You are not nazis, thats true why do those who deny the holocaust fall into well-deserved disrepute, while those who silence the crimes of the US or Israel are blessed, decorated, and applauded?
I deny that Turkey destroyed 3,200 villages, killed thousands of Kurds and imprisoned men and women for transcribing their names in Kurdish. I deny that the United States has caused the death--directly or indirectly--of 25 million people (Korea, Indochina, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Angola, Panama, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and a long etcetera.) since the end of World War II. I deny that the Israelis demolish homes, uproot olive trees, upturn ambulances, shoot journalists, mutilate children, summarily execute members of the resistance and are attempting to exterminate four million Palestinians. I deny that the Nazis persecuted, tortured and exterminated six million Jews.
Why do I say that? What I mean to say is: Why do those who deny the Holocaust fall into well-deserved disrepute, see their books prohibited and their utterances denounced, must face isolation, ostracism or even imprisonment--while those who deny or silence or justify the crimes of Turkey, the US or Israel--to mention just a few cases--find themselves promoted in their careers, rewarded with an important public position or a daily column in a big newspaper, flattered with special deluxe editions and commendatory reviews, and generally blessed, decorated and applauded?
I declare that the Nazis persecuted, tortured and exterminated six million Jews. I also declare that Turkey, the US and Israel have opened three new wounds on the aching side of humanity. And I say that everyone of us should acknowledge these facts, lest our own individual penknives go delve also into those wounds. And I say that those unable or unwilling to acknowledge all these things simultaneously are not only guilty of moral corruption--they become retrospective accomplices--and worse-- to all the horrors of the Holocaust, and deserve the punishment that Nuremberg reserved for collaborators.
We have condemned the wretched of the world to move within the extremely narrow confines between the following two alternatives: the temptation of hatred and the temptation of supernatural goodness. We admire the good slaves, and we even import their beliefs, along with their coffee and their cocoa, so as to spiritualize our digestions. And if we align ourselves a little further to the left we even manage to understand--though still denouncing their excesses--the anger and resentment of the bad slaves. But Palestinians are not allowed even that much. We allow Kosovars to hate their Serb oppressors. We understand the Hutu may hate the Tutsi, the Berbers may hate the Arabs, blacks may hate whites. We allow perhaps for the Timorese and the Kurds to hate their executioners. We allow, of course, for the victims of terrorism to hate ETA and bin Laden (and we allow in addition that this hatred be materialized by thermobaric bombs and missiles). Palestinians are not allowed any of this. If an Israeli soldier, castled behind his armor, puts a Palestinian teenage boy on his knees, ties his hands behind his back and breaks the bones in his arms with the butt of his gun, the hatred of this Palestinian constitutes an immensely more serious crime (anti-Semitism!) than the actions of his aggressor. Whats more, the hatred felt by the Palestinian justifies, legitimates, purifies the behavior of the soldier. If the word "Jew" means "victim," if only "Jew" means "victim", if all the Jews--Primo Levi and Sharon, Ann Frank and Rotschild--are equally victims, then "Jewish State" and "Jewish Sword" and "Jewish Executioner" all mean "victim"; and the victims of these victims are the executioners. These days, unarmed Jewish tanks confront children who have teeth; and defenseless airplanes defend themselves against mothers who hide an ache under their skirts; and completely unprotected missiles--like the David of the Bible--aim at towering giants of dignity and decency. Such stupefying disparity, such manifest inequality between a defenseless war technology and a superior dignity, a superior reason, is referred to by the most moderate newspapers--and the most daring politicians--as "combats."
The Holocaust, like the death of Christ, took place at specific time in History, but it assumes a kind of metaphysical hyper reality outside of History, always synchronic, which, like the traumatic eternity of certain neuroses, prevents one from acknowledging that events continue to happen, that we continue doing things, and that we are responsible for what we do. The original wound of the "Jewish State", like the original trauma of the neurotic, blames the universe without interruption; and if the universe finds it at fault, then the "Jewish State" blames the universe for its own sense of guilt: one cannot charge a grief so vast with so small a crime, not without becoming guilty of an aggression that is already the virtual repetition of the brutal original scene. The fault of those who remind the neurotic that he, too, may be guilty, is called "insensitivity". The fault of those who remind the "Jewish State" that it also can be guilty, is called "anti-Semitism". Before the Holocaust, no affliction occurred (excluding perhaps the enslavement of the Hebrews by the Pharaoh) from which to extract any lessons. After the Holocaust, all crimes are forgivable, except any pretense to rival "Jewish" grief. The very sound of a grievous moan may be deemed "anti-Semitic." The photograph of Mohamed Dorra embracing the dead body of his son is an instrument of the conspiracy against the "chosen people". Shocked by the already well-known statements of Saramago, Menahem Peri said he felt outraged: "Only if we were sending today six million Arabs to the gas chambers would he have the right to make such a comparison." Do we get it? What Peri is saying is that, as long as we keep under six million, its okay. Under that figure, our innocence is guaranteed: we will never be Nazis, and therefore we will never be "bad," and anyone who dares denounce our modest bloodbath--as Saramago did--falls into "moral blindness" and "anti-Semitic hatred." Peri may rest assured: there are only four million Palestinians in Palestine. If his defenseless tanks managed to kill half of them in this campaign, they would reduce the basis for such outlandish comparisons even further. The smaller the number of Palestinians that are left, the more removed we will be from the shadow of Nazism. And when only one of them is left standing--alone and defeated on his own gigantic and exactly human pair of legs--the act of putting him on his knees, tying his hands behind his back, and breaking his arms with the butt our gun will be the proof and the cause of our incontestable goodness. The day we can no longer kill anyone, no "anti-Semite" will be able to accuse us of cruelty.
Comparisons are, indeed, odious. Amos Oz, a fine writer and an apocryphal leftist, also expressed his reaction to Saramagos "nonsense" with a typical Freudian projection: "The Israeli occupation is unfair, but comparing it with the crimes of the Nazis would be like comparing Saramago with Stalin". I remember having read the anecdote of a man who goes to church to confess his sins: "Father, I have been unfair: I slit my fathers throat, I raped my mother and I poisoned my brothers". "Why son"--said the priest with a shudder--"Thats murder!"
Bombing schools and hospitals--is that "unfair"? Uprooting 120,000 olive trees, bulldozing or blowing up 3,750 residential units and expelling 40,000 people in one year--is that "unfair"? Stealing 3669 square kilometers of land--is that "unfair"? Shooting children in the head, executing unarmed men in alleyways, depriving the civilian population of water, food and electricity--is that "unfair"? Is it unfair to brand the arms of people, to lock them in detention camps, to prevent ambulances from reaching their destination, to erase the names of Palestinian villages, to blow up the Registrars building in Ramallah, to assault churches, to burn mosques, to urinate in the childrens rooms? Does Amos Oz think that the suicide bomber who sets off a bomb in a Tel Aviv restaurant is "unfair"? A treaty may be unfair; and there may be unfair sentences; and it will certainly be unfair that the horrors of the occupation remain unpunished. But the occupation... the occupation is not unfair: the occupation is a crime. And anyone who does not see it that way is, without a doubt, closer to Hitler and Stalin than to Saramago.
The comparison that Saramago made is exact to the letter (notice that he carefully says "in spirit") and has had the unfortunate result of calling attention to the Holocaust once again, to the detriment of the Occupation. Everything is being presented as though the kinship between Israel and Nazism must be proven first in order for us to be allowed to condemn the actions of Israel, as if, unless this affinity can be demonstrated, the Israelis could be allowed to humiliate, steal and murder without ever losing their innocence. But we will not let you maintain your innocence. You are not Nazis, thats true: you are a bunch of vulgar, heartless butchers, slayers of old people, child killers, filthy humiliators of women, land thieves, looters of shanty homes, unprincipled bullies, moral idiots, arrogant colonizing beasts attempting to enlarge your country by belittling your (all) humanity. But we will not let you keep your innocence. You will at least lose that in your massacre of these giants: you are degrading yourselves to the exact extent of your crimes. You may win, but you will not convince us of your purity. You will keep the land and the water of your victims, but we will not forgive you. You may be invulnerable, but you will no longer give us any lessons. You will strut up and down the desert of all values, meeting no resistance, but you will be small, vulgar, worthless, like all those who build their worldly greatness on their moral impotence. Israel (let us leave the Jews alone) is no longer the name of a people; it is the name of an exterminating angel, the cipher of a crime, the temperature of an ideology. And if you dont make haste to correct yourselves, if you dont think it over in a hurry and change the direction of your steps, you will end up erasing the memory of the Holocaust, which memory the rest of us will have to keep alive against you. One day, when people wish to exaggerate, describe the essence of an outrage, name the most execrable behavior, or vent with an insult the pain of an injustice, they will no longer say "Nazi" but "Israeli". And that, in effect, would not be just either.
A few days ago, propped on the soapbox of his little column in a national newspaper, an ex-communist quoted Sartre in order to intimidate the "anti-Semites" that are trying to save lives in Palestine. The news I have regarding Sartre is much more recent. Sartre wrote today, just a moment ago, the following words that he published in 1961, at the height of the Algerian war: "First we must confront a surprising spectacle: the striptease of our humanism. Here it is, naked, and not at all pretty to behold; it was just a deceiving ideology, the exquisite justification for looting. Its tender turns of phrase and its preciosity justified our aggression. How pretty it is to preach non-violence!: Neither victims nor executioners! Oh come on now! If you are not victims--when the government you have elected and the army in which your younger brothers have served, have initiated a "genocide" with no trace of hesitation or remorse--then you are undoubtedly executioners. You should understand this once and for all: if violence has just started; if exploitation and oppression never existed on the face of the earth, then maybe the much-vaunted "non-violence" could put an end to the dispute. But if the entire regime, and even its ideas about non-violence, are conditioned by a thousand-year-old oppression, your passivity is useless except to alienate you on the side of the oppressors". There are victims and there are oppressors. And those who deny, those who silence, those who lie, those who make excuses, those who qualify things--from their column or from their government--have chosen the side of the oppressors.
"After Auschwitz we are all Jews," Sartre wrote. But the neurotic who reminds us of this quote from his bulletproof newspaper forgets that Sartre was a sane man, a man who did not live with the original trauma but in the course of history, who knew that after Auschwitz rivers of blood have still been spilled, continue to be spilled; a man before whose eyes things continued to unfold. Which is why he also wrote, in 1961: "We are all Algerians". And in 1967: "We are all Vietnamese". And in 1975: "We are all Timorese". A sane man who today, 7 April 2002, while Sharon has closed the Palestinian camps and cities so as to be able to bomb them without being bothered by anyone: "We are all Palestinians".
If Jew means victim, then the Jews of today are the Palestinians. If Jew means something else, if it means the inalienable essence and particularity of a chosen people, the specific substance of a race or a culture, then nobody can demand human beings to experience their particular pain, to condemn the ones who gassed them and become "Jews" every time it becomes necessary to combat their oppressors anew. But "Jew" means victim; it is one of the many--too many--synonyms that our shrunken bloody century has produced to refer to victims. Eichmann and Barbie were not tried for crimes against "Judaism"; they were tried for Crimes against Humanity. That is why all the victims--and only the victims--are Jews (as well as Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Saharaouis, Kurds, Argentineans, Tzotziles, Mapuches, Ecuadorians...). That is why Sharon is not a Jew; there is not one single Jew in the Government of Israel, and very few among its citizens (but let me mention here the names of some brave "anti-Semite" Israeli Jews whom I respectfully salute: the pacifists of Gush Shalom, Uri Avneri, the journalist Amira Hass, the 357 refusenik reservists, Assaf Oron, the Women in Black and so many others who are victims in their own country of the marginalization and oppression of the majority).
We are all Jews, and Jews are the patrimony of everyone, except for Israel and its supporters; except for the cowardly, servile European Union; except for the corrupt, dictatorial Arab regimes that wrap themselves in the Palestinian flag while repressing demonstrators in Cairo, Tunis and Amman. Not only Saramago: even Wafá Idris, a murderous suicide-bomber, has a higher moral authority to speak about the Holocaust than Amos Oz or Menahem Peri. And thats why, while the F-16s destroy the historic center of Nablus and the tanks prevent the wounded from being picked up, we should cry out: "Jews of the world, unite!". Unite, Jews, against the government of Israel; unite against imperialism and global war, unite against all the assassins, the liars, the negationists, the indifferent, the opportunists, the corrupt, the exploiters--even if they are not Nazis.
Israelis must understand what an urgent task it is to refound or re-establish the State of Israel on completely new bases, away from the "benefits" of the Holocaust and the hysterical, mystical, expansionist nationalism of Zionism, which has built an ideological Fatherland on the manipulation of its own pain and the multiplication of that of its neighbors. From the very start, the movement created by Theodor Herzl in 1897 was governed by Reason of State and by the necessity to privilege the construction of a Jewish State above all other considerations of a political or moral nature. The Nazis alone are less entitled to play with the Jewish tragedy of the Shoah. Between August 1933 and the beginning of World War II in 1939, with the Nuremberg Laws in effect, after the Crystal Night, the Zionist National Agency maintained official economic relations with Hitlers government, within the framework of the so called Haavara Agreement, which allowed the Zionists to attract great Jewish fortunes to Palestine, giving the German industry an escape way for its exports, which were subject to an international boycott. On 7 December 1938, Ben Gurion declines the offer made by Britain to take in a few thousand Jewish children from Austria and Germany: "If I was given the choice between saving all the Jewish children from Germany by taking them to Britain, or saving only half of them by taking them to Eretz-Israel, I would choose the latter. Because we must consider not only the life of these children, but also the history of the Jewish people". On 11 November, 1940, the Jewish refugees sheltered in the Patria, a ship at anchor in the port of Haifa, are refused permission to go ashore in Palestine, and they are offered instead the option of going to the Mauritius Islands. The Jewish National Agency puts pressure on the British government, unsuccessfully, and on the 25th of the same month an explosion kills 240 refugees and 12 policemen in an operation masterminded by Eliahu Golomb, personal friend and right arm of Ben Gurion. In 1943, while gassing goes on in Treblinka, Sobibor and Auschwitz, the American Zionist Congress decides to give priority to the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine once the war is over, over the immediate salvation of the European Jews. As late as 1944, the notorious terrorist Izhak Shamir, Prime Minister of Israel during the Madrid conference in 1991, was negotiating with the German army--which by then was facing serious problems--the delivery of some trucks for troop transportation (or was it prisoner transportation?) on condition that they be used only on the Russian front. That is Zionism. In the late seventies and early eighties, the Israeli government was training the death squads in Bolivia and Guatemala (250,000 dead) in clandestine operations whose mediator was... Klaus Barbie, a conspicuous Nazi who was later tried and sentenced in Lyon for crimes against Humanity. And the tale goes on, against all the illusions created by neurosis. Only two months ago, on 25 January 2002, Amir Oren, the military commentator for Ha'eretz (an Israeli newspaper) wrote: "In order to adequately prepare us for the next stage, one of the commanding officers of the Israeli army in the (occupied) territories, recently said that it is justifiable, even vital, to extract lessons from every possible source. If the mission involves the occupation of a densely populated territory, or the Kasbah in Nablus, and the commanding officers goal is to try and accomplish its mission without casualties on either side, then he will need to analyze and assimilate the lessons of previous battles, and this includes--no matter how horrible it may sound--the lesson of how the German army operated in the Warsaw ghetto." Two months later, in Ramallah, Jenin, Tulkarem, Nablus, we can measure the full extent of the benefit that the Israeli army was able to derive from this lesson. Comparisons are odious when it is Saramago who makes them and they involve denouncing a crime, but when it comes to planning the crime, then they are "justifiable and even vital".
Keeping our silence
We cannot keep silent if we wish to preserve our sanity at the very least. Just before I finish, let me quote Sartre again, one of the sanest and most intelligent men, one of the true great figures in a century of acquiescing dwarfs and rhetorical fluffs. This is how he addressed the French while the Algerians were getting ready to bury one million dead victims of--as some say about Israel--the only democracy in Northern Africa: "It is not good, my countrymen and women, you who are aware of all the crimes committed in our name, it is really not good that you are not telling a word about this to anyone, not even to your own souls, out of fear that you may have to pass judgement on yourselves. In the beginning you did not know--I want to believe that you didnt. Then you hesitated; and now you know, but you remain silent. Eight years of silence are degrading. But it was all in vain: right now, the blinding sun of torture is at the high noon position, flooding the entire country with its light, and there is no laughter that sounds good under that light, no face that can put on enough makeup to hide its anger or its fright, no act that fails to betray our repugnance and our complicity. It suffices nowadays for two Frenchmen to run into each other, and a corpse gets right between them. France used to be the name of a country. We should be careful lest it becomes, in 1961, the name of a neurosis". Where he says "eight years" lets substitute "thirty-five"; where he says France, lets write Israel or--it doesnt matter--the world. Israel could manage to become a country, but it prefers to be a neurosis; the world could manage to become a planet ("an infinite unity of reciprocities", says Sartre) but it prefers to be a psicopathy.
Will we heal? Humanity, like psychoanalysts, must deal with--must continue to deal with--the Holocaust. But history, Law, people... they must deal with the pain of everyday, they must seek accountability for each new atrocity, must try to prevent the future bloodbaths. They must occupy themselves with the Occupation. It does not matter if the Israelis arent Nazis: they are the murderers; and it does not matter if the Palestinians arent Jews: they are the victims. Neurosis does not distinguish past from present, reality from fiction, war from peace, the guilty from the innocent. Healing means drawing those lines, reestablishing borders, establishing rules. Without that minimum of sanity, it will not be worth it for the world to continue after the next war.