Saramago, the great Portuguese writer and winner of Nobel Prize
for literature, visited Ramallah last week (24.3), days before the
present Israeli re-invasion. He came with a delegation of the International
Parliament of Writers (IPW), together with Russell Banks (USA),
Wole Soyinka (Nigeria), Breyten Breytenbach (South Africa), Bei
Dao (China), Juan Goytisolo (Spain), Vincenzo Consolo (Italy), and
Christian Salmon (IPW Executive Director). The IPW also runs an
appeal for peace
in Palestine, where "the entry points to villages have been
walled over, civilian population movement is paralysed, ghettos
and reservations are created, where only tanks patrol and helicopters
over-fly the area on a permanent basis". While in Ramallah,
Saramago took the ghettos-and-reservations analogy a step too far
and compared it with Auschwitz and Buchenwald, the Nazi death camps.
Later, IPW distanced itself from
comparison has done it: at last, Israel had its desired spin. No
one asked what Saramago had seen to make him use such an appalling
analogy. Ramallah was forgotten immediately, only Auschwitz was
left. The entire liberal intellectual main-stream – from playwright
Yehoshua Sobol to rhinocerised Ha'aretz journalist Ari Shavit
– did its best to attack and discredit Saramago. How vociferous
can one be when shouting consensus slogans.
how quiet can one be when a critical word is required. Of Israel's
countless writers and poets, of the entire glorious literary milieu,
only six persons bothered to sign the IPW appeal, long before Saramago's
words. One of the six is an Israeli Arab (translator and writer
Mohamad Ghanayem), three are Israeli Jews of oriental origin (writer
Shimon Ballas, children's books writer Ronit Chacham, poet Sami
Shalom-Chetrit), and of European origin we have poet Yizchak Laor
and playwright Matti Meged. Have you ever heard of them? Probably
not. But you probably did hear of Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua and their
ilk. Now you know why. They did not sign the appeal. But they would
be more than happy to attack Saramago, I am sure.
this is the Auschwitz logic in a nutshell. Ramallah is not Auschwitz.
Israel is not the Third Reich. We have no death-camps and we haven't
massacred one third of the Palestinian population in gas chambers.
Therefore, everything we do is quite all right. We may fill the
occupied territories with tear gas and blood, we may kill and injure
and torture and blackmail and dispossess, we may surround millions
by electric fences and tanks in tiny enclaves, we may hold them
under siege and daily bombing, we may make pregnant women walk to
hospitals, and we shoot ambulances too, don't we. But as long as
we fall even an inch short of the atrocities of Nazi Germany, it's
all fine and good, and don't you dare make the comparison.
sometimes say that the Better is the greatest foe of the Good. Israel
is now demonstrating how the Greater Evil is Evil's best friend.
many thanks to Adolf Hitler, for setting such insurmountable standards.
recent subset of the Auschwitz logic. Europe is warning Israel:
don't kill Arafat. The United States is soothing: Israel has pledged
not to kill Arafat. How magnanimous of Sharon. He can bomb ambulances
and raid hospitals, shoot journalists and cut water supply to entire
towns, but as long as he doesn't touch Arafat, it's all right. In
return for Israel's pledge not to kill Arafat, the world has given
him a carte blanche to kill all other Palestinians. Sharon couldn't
ever ask for more.
We Are Not Nazis
here is a minimal actual sample of what we are doing:
March 30th. LAW (The Palestinian Society for the Protection
of Human Rights and the Environment). This morning, five Palestinian
officers (Khaled Awad (33), Ismail Zaid (56), Said Abdelrahman (60),
Abdelrahman Abdallah (58), and Omar Musa (54)) have been found dead
in an office building in Ramallah. Last night, Israeli forces had
surrounded the building and prevented anyone from entering. The
five bodies were found in one room, lying next to each other. They
were injured in their faces and killed by gunshots in the head.
LAW's assessment suggests that these five have been executed.
March 30th. Excerpts from an Appeal for Help from Besieged Ramallah.
"As we write this, there are US-made Apache attack helicopters
overhead firing on the city. Israeli bulldozers are creating permanent
positions for the tanks in and around private houses. Some of us
have had experience in other sieges, in Sarajevo, Dili, and elsewhere.
There is a familiar pattern of emergency rapidly developing. This
is the beginning of a humanitarian crisis. Immediate intervention
is required to prevent a disaster.
Movement Possible: Inhabitants of the city are under complete curfew.
There is no medical access. Palestine Red Crescent medical relief
workers have not been permitted to provide medical services to the
local population. Israeli forces are firing on anyone walking out
on the streets.
Thursday, based on fears of an Israeli re-invasion, more than 500
inhabitants lined up in the mud and rain at the Qalandiya checkpoint
– the only exit point from the city allowed by Israel – begging
Israeli soldiers to allow them to escape. In response, Israeli soldiers
fired over their heads, exacerbating the panic and causing most
to simply return to Ramallah.
Forces Using Human Shields: Israeli soldiers are occupying an increasing
number of private residences and detaining the residents collectively
in single rooms. Meanwhile, Israeli occupation soldiers have taken
up armed positions in the houses or apartments of these residents.
Resources Limited: There is no food entering Ramallah and no one
is allowed to restock. There will shortly be a food and drinking
water crisis. Some parts of Ramallah are already without water altogether.
Israeli soldiers are also eating the food of residents while taking
up positions in their houses.
Being Cut: Large parts of Ramallah are without electricity and heat.
The lack of electricity also means that residents are without television
and any news reporting of the situation outside their homes. Many
residents of the city rely on cellular phones for communication
and without electricity they are unable to recharge their phones.
Therefore, the population is being held in isolation and there is
increasing fear and confusion. Also, some telephone landlines have
Being Taken: Israeli troops are calling upon all male residents
between the ages of 16 and 40 in some neighbourhoods to 'surrender'.
The wounded are being treated roughly and being denied medical access.
Now, their fate is unknown.
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and grew up in Israel. He has
a B.A. in Computer Science, an M.A. in Comparative Literature and
is currently working on his PhD thesis. He teaches in the Tel-Aviv
University's Department of Comparative Literature. He also works
as a literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as
a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth.
Mr. HaCohen's work has been published widely in Israel. "Letter
from Israel" appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
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Say No to
a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War – Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace