In a letter published today in The New York Times as an advertisement, 40 survivors of Nazi genocide and hundreds of their children are publicly deploring “the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza,” Israel’s ongoing occupation, and the troubling rise of systemic racism.
The letter, a response to an advertisement posted recently by Eli Wiesel, in which Palestinians were portrayed as championing “child sacrifice,” is the first of its kind to be signed by so many Holocaust survivors, who are making waves by calling for a full boycott of Israel – roundly viewed as anathema by Jewish institutions in both the United States and Europe. Below is the full text of their letter:
As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.
Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.
We must raise our voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!
One of the signatories is Hedy Epstein, the 90-year-old human rights activist who was recently arrested in St. Louis before Governor Jay Nixon’s downtown office, protesting his actions and the actions of militarized police in Ferguson, Missouri. Epstein (left) has long been a prominent voice in various civil and human rights movements, including those fighting for the human rights of Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza. Her voice is now being joined by many others who survived the horrors of the Holocaust, by aligning with the BDS movement, in visible and controversial ways.
The letter’s appearance in the Times comes on the heels of an op-ed by Anthony Lerman which appeared in those pages on Friday. Entitled “The End of Liberal Zionism.” It echoed many of the same critiques as those found in the letter.
As the death toll in Gaza continues to rise – nearly 2,100 people have died, mostly civilians – a growing number of diaspora Jews, from prominent journalists to community members, are finding themselves pained by Israel’s actions and conflicted by their simultaneous support for and critiques of Israel.
These 40 survivors of one of the worst atrocities in human history have gone a step further, placing themselves in the post-Zionist camp due to what they see in Israel. Such voices have always been looked upon as a moral conscience within the Jewish community. Holocaust survivors speaking out in such an extreme way represents something profound taking place amidst the profoundly troubling history being created in the region.
As rockets continue to be fired into Israel and missiles continue to be dropped on Gaza, as innocents on both sides are terrorized, it’s far too easy for such violence to be justified, particularly by a people, my people, who have endured the wrath of history.
These 40 voices should give such justifications pause.
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.
Do you agree with this — a full and total boycott of Israel, including academics and culture? And doing so without mentioning a word about Hamas’s contributions to this conflict?
I am in agreement with any non-war gesture that will bring Israel to its knees in its attempted de-arabization of the Arab world in which they co-exist. It has long been offensive to me that my supposedly democratic homeland participates and abets Israel in their colonial efforts and their dehumanized treatment of Gaza. There is wrong on both sides of that wall, but Israel’s efforts are wildly disproportional and reactionary. There is no excuse for executing children in strikes which are demonstrably vengeful rather than corrective.
How soon we forget !
Precisely what do you mean when you say “bring Israel to its knees?” From a practical point of view, that can mean only one thing: the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and the departure of most surviving (former-Israeli) Jews from the Middle East. The notion of a log-term federal-type or any other kind of co-existence between Arabs and Jews in “historic” Palestine is preposterous. If anyone wants to bring up the word “genocide,” that would be an appropriate description of what would happen to any Jews foolish enough to not have learned the lessons of their own long history. Spirare, sperare.
Its the right move and its way over due! This is a great step that should have been the natural reaction from not just Few of the Holocaust survivor ,but all of them and their children and even all of us against such inhumane attitude and murder by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza, or any humans any where. We all have to remember our humanity t all of us, so history does not repeat itself, but just change the players. We all deplore the act of murder and Genocide and not who is carrying it out and to whom. Humanity has to take precedent over any ones religion or affiliations. We all should speak out and stand up against crimes!
As the signatory of the statement published by the New York Times, and as the writer, editor, and publisher of the Argentum Post, I commend you for your excellent and informative articles.
This statement by all concerned is having a major positive impact and further enhances the nucleation effect of millions of us of Jewish background with progressive and humanist outlooks, something which will inevitably enhance the movement towards a peaceful solution.
I personally support the unitary state solution which was proposed in 1947 by the UN’s “Second Subcommittee” as it deemed correctly the “Partition” so-called solution to had been illegal.
By the incremental restoration of a Palestine in the embodiment of a federative republic with perhaps a semi-autonomous Jewish region in what is now Israel, the co-healing, co-producing, co-creating process may start immediately and lead to real democratic vibrant Palestine for all Jews, Moslems, Christians, and Seculars now living there, accommodating of course those Palestinians forced into their diaspora.
The mere constructive and creative initiation of this project could lead to an inspiring contagion effect in the region.
What is essential is that the US policy towards Israel must be immediately reformed and that Israel must immediately be forced to end its criminal occupation and its torture and blockade of the wretched masses of impoverished, injured, abused innocent inhabitants of Gaza.
Alfred, Please understand that Hamas controls Gaza and is the source of misery of the people of Gaza
Hamas does not control Gaza, Israel and now Egypt new US/ Israel appointed new so called president El Sisi, are controlling all the borders of Gaza, from the north, east,south, and even the sea and the Skies of Gaza are controlled by Israel. Why keep telling blatant lies? Israel does not need more lies to discredit itself, its actions and crimes are more than enough to discredit it and the ones who try to cover up for it ,like some posters here. Or this is the true color of the Zionists Israel and most of the Jewish people in it, or its not? Which one is it? Those who wish to be on humanity side and justice ,the path is clear, and there is no need for more lies, killing and deception by the others who continue to misguide and mislead the Israelis by their damaging support of not just to Isael, but to all Jewish people. The Palestinians have paid more than a heavy price, and the truth should be told by all. Its the Jewish opportunity to ligitimaze Israel and fight Antisemitic attitude in the world by showing a humanitarian and just behavior by making peace with thev Palestinians,not rogue crimes against women men and children that have no or very little means to defend themselves against prutal death machine supplied by the US and carried out by Jews in the name of all Jews. Stand up and speak up is what humanity mandate. Anything less than that is a crime and history is a witness to all acts.
Monir What universe do yo live in.Oh wait, you were the one who wrote the whole response describing how Jews are deserving of he grief the received over the past 2000 years. It was removed from this website.
I understand that you belong to the Jewish, pro-Palestinian lobby? And I understand, that you support the defamation, delegitimation and demonization of Israel, its government and army?
You possibly also support the infamous BDS-movement for the boycott of Israel?
As a non-Jew supporting a Jewish homeland and also an independent Palestinian state, I have been reluctant to speak out against Israel’s attack on Gaza for fear of being tagged anti-semitic. But speak out I must and thank you for giving me this opening. Israel’s unlawful expropriation of West Bank land in extending settlements and it’s imprisonment of an entire population in Gaza is against the Judaism I know as both prophetic and compassionate. This power driven policy rooted in fear must cease. It’s an affront to Judaism itself and a denial of the spiritual resources available for overcoming fear and acting out of the Infinite Love that sustains us all.
America must immediately change its policy toward the criminal behavior of the rogue state of Israel.
If condemning Israel for its inhumanly disproportionate response to the Gaza fight for freedom is deemed anti-semitic, than I must confess. I am also anti-Nazi.
Gaza was free from occupation until Hamas seized control. Get with the program.
Simon, Please understand that it is Israel (with Egypt’s help on one border) that fences in Gazans into their prison. That throttles their ability to trade with the outside world to a trickle. That shoots at their farmers from border outposts when they try to till their fields. That harrasses and arrests their fishermen when they try to cast their nets. That fires 155mm artillery shells into one of the most densely populated areas on Earth in the name of “quiet”.
No. Don’t act surprised that Gazans would rather make Israel feel an infinitesimal fraction of their loss rather than submit to Israel’s bootheel. Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising would find themselves having much more in common with Gazans than they do with Israelis.
I applaud the statement by Holocaust survivors, and I support their call for a full boycott of Israel, not just a selective boycott as might have been appropriate prior to the current invasion and devastation of Gaza and “collective punishment” including mass murder. None of this can be regarded as incidental or “collateral” damage.
Part of the horror of the situation is that Israel is moving in a direction not unlike the road taken by Germany that led to the holocaust, as the survivors circulating this statement have recognized. There are too many parallels between the situation in Gaza and that of the Warsaw ghetto, lacking only death camps to complete the picture. Let us not allow it to come to that pass.
I respect Holocaust survivors, and I have a friend who is a most respectful man and he is a Zionist and supports Israel.
However, for persons denouncing Israel, its authorities and IDF I simply have no respect. They support what Israel’s enemies, Islamists, Hamas, PLO, Fatah and the PA are doing: they defame, demonize and delegitimize the only Jewish State of Israel.
The action of these people is inexcusable and outrageous.
While i applaud the intention of this ad, I wonder if misrepresentation of “Holocaust survivor” on the part of some signers degrades the validity and thus the total impact of the letter.
I speak of first-hand knowledge that at least one signer is not a survivor or descendent of survivor or victim, despite his representation that he is. It is true that various members of his extended family perished in the Holocaust, but the ad speaks specifically of survivors themselves, or direct descendents.
Is this an insignificant quibble, or should we take it seriously?
Facts don’t matter to the morally superior person. and there are many morally superior people about.
all the breast beating and kvetching isn’t necessary — all that needs to be said is that Israeli policy is ineffective and foolish.
Please do not hijack my intent. I happen to support any pressure which might lead to a just peace for the region, and i believe that this ad works to promote that.
But i do not think it is helpful for one of 40 signatories of a NYT ad to misrepresent himself as a son of a Holocaust survivor when he is not. This is counter-productive, and risks the integrity and thus the impact of the ad itself.
Now that my reply belatedly posted, i see that the comment to which i was referring has been removed. Alexander Sheiner took my original post, above, and turned it around into a diatribe against the ad. This is what I meant by “Do not hijack my intent”. It was not referring to DMS or Rosenberg, who now have their comments ahead of my second one in the thread. Please do not take it against your good comments.
The rest of my reply stands, of course.
Responding to NY Times
Last week, the New York Times published an ad from Holocaust survivors condemning Israel and attacking Elie Wiesel.
Forgetting, for a moment, the background of the people involved in this group, it is irresponsible, insensitive and reckless to use of the crime of the Holocaust in this way. How can one compare a nation’s right of defending their citizens with the systematic, targeted, wholesale murder of an innocent people? As it has been said many times, if the Palestinians would put down their weapons there would be peace, but if the Israelis put down their weapons then there would be wholesale slaughter. The people in Gaza elected Hamas so they are, at the least tacitly, behind the rocket attacks that precipitated this war. Secondly, to come out as a Holocaust survivor group and thus dilute the immense tragedy of that time with twisted moral equivalency, somehow comparing what happened to my innocent relatives who were demeaned, brutally abused, and annihilated with a legitimate dually elected government simply trying to protect its citizens is spurious at the least but really egregious. This is especially in light of the fact that it is taught in Palestinian schools that the Holocaust never happened and the supposed moderate leader Abbas has a Ph.D. in Holocaust denial.
Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg
The language of the letter’s text makes it clear that the signatories oppose much more than the Israeli bombings and shellings in the Gaza Strip; they oppose the very existence of the state of Israel, and they equate the killing of Palestinians in Gaza with the genocide of over 5 million Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. Examples of such language iclude “…the ongoing occupation and colonization of historical Palestine” and “…the ongoing grenocide of the Palestinian people…”
The main problem with the letter is it dishonest demeanor. If its signatories are anti-Zionist to begin with, they should at least be honest enough to say so in their text. Instead, we are hard-pressed to read between the lines of a shrill and blatantly one-sided narrative. Not one word of mention that Hamas spared no expense in constructing a vast and sophisticated complex of tunnels, the majority of which were used not for transportation of food, medications and other necessary supplies but for military purposes, all the while deliberately neglecting to construct shelters for the protection of Gaza’s civilians, exposing them to Israeli attacks that they (Hamas) not only knew were coming, but had even provoked.
While it is certainly troubling that a samll minority young Jewish religious extremists have turned lately to call for the killing of Arabs, there is no evidence that such misguided youth represent Israeli Jews as a whole and that Israel needs to address their conduct, but there is not a shred of evidence to support the outrageous notion that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews have any intention or desire of exterminating the Palestinian people, comparable with genocides like the Holocaust or those in, say, Rwanda or Darfur.
The hyperbolic language of the text strongly suggests that these 40 Holocaust survivors may themselves be in need of some lessons in moderation, or would they all prefer that Israel become a “one-state?” If the latter, they will need to come with a realistic scenario as to where the majority of the Jews should go that will not offend some other nationality – Antarctica, perhaps? One wonders how many of them are aware of the 1938 Evian Conference or the 1943 Bermuda Conference, or, for that matter, how many times Jews had been expelled from other countries after their exile from their ancient Middle Eastern homeland almost 2,000 years ago? The Israelis may not be perfect, but one has only to look at present-day Europe, Brazil, Venezuella, Iran et al to realize that without their own homeland, Jews would still be the bullied, persecuted and unprotected minority they were before 1933. The notion that the Arab population of Palestine would be happy to accomodate them in a democratic non-Jewish state is, to say the least, unrealistic.
So it turns out that God was right after all. He told you that getting a king, and thus becoming a state, was a bad idea (1 Samuel 8). Living by the words of Torah and the prophets (and Jesus) are not what kings do. The tragedy is that Jews everywhere will suffer because of Israel’s kingly frolic.
It is with great hope , and respect , for the 40 people and their relatives of the holocaust to finally make a stand against the willful slaughter of the innocent in Gaza , this will not go unnoticed when justice finally comes for the Palestinian people . The whole world is watching and are aware of how Israel is destroying the name of the Jew of Abraham and Isak .