Sara Roy is a well-credentialed advocate of the Palestinian cause. Not only is she an academic of high standing but she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. This makes it difficult for her opponents to dismiss her as an anti-Semite.
What follows is Roy’s response to a statement that appeared in the New York Times, authored by Eli Wiesel, in which the Israeli apologist accuses Hamas of using children as human shields.
A Response to Elie Wiesel
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children included. As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?
Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to inflict. I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.
There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother.
Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them as human shields? Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument? In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s savage destruction.
Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation? How are these Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being hunted and destroyed?
You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.
Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.
This is an excellent essay from my friend, Paul Larudee.
What does the Palestinian struggle have to do with Anti-Semitism? What indeed?! Cries of ‘anti-Semitism’, like references to the Holocaust, only function to distract us from the real issues.
The Palestine Liberation Movement is not about Anti-Semitism
by Paul Larudee / May 23rd, 2013
Without regard to the validity of Joseph Massad’s exposition of the historical and dialectic relationship between Zionism and anti-Semitism, why is Massad trying to justify the Palestine liberation movement on the basis that it is a battle against anti-Semitism? Of course, Massad is by no means the only Palestinian to make Jewish issues and anti-Semitism central to the Palestinian struggle. Ali Abunimah has made something of a campaign of assuring the Jewish community that the Palestine liberation movement is free of anti-Semitism. In addition, several large Palestinian solidarity organizations and coalitions have anti-anti-Semitism as one of their core statements.
Since when are Palestinian rights and liberation about Jews, Jewish issues and anti-Semitism? Why are Palestinians allowing Jews and Jewish issues – including Zionism and anti-Semitism – to set the Palestinian agenda?
The term “Semite” was born of the assumption that all the languages of the world are the result of the sons of Noah – Shem, Ham and Japheth – going to different parts of the globe after the flood and creating different language groups: Semitic, Hamitic and Japhetic. The sons of Noah? Are we seriously entertaining such nonsense?
To make matters worse, this absurdity was extended to fictitious “races,” not just languages. “Anti-Semitic” therefore is descriptive of the Hamitic and Japhetic races turning on the descendents of Shem, the third brother. No one seriously speaks of Hamitic and Japhetic races. Is it not time to recognize the absurdity of the Semitic “race” as well?
Even more absurd is the attempt to use such mythological concepts to measure the virtue of the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian cause has nothing to do with Jews, Semites, anti-Semitism, God, Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Noah, Jacob, Ishmael, Shem, Ham and Japheth, whether you believe in them or not. It has nothing to do with the Holocaust, colonialism, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Turks or the British.
It has everything to do with the expulsion of Palestinians from their land and with denial of their right to sovereignty, to self-determination and above all their Right to Return. It does not matter who expelled them. It is their land and they have the right to return. It does not matter who denies their existence. They have a right to return.
It does not even matter if they are nice people or despicable, whether they are racists or humanists, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhist or Shinto, whether they are clean or dirty, educated or ignorant, rich or poor, democrats or monarchists. They have the right to return to their homes and to reclaim their country.
Their rights cannot be held hostage to the rights of others. If justice for Palestinians cannot be bought at the price of injustice for others, neither can justice for others be bought at the price of injustice to Palestinians. Justice may be indivisible, but we need not wait for justice to happen everywhere in order for it to happen in Palestine.
Palestinians cannot wait for CO2 levels to drop below 350 parts per million, nor for the population of blue whales to rise, nor for the persecution of Rohingyas to end in Myanmar, nor even for ethnic cleansing to end in Congo, nor for the European victims of World War II and their descendants to be made whole, nor for indigenous peoples everywhere to regain their rights and heritage.
Justice may be indivisible, but the restoration of justice anywhere raises the level of justice everywhere. The restoration of justice in Palestine benefits the entire world and gives hope to justice that is still struggling to restore itself in other places and to other peoples.
Anti-Semitism is no more relevant to Palestinian liberation than anti-Hamitism or Anti-Japhetism or any other attempt to gauge the worthiness of the Palestinian cause by its endorsement or rejection of someone else’s values. Please remove such irrelevance from the discussion of Palestinian rights.
Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.
This is an important essay by Gilad Atzmon. Certainly his central claim – that the Palestinian solidarity movement is being hijacked by a Judeo-centric agenda – will be more true in some areas than others.
There will always remain some groups that are outrightly anti-Semitic. Even so, Atzmon is surely correct – that the Zionist narrative that so dominates mainline media has had a significant influence in shaping Palestinian activism worldwide.
Is there a path back? Atzmon hopes so, but he doesn’t give us any details as to where to start.
Time for Palestine solidarity to liberate itself
By Gilad Atzmon
The Palestine solidarity movement is being hijacked and forced to swallow a Judaeo-centric agenda that has nothing to do with the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland from which they were ethnically cleansed.
Palestine solidarity activists are increasingly required to subscribe to the Judaeo-centric notion that Jews and Jewish suffering are uniquely special; that Jews alone are like no other people; that the Jewish holocaust is like no other genocide; and that racism comes in degrees of vileness depending on who the victims are, with anti-Semitism being worse than any other form of racism because it targets Jews.
Conversely, according to this Judaeo-centric worldview, when it comes to the Palestinians the exact opposite is the case.
We are expected to believe that, unlike the Jews, the Palestinians are not special at all and are just like everyone else. Palestinians, we are now required to believe, are not the victims of a unique, racist, nationalist and expansionist Jewish nationalist movement. Instead, we are told to agree that, as with Native Americans and Africans, the ordeal of the Palestinian people is the result of run-of-the-mill 19th century colonialism – just more of the same old boring apartheid.
So, we are instructed to swallow the racist notion that Jews, Zionists and Israelis are exceptional, like no one else, while Palestinians are always, somehow, ordinary, always part of some greater political narrative, always just like everyone else. Their suffering is never due to the particularity of Jewish nationalism, Jewish racism or even the domination of US foreign policy by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). No, the Palestinian is always the victim of a dull, banal dynamic – general, abstract and totally lacking in particularity.
read the rest of this article here: http://www.redressonline.com/2013/03/time-for-palestine-solidarity-movement-to-liberate-itself/
Father Roy writes: This article is honest. May Professor Elkana rest in peace. May light perpetual shine upon his soul. Peace, Roy
Professor Yehuda Elkana
Professor Yehuda Elkana, who has died aged 78, was a historian and philosopher of science and a controversial critic of the “Holocaust industry” and Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
Elkana was a survivor of Auschwitz, so when, in 1988, he published an article in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on “The Need to Forget”, few could question his credentials.
He recalled that he had been transported to Auschwitz as a boy of 10 and, after the camp was liberated, spent some time in a Russian “liberation camp”, where he encountered Germans, Austrians, Croats, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Russians, as well as fellow Jews. Later he concluded that “there was not much difference in the conduct of many of the people I encountered … It was clear to me that what happened in Germany could happen anywhere and to any people.”
Moving to Israel after the war, Elkana experienced profound unease with the way in which the Holocaust was being manipulated by governments of Right and Left to craft an atavistic Jewish national identity. He became convinced that the motives behind Israel’s uncompromising approach to the Palestinians was “a profound existential ‘angst’ fed by a particular interpretation of the lessons of the Holocaust and the readiness to believe that the whole world is against us, and that we are the eternal victim”.
In a later interview he observed that parties on the Right of Israeli politics had used trips to Auschwitz to impart the lesson to young people that “this is what happens when Jews are not strong”, thereby justifying a repressive approach to the Palestinians. In this belief he saw the “paradoxical victory of Hitler”, whose appeal to the German people had also been based on the central idea of victimhood.
Two Jewish nations had emerged from Auschwitz, he observed: “a minority who assert: ‘this must never happen again’; and a frightened majority who assert, ‘this must never happen to us again.’” While all societies needed a collective mythology (and Elkana was critical of those in Germany who want to “close the chapter” of the Holocaust), “any philosophy of life nurtured solely or mostly by the Holocaust leads to disastrous consequences”.
In a later interview Elkana spelt out his fears for where this philosophy was leading Israel: “We are heading toward turning 100 million Arabs into a terrorist army against us: the whole Arab world! The United States wants to support rational, moderate Arabs. And rational, moderate Arabs will tolerate Israel’s occupation of Arab land less and less. So what is there to look forward to if we go on this way?’’
Yehuda Elkana was born to Hungarian-Jewish parents at Subotica, in what was then Yugoslavia, on June 16 1934. His father, an engineer, was a Zionist who travelled to Palestine in that year as a fencer and head of the Yugoslav delegation to the Maccabiah Games (an international Jewish athletic event held in defiance of the British Mandate authorities). “He wanted to remain in Palestine,” Elkana recalled. “Mother refused and the fool listened.”
In 1944 the family moved to Szeged in Hungary where, later that year, they were rounded up and transported to Auschwitz. They survived by sheer accident. As they were being lined up for the gas chambers, SS guards pulled them out of the line and sent them in a train with other Jews to clean up Allied bomb damage in Austrian cities. They made it to Israel in 1948.
The 14-year-old Yehuda joined a kibbutz and won a scholarship to the Herzliya High School in Tel Aviv, where he developed an interest in the philosophy and history of science. After studying Mathematics and Physics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he took a PhD in the Philosophy of Science at Brandeis University in the United States and taught at Harvard for a year. His doctoral dissertation would form the basis for a book, The Discovery of the Conservation of Energy (1974).
He returned to Israel as chairman of the department of the history and philosophy of science at the Hebrew University.
From 1969 to 1993 Elkana was founder-director of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, which works to reduce tensions among the different groups in Israeli society and challenge taboos. He was proud of the fact that the Institute was a place where people could come and listen to Wagner and Strauss. At the same time he also ran, at Tel Aviv University, the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, which he co-founded in 1983. From 1995 he was Professor of Theory of Science at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zürich.
In 1999 Elkana was appointed president and rector of the Central European University in Budapest, which had been founded by the international financier George Soros in 1991 with the aim of educating a new cadre of regional leaders to help usher in democratic transitions across the old Soviet bloc. Under Elkana’s leadership the university was transformed from a regional experiment in post-communist education into a major graduate institution of the social sciences and humanities.
The author of many books, including Essays on the Cognitive and Political Organisation of Science (1994), Elkana was also a permanent fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Berlin and co-founder and editor of the journal Science in Context. He spent a year as fellow at the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University and was a visiting fellow at All Souls, Oxford, in 1977-78.
After retiring in 2009 he went on to oversee an international programme aimed at reforming undergraduate curricula. He was the co-author, with Hannes Klopper, of The University in the 21st Century: Teaching at the Dawn of the Digital Age (2011).
In 1960 he married Yehudit Keren, who became a prominent Israeli peace campaigner. She survives him with their two daughters and two sons.
Professor Yehuda Elkana, born June 16 1934, died September 21 2012
This marvelous and timely testimony was passed on to me by dear Father Elias, who comments that he is proud to call this man a fellow Dutchman!
Dr. Hajo Meyer is a member of “A Different Jewish Voice” – a Dutch-based, secular Jewish movement that dares to openly criticize Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.
As a result of his experiences in Auschwitz, Hajo Meyer claims to have learned one fundamental lesson: that his moral duty as a human being was to never become like his oppressors. May the blessing of God be upon all courageous Jews like Dr Meyer who uphold the good of humanity above that of any particular race.
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