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Never Again! to the Holocaust and the Nakba

by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

"Never Again!" is the anthem of people who are horrified by the Holocaust and want to keep such terrible things from ever recurring. As an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, I believe strongly that it is wrong to deny the Holocaust, which really did happen and can be proven by irrefutable evidence such as the Nazi concentration camps (many of which still stand to this day), and the photographic, oral and written testimonies of the victims, survivors and Allied troops who liberated the death camps.

But unfortunately, I think it is more than obvious that the government of Israel and its apologists and propagandists have used the Jewish Shoah (Hebrew for "Catastrophe") to deny, excuse and justify a new Holocaust, the Nakba (Arabic for "Catastrophe") of the Palestinian people.

In my opinion, we should all say "Never Again!" to all such atrocities. Whenever we see completely innocent women and children being collectively imprisoned and punished for the "crime" of having been "born wrong," we are seeing a Holocaust, and I believe we are clearly seeing a new Holocaust in Gaza, in Palestinian refugee camps outside the borders of Israel, and increasingly in the West Bank.

Please allow me to provide information from Jewish sources to confirm my statements above. If you are not familiar with the Nakba, these are the basic facts. In 1948 the UN passed a resolution partitioning Palestine into two regions. One region was to be for a Jewish state, the other for a Palestinian state. However, Israeli Jews did not wait for the UN to create the two states in an orderly fashion; instead they unilaterally announced the existence of a new state called Israel. This action caused neighboring Arab nations to attack Israel. Israel won the war of 1948 and expulsed the invading armies. However, once Israel's borders were secure, the government of Israel ordered hundreds of Palestinian villages and thousands of individual homes to be destroyed. Most of the Palestinians whose houses were destroyed were poor farmers who had no weapons and offered little or no resistance. Their land was taken by force and they were not allowed to return to their homes and farms. This was armed robbery and ethnic cleansing for the "greater good" of Israel. The Holocaust began with very similar actions, as the Nazis stole the land, homes and property of Jews for the "greater good" of Germany. Hitler and the Nazis claimed that they needed "living space" for Germans, and to acquire this "living space" they robbed Jews and other people they considered to be "inferior." The leaders of Israel claimed that they needed "living space" for Jews, and to acquire this "living space" they robbed Palestinians, whom they considered to be "inferior." Thus, the early stages of the Holocaust and Nakba seem eerily similar.

And we can confirm the similarities of the Holocaust to the Nakba by quoting informed Jewish sources. Here is a revealing quote from a high-ranking Israeli politician:

Aharon Zisling, the Israeli minister of agriculture, speaking to the Israeli cabinet on November 17, 1948, said: "I couldn't sleep all night. I felt that things that were going on were hurting my soul, the soul of my family and all of us here ... Now Jews too have behaved like Nazis and my entire being has been shaken."

According to the book O Jerusalem! an onlooker heard Golda Meir, a future Prime Minister of Israel, compare the destruction of Palestinian villages to the Holocaust.

Albert Einstein. considered by many to be the greatest Jewish intellectual of all time, along with Sidney Hook, Hannah Arendt, Seymour Milman and other prominent Jewish intellectuals, wrote a letter to the New York Times (December 4, 1948) in which they condemned Menachem Begin’s and Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud party as “fascist,” committing acts of terrorism, and espousing “an admixture of ultra-nationalism, religious mysticism and racial superiority.” The letter appears in the archives of the New York Times. Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir both became Prime Ministers of Israel, so we might venture that what has happened to the Palestinians is like what might have happened to African Americans if the Grand Wizards of the KKK had been elected president.

Yosef Weitz, who was the director of the Jewish National Fund's Lands Department, confided to his diary on December 20, 1940: "It must be clear that there is no room in the country for both people ... the only solution is a Land of Israel, at least a western Land of Israel without Arabs. There is no room here for compromise ... There is no way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries ... Not one village must be left, not one (Bedouin) tribe."

This was the culmination of the thinking of Theodr Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, who had written in his diary as early as 1895: "We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly. Let the owners of the immoveable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back."

Did such men ever think of the suffering and premature deaths of innocents that would occur once they had no shelter from the elements and criminals on the road? To cause the premature death of an innocent person is murder. To murder large numbers of people based on their ethnicity is genocide. Large-scale ethnic cleansing inevitably ends in genocide, as people who are made homeless and destitute often die prematurely.

Here is how the Nakba appears from a Palestinian perspective, in a letter from Thaer Halahleh, writing on day 75 of his hunger strike against his indefinite detention without charge, to his two-year-old daughter Lamar, whom he has never seen:

"My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my first-born child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault; this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be separated from each other, and to have a miserable life. Nothing is complete in our lives because of this unjust occupation that is lurking on every corner of our lives, turning it into eeriness, a continuous pursuit and torture. Despite the fact that I was deprived from holding you and hearing your voice, from watching you grow up and moving around the house, and being in your presense, and that I was deprived of my role as a father with my daughter, still your existence has given me power and hope!  When I saw your picture with your mother in the sit-in tent, you were so calm, staring in wonder at people, as if you were looking for your father, looking at my pictures that are hung inside the tent, asking in silence, "Why is my father not coming back"? I felt than that you are with me, in my sentiment and inside my mind, as if you are a part of my heartbeats, steadfast, and the blood that flows in my veins, opening all doors for me, spreading clear skies around me, and unleashing your free childish voice after this long silence."

"Lamar my love: I know that you are not to be blamed and that you don't yet understand why your father is going through the battle of this hunger strike for the 75th day, but when you grow up you will understand that the battle for freedom is the battle of returning to you, so that I can never be taken away from you again, so that I can never again be deprived of your smile, or of seeing you, so that the occupier will never kidnap me from you again."

"When you grow up, you will understand how injustice was brought upon your father and upon thousands of Palestinians whom the occupation has put in prisons and jail cells, shattering their lives and future for no guilt but their pursuit of freedom, dignity and independence. You will know that your father did not tolerate injustice and submission, that he will never accept insult and compromise, and that he is going through a hunger strike to protest against the Jewish state that wants to turn us into humiliated slaves without any rights or patriotic dignity."

"My beloved Lamar keep your head up always, and be proud of your father, and thank everyone who supported me and the other prisoners in their struggle, and don't be afraid, because God is with us always, and God never lets people down who have faith and patience. We are righteous, and right will always prevail against injustice and wrongdoers."

"Lamar, my love: that day will come, and I will make everything up to you, and tell you the whole story, and your days that will follow will be more beautiful. So let your days pass now;  wear your prettiest clothes, run in the gardens of your long life; run forward and then nothing is behind you but the past, and in your voice I always hear the sweet melody of freedom".

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