By Suzanne Weiss. The following is the text of a talk by Socialist Voice Contributing Editor Suzanne Weiss to a joint meeting of Muslim and Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights at the Taric Islamic Centre in Toronto, on June 14, 2008.
This inspiring meeting seeks to reach out to Jewish and Muslim communities, to build understanding of the conflict in the Middle East. Thank you for the honour of inviting me to participate.
My life has been shaped by the Jewish Holocaust under Hitler. My mother died in Auschwitz, and I barely escaped the same fate. Like many others, I have sought to resist the forces of war and oppression that we saw in Nazism and that still live on. We have won victories, such as the destruction of apartheid in South Africa.
But today we see the methods of Nazism being employed against the Palestinians, with the ultimate aim of wiping them out as a people. And this horror is justified with reference to the victims of the Holocaust. What a lie!
It is Israel that uses many of the methods of Nazism to oppress the Palestinians. Meanwhile the Palestinian resistance struggle stands in continuity with the resistance of my people and others in Europe to Nazism.
The primary aim of the Nazi Holocaust was ethnic cleansing — to rid Germany and the territories it occupied of all Jewish people. The Nazis considered shipping the Jewish people outside of Europe, but found no way to do this and decided to kill them all. The Jews were driven from their homes, robbed of their belongings, herded into ghettos, and sent by millions to the gas chambers.
The Holocaust is one of the best documented historical events of all time. The Nazis were methodical — they counted their victims and kept meticulous records. In my family’s Polish home town of Piotrkow there were 30,000 Jews. Only 100 survived. On the train that took my mother to Auschwitz there were 1,000 Jews, of whom only ten survived. There is no denying the truth of this deplorable chapter of human history.
Another historical fact that cannot be denied is al-Nakba, the catastrophe inflicted on the Palestinians by the Zionists in 1948. The basic idea was the same: ethnic cleansing. Dispossess the Palestinians and drive them from their homes and lands. The Zionists did not aim to kill all the Palestinians — only to kill enough to expel them and seize their homeland.
Zionist historians invented a story of a massive “voluntary” exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who, the Zionists said, had decided temporarily to leave their homes and villages to make way for the invading Arab armies. This is a big lie. It is as dishonest and absurd as Hitler’s stories of how the Jews supposedly started the Second World War. In fact, the Palestinian expulsions began in 1948 in conditions of peace.
The Zionists and their allies displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, stole their traditionally agricultural land, and made them homeless. They did this with the aid of mass killings.
The Zionists’ aim is to remove Palestine from the world’s family of nations. They hope that the world will forget that a Palestinian people ever existed. That is the Zionist “final solution” for the Palestinians.
That, too, is a form of genocide and it continues today.
Let me tell you a few things that the Nazis did in Piotrkow, my family’s home town in Poland. You will find it very similar to what is going on today in Gaza and the West Bank.
The German Gestapo and its allies expelled the Jewish people of Piotrkow from society and confined them in a ghetto, surrounded by an immense wall. The idea was to keep everyone on both sides of the wall ignorant, to segregate the lepers, the Jewish people, so that the Nazis could do their dirty murderous deeds in secret.
Inside the ghetto, the Jews were deprived of essentials of life and prevented from entering or leaving. They were harassed and humiliated at checkpoints. Thousands were killed arbitrarily, including the innocent children.
The Piotrokov ghetto swelled and became increasingly crowded as Jewish people from other cities of Poland were herded into it. Ghetto conditions deteriorated. Housing was shockingly overcrowded, and sanitary conditions extremely bad. Epidemics began to spread.
There was a Jewish government and Jewish police in the ghetto, but they were controlled by the Nazi authorities. Some Jewish leaders, including a member of my family, Yakov Berliner, organized resistance, but they were hunted down and executed.
To anyone who knows conditions in Palestine today, all this sounds very familiar.
Today the vast majority of Palestinians have been dispossessed and driven from their lands. In occupied Palestine, the people are confined to small enclaves, surrounded by high walls and intimidating checkpoints. They are humiliated, even forced to crawl naked. Gaza resembles Hitler’s ghettos. The Palestinians are sealed off and deprived of the necessities of life.
There is a Palestinian Authority, but its power is limited by the Zionists. The Palestinian police, trained by the enemies of their people including the Canadian government, are used to repress the population. Palestinians suffer continual persecution and humiliation. They cannot earn a livelihood and must endure life-threatening poverty.
The Palestinians suffer unprovoked and arbitrary attacks, demolition and bombings of their homes and villages. Leaders of the Palestinian resistance are hunted down and slaughtered.
In Gaza, the Palestinians have been able to maintain a government established in free elections. For this crime, they are placed under siege and bombarded.
Israel’s deputy defense minister, Matan Vilnai, has made a horrifying threat against the people of Gaza. Young Palestinians use the only means of defense at their disposal. It doesn’t compare to the bombs and tanks destroying their society. The Palestinian people have inalienable rights to defend themselves, their land, and property through whatever means they can, including through their democratically elected government, Hamas. Yet Vilnai has said, if rocket fire intensifies, “they will bring upon themselves (the Palestinians) a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves.”
A bigger holocaust — the reference to Hitler’s actions is clear. This means that Israel will attempt to physically wipe the Gaza population off the map.
Powerful forces have tried to erase the crime against the Palestinians from the world’s public memory. But the Palestinian people have survived, and their resistance continues, with the sympathy of peoples around the world. The truth about the crime against the Palestinians cannot be silenced.
The Zionists misuse the memory of the holocaust to breed and justify new wars in the Middle East. This is a crime against the memory of my family and other Jewish victims under Hitler.
The Zionists act with strong support from the United States, which has its own criminal reasons to see the Palestinians defeated. The Zionists want their exclusively Jewish state, and they want it to expand and dominate the region. The United States, with Ottawa’s support, wants the oil and other resources; it wants to control all of the Middle East. That’s why they conduct war in Iraq and Afghanistan and are menacing Iran.
To be against the government of Israel is not anti-Semitic. We must stand up for justice and for humanity. We oppose the system of Zionism that oppresses one people — the Palestinians — and endangers another — the Israeli Jews — while condemning them to the hatred of the world.
If the crime against the Palestinians prevails, it would mean that Hitler’s spirit had triumphed. To be true to the memory of the victims of the Jewish Holocaust and of all Hitler’s victims, we must defend the Palestinians.
We must join their resistance struggle to win back their homeland. We can do this here in Canada.
We need a united campaign for peace and justice for Palestine, for a society in which all inhabitants, Jewish and Palestinians, have an equal voice and equal rights. All the Palestinians expelled from the country should have the right to return.
During Hitler’s time, world governments silently supported these crimes against the Jewish people — including the Canadian government, which refused to accept Jewish immigrants escaping the Holocaust. Today, we cannot allow silence about the crimes perpetrated on the Palestinian people. We must demand justice from our own governments.
I belong to “Not in Our Name (NION): Jewish Voice Against Zionism,” and I am also with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA). These organizations support the Palestinian right to return and to regain their homeland. They call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli Apartheid policies.
The day will come that the Apartheid wall will fall and we will see the liberation of the Palestinians. It will be a new day for freedom for all of us around the world.
Let us work together for that day of liberation.
Freedom for the Palestinians!