• 14 Jul, 2024

On the "Shoah" and the "banality of evil" in Gaza

After the war, Israel slowly but surely normalized genocidal violence against Palestinians.

By Haidar Eid
Haidar Eid is an associate professor at Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip.

"The reality of concentration camps is no different from medieval images of hell." - Hannah Arendt

In February 2008, then-Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai threatened a "holocaust" for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. "They will bring a great Shoah on their own because we will do our best to defend ourselves," he said in an interview with an Israeli military radio station, using the Hebrew word for Holocaust. Today, this statement is important to remember. That's because activists and pundits are being disciplined for comparing the current situation in Gaza to what European Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis last century.

The word "Shoach" is never used in Israel except in discussions of the Nazi genocide of the Jews during World War II. Many Israelis, especially Zionists, have serious problems with people using the word to describe other genocides.

However, the deputy minister decided to threaten the Palestinians with "shochi". It's clear he knew what he was talking about and didn't mince his words.

In December 2008, 10 months after the Bilnai talks, Israeli occupation forces launched a massive 22-day military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Israel suffered more than 1,400 deaths in the attack, many of them children and women.

At that time no one mentioned the forbidden word. No one dared to compare the so-called military operation "The Castle" with the "Shoah".

The so-called "international community" has done nothing to protect Palestinian civilians. Refusing to protect innocent civilians fleeing the slaughter of the monstrous Nazi regime, they sat idly by in the late 1930s as if nothing had happened.

Nazi war criminals relied on the support of ordinary Germans and the indifference of the "international community" to operate with impunity for long periods, promoting what the late philosopher Hannah Arendt called "the simplicity of evil." This made it convenient for the Nazis to repeat the same crimes over and over again. What the Nazi officers did seemed "appallingly normal". Arendt described the actions of Nazi officials as committing crimes "under circumstances in which they couldn't know or feel that they had done wrong." The Nazis killed and did not repent. Today we will explain this as the normalization of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In Palestine, we are now witnessing the normalization of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and apartheid. In 2008, the siege and massacre of Palestinians in concentration camps in the Gaza Strip became "normal" because the United Nations, the Security Council, the European Union, and the Arab and Muslim world did not take Israel's apartheid genocide seriously. Or, as Arendt said, "banality."

As a result, it has been easy for Israel to repeat the massacres of 2012, 2014, 2021, and today, 2023, while maintaining the closed, medieval siege imposed in 2006. Mass killings of civilians and connection to electricity, food, water, medicine, internet, communications, and other essential goods and services have become "normal". After all, the Palestinians in Gaza are—frankly, as Israel's current Defense Minister Yoav Gallant puts it—“human animals,” and their deaths are not to be deplored. Israel was aided by Western colonies in normalizing genocidal violence. This is not surprising, considering that Western countries are waging war all over the world, from Asia to Africa and Latin America, destroying indigenous cultures and civilizations. These countries committed heinous crimes as part of the white man's "civilizing mission".

And in the Arab countries, they pursued their imperialist project with two goals. First, to protect Western interests and to curb rising nationalist sentiment through the protection of oil fields. Second, let's manage the rampant guilt complex for the worst pogrom of the 20th century: the Shoah. This is why "Shoachi" is allowed in Gaza. The emaciated Palestinians in Gaza do not burden the liberal conscience of the West, and the "minor" killings of 21,000 Palestinians by genocidal forces do not threaten Western interests in the Arab world. This is why the UN Security Council has not implemented a total ceasefire in Gaza.

So are we to understand that Israel's genocide in Gaza is acceptable, i.e. "normal" in the West? Does the UN Security Council not now see a full ceasefire as urgent? Is the UN Security Council just an extension of the US State Department? Unfortunately, the answer to all of these questions is yes.

The fact that we face the reality of genocide today does not mean that there is no possibility of another world order, like the United Nations, where all voices are equal. Millions of people took to the streets in pro-Palestinian protests in the US, UK, France, South Africa, Spain, Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, Jordan, Spain, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and other countries. The conscious decisions of the governments of Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and South Africa show that the world wants to be different and that it can be different.

It is not difficult to imagine a near future where equality and human rights for all people are truly respected, regardless of race, religion, gender or ethnicity. During one of the darkest periods in human history, the German poet Bertolt Brecht said:

in the dark

Are there songs?

Yes, there is a song. About dark times.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the editorial position of Voice of Urdu.