust into a political asset serves Israel primarily in its fight against the Palestinians. I disagree. Israel has been under siege since 1948. Its not the Palestinians that Israel is worried about but the Syrians, Iranians, Saudis, Most of the Arab World who refuse to recognize the existence of this Jewish State. Living in a country of 6 million surrounded by hostile neighbours who number over 200 million is the real fear and it is legitimate – Hass has distorted the issue considerably. I wonder if she understands the full impact of Ahmednejad’s threats for example? The possibility of a second holocaust in a nuclear age is indeed real for the Israelis.

When the Holocaust is on one side of the scale, along with the guilty (and rightly so) conscience of the West, the dispossession of the Palestinian people from their homeland in 1948 Never mind that the Palestinians rejected the two state UN proposal in 1947 and sided with the rejectionist Arab nations who attacked Israel the following year to let is minimized and blurred. Not really as of late (in Europe especially) there has been a new twist to the holocaust scenario. The false logic goes as follows:

We were bad but so is Israel. Therefore we owe the Jews nothing and in fact can hide our continued anti-semitism under the guise of the more acceptable form of Anti-Zionism.

The phrase "security for the Jews" has been consecrated as an exclusive synonym for "the lessons of the Holocaust."
Actually the need for Jewish security pre-dates the holocaust by about 2000 years or so. Lets not forget the Inquisitions, blood libels, Pogroms etc. Anti-Semitism is not a 20th century phenomenon only.

It is what allows Israel to systematically discriminate against its Arab citizens. I agree that there may be some discrimination regarding army benefits – but it is not prudent to draft Arabs into the IDF where they will most likely be in combat against their fellow Arabs – Hass also conveniently fails to mention that Arab citizens of Israel can vote (have women’s rights), live anywhere and attend university where they so please – this is not for the most part the case with their brethren in the rest of the Arab world. Arab gays and lesbians also enjoy the protection of the law in Israel – I have read stories of Palestinian gays who have fled the West Bank to Israel to avoid harassment by their own people. Why does the so-called ‘pro-Gay’ leftist media hardly mention cases such as this?

For 40 years, "security" has been justifying control of the West Bank and Gaza and of subjects who have been dispossessed of their rights living alongside Jewish residents, Israeli citizens laden with privileges.

No the security issue is justified based on territorial logistics. If the entire West Bank was handed back Israel would be about 5 miles wide at its narrowest point. A United Arab Army (as has been the case in the past) could negotiate this distance fairly quickly cutting the country in two. This is the real security threat. As for some of the settlements this is an areawhich I myself have been critical of Israel. I do however believe that as the world has seen in both Sinai and Gaza many will be dismantled when the time comes. Whether this will stop Palestinian terrorism/rocket attacks is another issue – it hasn’t done so with Gaza - as Hamas and co. do not appear to want to settle for anything less than control over all of Israel.
Suggested watching: (Deadly Currents – 1991 – it was shown to widespread acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival).

Security serves the creation of a regime of separation and discrimination on an ethnic basis, No Israel wants real security that offers tangibles for tangibles – If Hamas really wanted peace they would drop their mandate that champions the extinguishing of the Israeli state. If Arafat wanted peace he would have accepted Ehud Barak’s extremely generous deal in 2001 (even the Saudis thought so and told Arafat that he would be a fool to reject it) with Israel. More half-truths from Hass Israeli style, under the auspices of "peace talks" that go on forever. See above. Its difficult to negotiate with an enemy that ultimately wants the negotiations to fail.

Turning the Holocaust into an asset allows Israel to present all the methods of the Palestinian struggle (even the unarmed ones) as another link in the anti-Semitic chain whose culmination is Auschwitz. More melodrama from Hass – who has obviously been reading the works of Norman Finkelstein – but if she goes back to the source – Hamas documents (Hamas is the real power amongst the Palestinians) she will see that parallels between Islamofascists such as Hamas and the Nazis are uncanny. As for all the methods this is not true – Israel has for the most part strongly backed Abbas and his Fatah group

I myself have been critical of this move – as Abbas himself has a history of holocaust denial – Read or

Israel provides itself with the license to come up with more kinds of fences, walls and military guard towers around Palestinian enclaves.
Never mind the fact that this has reduced suicide bombing considerably. I guess Hass doesn’t care about Jews and Arabs being killed in Cafes or buses by Palestinian suicide bombers.

Separating the genocide of the Jewish people from the historical context of Nazism and from its aims of murder and subjugation, and its separation from the series of genocides perpetrated by the white man outside of Europe, What about Arab pogroms of Jews prior to the creation of the state of Israel? – another point that is conveniently forgotten.

has created a hierarchy of victims, at whose head we stand. Holocaust and anti-Semitism researchers fumble for words when in Hebron the state carries out ethnic cleansing via its emissaries, the settlers, and ignore the enclaves and regime of separation it is setting up.
I am not a big fan of the settler movement but the presence of a small Jewish community in Hebron is hardly worthy of the term Ethnic Cleansing. This is pure hyperbole.

Whoever criticizes Israel's policies toward the Palestinians is denounced as an anti-Semite, There may be some radicals who usher this sentiment but they are in the minority. There is as much criticism of Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians in Israel as there are Israelis. As for outside criticism Bill Clinton, George Bush, Condi Rice, Madelaine Albright have all at times criticized Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians (for good or for worse) – only the most extreme would call them anti-semites if not a Holocaust denier. Although from the flip side holocaust deniers tend to be both anti-semitic and anti-Israel – case in point David Duke

Absurdly, the delegitimization of any criticism of Israel only makes it harder to refute the futile equations that are being made between the Nazi murder machine and the Israeli regime of discrimination and occupation. Too many double negatives here. Must have lost something in the Hebrew translation. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is ridiculous any way you cut it. Not only does is it inaccurate – the two states have nothing in common – but it illustrates a complete lack of understanding of the structure of the Third Reich. Suggested Reading for Hass:

The institutional abandonment of the survivors is rightly denounced across the board. Although the Arab countries that have refused to absorb Palestinian refugees into their populations are hardly ever mentioned. Another across the board double standard. Israel absorbed the 800,000 Jewish refugees who fled the Arab lands after the War of Independence. The transformation of the Holocaust into a political asset for use in the struggle against the Palestinians feed on those same stores of official cynicism, but it is part of the consensus.
Consensus of what? Hass and her colleagues. Give me a break…
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