There’s No Place for Ugly Words on Gaza

The withdrawal of Israeli settlements and settlers from the Gaza Strip will dominate the Jewish summer.

Now, you can think that’s a good idea or a bad one, be for it or against it. All that’s fine and in the best tradition of Judaism. What is not fine and what is desecrating Judaism is how some of those opposed to the disengagement are seeing it, what they are saying about it.

What we are seeing and hearing are allusions to the Nazis, to the Holocaust. Somehow, when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) compares treatment of soldiers at Guantanamo to the Nazis, Jews go nuts, find that outrageous.

And yet, too many Jews are using Nazi allusions, making Holocaust comparisons when describing the intention of the democratically elected government of Israel to do what it believes is in the best interest of the State of Israel — which is exactly what governments are elected to do.

It might be nice if all those Jewish right-wingers so desirous of seeing democracy come to Iraq would show some respect for democracy in Israel. But they do not. Even worse, much worse, they play the Nazi card in talking about the government of Israel.

It started when a large number of settlers in Gaza and the West Bank began wearing orange stars, reminiscent of the yellow stars the Nazis forced the Jews of Eastern Europe to wear during the Holocaust — orange stars being worn in the State of Israel to make a point about the action of the government of Israel.

Seeing Nazi behavior in the disengagement is not only as nuts as seeing anti-Semitism in the shuttle disasters, but is far more obscene, way beyond the pale.

The Holocaust is a sacred memory in the life of the Jewish people. Six million of our people, babies and grandfathers, whole families, whole towns were systematically murdered in the most barbaric of ways, in an atrocity unique in human history.

And so for Jews to wheel it out to make some political point about a political decision of an Israeli government is to act in as shameful a way as a Jew can act.

After a while, even the settlers recognized that, and so they stopped wearing the orange star. Which seemed to signal that they had learned something.

But evidently not. For just this past week, several Gaza settlers wrote their Israeli identification number on their arms in an attempt to evoke the memory of the tattoos the Nazis put on the arms of Jews in the concentration camps. How disgusting. What a desecration of the memory of the 6 million.

How can Jews in 2005, living in the State of Israel, dare to compare the decision by the Israeli government to leave Gaza to the decision by the Nazi government to identify every single Jew for the purpose of murdering every Jewish man, woman and child in Europe?

Nothing, nothing, shows how lost we are as a people, how far we have fallen, than this.

That so many Jews put on the orange star, while tattooing their arms is bad enough. Even worse is how many Jews, how many American Jews support that.

And how many American Jews are using ugly words? One press release that just crossed my desk comes from a group sponsoring a prayer vigil against the Gaza disengagement. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong, what is disgraceful, is that in describing what they are opposing they say it is “Sharon’s edict of deporting Jews from Gaza.”

Edict. Deporting. Words that are loaded with the weight of Jewish history, Jewish suffering. Words that have no place in the debate over Gaza.

Sharon is not issuing an edict. He was elected by the people to be prime minister. He has put the Gaza issue to a vote several times before his Cabinet, and each time the Cabinet has authorized the pullout. He has then put the issue several times before Israel’s democratically elected parliament, the Knesset, and it, too, has voted for the pullout each and every time. This is a democratic decision made by a democratically elected government.

And no one is being deported. The government of Israel has made a decision as to what is in the best interest of the people and the State of Israel. A decision as to what would best ensure the security and improve the future of the state and people of Israel. And that decision involves having some people move.

That is no different than the concept of eminent domain in this country, where a city or state can require that the people of a neighborhood move so that an airport or a new highway or such can be built for the greater good of all.

While such decisions always involve some personal discomfort for some, they are routinely made. No one says those who had to move so that the new ballpark could be built were “deported.” And none of the settlers in Gaza are being deported.

The press release from this group also notes that “Jewish people have never been expelled from Israel since the modern state was created in 1948.”

Oh, where to begin. For starters — and this is also directed to those who mindlessly babble the mantra, “Jews do not evict Jews,” — ever hear of the evacuation of Sinai after the peace with Egypt?

But such ignorance pales in comparison with the ugliness of using the word “expelled.” And never mind, of course, that no one is being expelled from Israel. The use of such ignorant arguments, and of such inflammatory and despicable language, shows just how weak the case is of those who oppose the pullout.

The next month will be a key one in the life of the Jewish people and in the democracy of the State of Israel. Which is why pullout opponents must immediately stop using such symbols as stars and tattoos and such pornographic terms as edict and deportation and ghetto and expulsion when discussing the disengagement from Gaza.

And why senior rabbis in the State of Israel must immediately stop urging Israeli soldiers to disobey orders, and why they must immediately stop making speeches full of halachic references that strongly imply it would be a mitzvah to assassinate the prime minister of Israel.

Two things that have always been unifying forces for the Jewish people have been holding sacred the memory of the Holocaust and respecting the nonpolitical role of the Israeli army.

By doing what they are doing, saying what they are saying, too many opposed to the Gaza pullout are recklessly endangering those unifying values, and in so doing are endangering the Jewish people.

Joseph Aaron is the editor of the Chicago Jewish News.