Hamas condemns Holocaust —Israel threatens a new one

Breaking ranks with the loopiness of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his ilk, Bassem Naeem, health and information minister in the Hamas-led Palestinian administration in Gaza, explicitly acknowledges the historical fact of the Holocaust—while calling out Israel’s manipulation thereof. From The Guardian’s Comment is Free, May 12:

As the Palestinian people prepare to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (“catastrophe”)—the dispossession and expulsion of most of our people from our land —those remaining in Palestine face escalating aggression, killings, imprisonment, ethnic cleansing and siege. But instead of support and solidarity from the western media, we face frequent attempts to defend the indefensible or turn fire on the Palestinians themselves.

One recent approach, which seems to be part of the wider attempt to isolate the elected Palestinian leadership, is to portray Hamas and the population of the Gaza strip as motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment, rather than a hostility to Zionist occupation and domination of our land. A recent front page article in the International Herald Tribune followed this line, as did an article for Cif about an item broadcast on the al-Aqsa satellite TV channnel about the Nazi Holocaust.

This is a reference to a May 8 comment by Alan Johnson “Call Hamas to Account,” noting an al-Aqsa TV comment by Amin Dabur of the Palestinian Center for Strategic Research, calling the Holocaust a “joke” and a “show.” The April 1 IHT story, “Hamas ratchets up its rhetoric against Jews,” quoted Hamas-loyal imams spewing a bunch of vicious verbiage. Naeem disavows it all:

In fact, the al-Aqsa Channel is an independent media institution that often does not express the views of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniyeh or of the Hamas movement. The channel regularly gives Palestinians of different convictions the chance to express views that are not shared by the Palestinian government or the Hamas movement. In the case of the opinion expressed on al-Aqsa TV by Amin Dabbur, it is his alone and he is solely responsible for it.

It is rather surprising to us that so little attention, if any, is given by the western media to what is regularly broadcast or written in the Israeli media by politicians and writers demanding the total uprooting or “transfer” of the Palestinian people from their land.

The Israeli media and pro-Israel western press are full of views that deny or seek to excuse well-established facts of history including the Nakba of 1948 and the massacres perpetrated then by the Haganah, the Irgun and LEHI with the objective of forcing a mass dispossession of the Palestinians.

Here he links to FrontPageMag‘s reprint of a Jewish Press story (not exactly mainstream sources) calling Nakba a “nonsense word of the Anti-Israel Lobby,” and similar offensive bunk form the Jerusalem Post. The really disturbing part comes next…

But it should be made clear that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian government in Gaza denies the Nazi Holocaust. The Holocaust was not only a crime against humanity but one of the most abhorrent crimes in modern history. We condemn it as we condemn every abuse of humanity and all forms of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender or nationality.

And at the same time as we unreservedly condemn the crimes perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jews of Europe, we categorically reject the exploitation of the Holocaust by the Zionists to justify their crimes and harness international acceptance of the campaign of ethnic cleansing and subjection they have been waging against us – to the point where in February the Israeli deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai threatened the people of Gaza with a “holocaust”.

Within 24 hours, 61 Palestinians—more than half of them civilians and a quarter children—were killed in a series of air raids. Meanwhile, a horrible crime against humanity continues to be perpetrated against the people of Gaza: the two-year-old siege imposed after Hamas won the legislative elections in January 2006, which is causing great suffering. Due to severe shortages of medicines and food, scores of Palestinians have lost their lives.

The Matan Vilnai quote appears to be accurate. Naeem links to an April 22 story from London’s Muslim News:

Israeli shelling and gunfire this month has killed over 100 Palestinians and wounded more than 250 others in the besieged Gaza Strip, while much of the world looks on in appeasement of Israeli vengeance.

The blitzkrieg was triggered by Palestinian rocket attacks killing one Israeli civilian in the border town of Siderot. The Israeli onslaught sweeping Gaza massacred 125 Palestinians, 95 of them civilians, many of whom were children, including babies. Two hundred Palestinians were injured, the majority of them civilians.

Israeli warning of the bloody scale of its offensive came early when Israel’s Labour Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, declared on February 29 that continuing Palestinian rocket fire would risk a “greater shoah” of the Palestinian people. Israeli officials later insisted that Vilnai warned of disaster in a generic sense, but the term is used in Hebrew circles almost solely to refer to the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews in Europe.

Vilnai’s chilling warning came two days after Israel launched its deadliest offensive this year on a Gazan population already beleaguered by a strangulating siege. On February 27, in retaliation to the first Israeli fatality by Palestinian rocket fire in 9 months, Israel escalated air attacks, bombing a military base in a civilian area in Khan Younis, killing 5 Hamas members and a six month old baby.

A March 31 piece by Michael Handelzalts in Haaretz, wittily entitled “I’ll Shoah you mine, if you Shoah me yours,” illustrates the poisonous effect of this kind of talk:

Far be it from me to call Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai a fool (after all, the man did serve as deputy chief of staff and minister of culture and science), but I wonder what he was thinking when he said on Army Radio last Friday that by continuing to fire rockets at southern Israel, the Palestinians would be bringing upon themselves “a greater shoah [holocaust] because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in airstrikes or on the ground.”

As could have been expected, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai’s comments: “We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that what is happening is worse than the Shoah, and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal summed everything up by saying: “The real holocaust [is] being committed by Israel against the Palestinian people.”

Three cheers for Bassem Naeem and Michael Handelzalts. Nice to see a Hamasnik taking the moral high ground on historical revisionism—because it gives him the creds he needs to call out the double standard.

See our last posts on the Israel/Palestine, Gaza, and the politics of the Holocaust.