Netanyahu Exploits the Holocaust to Brutalize the Palestinians

Residents of the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddoum and their supporters participated at the weekly Friday demonstration against the Israeli occupation and the closing of the main road leading from the village towards Nablus, January 17, 2020. They were met with tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets.

JVL Introduction

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories.

Coming from him, the head of one of the most prestigious human-rights organisations round today, an accusation of abusing the memory of the Holocaust is not to be taken lightly.

Alas it is not an isolated event, but part of a clear pattern over recent years, as the related reports, linked to in various Haaretz articles (below), attest.

“[I]t remains in our hands” affirms an impassioned El-Ad, “to decide if the past’s painful lessons will be allowed to be turned on their head in order to further oppression – or remain loyal to a vision of freedom and dignity, justice and rights, for all.”

This article was originally published by Haaretz on Thu 23 Jan 2020. Read the original here.

Netanyahu Exploits the Holocaust to Brutalize the Palestinians

Netanyahu didn’t invent the idea of leveraging the Holocaust for political gain. Yet he is taking even that low to new depths, stripping Palestinians of basic human rights in the name of the survivors of the Holocaust

Benjamin Netanyahu did not invent the idea of leveraging the Holocaust for political gain. Yet, like so much else in current Israeli politics, he is taking even that low to new depths.

According to Haaretz, Israel’s prime minister intends to exploit the Fifth World Holocaust Forum – convening this week in Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz – to call on world leaders to publicly back Israel’s self-serving position that the International Criminal Court in The Hague has no jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Netanyahu began this exercise barely 48 hours after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced last month, after five years of preliminary examination, that she is ready to open an investigation  into potential war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza, pending an ICC judicial decision on jurisdiction.

Wasting no time, Netanyahu responded that “new edicts are being issued against the Jewish people – anti-Semitic edicts by the International Criminal Court.”

This cynical reframing is staggering, both intellectually and morally.

The Palestinians who live under Israel’s occupation are a people bereft of rights. For decades, their existence has been governed by the arbitrary whims of their occupiers. They cannot vote for the government that controls every aspect of their lives. They have no army to defend themselves. They do not control the borders of their own territory, or their ability to travel abroad, or even how long it will take them to get to the nearest Palestinian town – if even allowed to do so.

They also have no recourse to justice through Israel’s legal mechanisms. Israeli prosecutors and judges process Palestinians in the occupied territories through a “justice system” that delivers an almost 100 percent conviction rate. At the same time, this system works to ensure impunity for Israeli security forces who kill, abuse or torture them.

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·       Netanyahu calls to impose sanctions against International Criminal Court

For Palestinians, quite literally, the International Criminal Court is their court of last resort. Yet Netanyahu, backed by Israel’s entire political leadership, is trying to quash even this faint hope.

How dehumanizing, to insist on denying a people’s last recourse to even an uncertain, belated, modicum of justice. How degrading to do so while standing on the shoulders of Holocaust survivors, insisting that this is somehow being carried out in their name.

What a lack of historical memory and moral compass it must take to ignore the key lesson the world gleaned from the ashes of the 1940s: that no person should ever, under any circumstance, be left bare of rights, precisely because – as the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights tells us – “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind.”

Peter Dejong,AP

But Netanyahu goes even further, arguing that the very same ashes give rise to the opposite conclusion: that there is a people – the Palestinian people – who should remain bare of rights under all circumstance.

A bare life with neither land nor ballot, court nor justice. Where freedom of movement extends only as far as the nearest checkpoint. Where soldiers can enter any home, at any time. Where the only constant is how little control one has over one’s life.

Shame on you, Prime Minister Netanyahu. Shame, also, on any world leader who goes along with the travesty of equating a people’s attempt to achieve justice with anti-Semitism. Taking this cowardly position does not only betray the Palestinians’ hope for freedom and dignity. It joins in the slow death of the lessons that have guided humanity for the past 75 years and are now drowning in the rising authoritarian tide around the world.

This is not the world that humanity tried to build after World War II, after the Holocaust – but it is the world of Putin and Trump, Modi and Orbán, Netanyahu and Bolsonaro. Indeed, we are already living in their cowardly new world. Yet it remains in our hands to decide if the past’s painful lessons will be allowed to be turned on their head in order to further oppression – or remain loyal to a vision of freedom and dignity, justice and rights, for all.

Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of B’Tselem. Twitter: @HagaiElAd


Comments (5)

  • George Wilmers says:

    Benjamin Netanyahu must be envious of one thing in the UK: the stranglehold which supporters of the Israeli state have on the British mainstream media. For what is striking about the above article, and many even more powerful and graphic articles about the horrors perpetrated against Palestinians which appear in the Israeli liberal newspaper Ha’aretz, is that no UK corporate newspaper would dare to publish them.

  • JanP says:

    The IHRA must be challenged in court for a start.

  • Pauline Fraser says:

    I found Hagai El-Ad’s article profoundly moving. It exposes Netanyahu’s cynical hijacking of Holocaust Memorial Day and attempt to deflect the ICC’s prosecution of the Israeli Government of which Netanyahu is Prime Minister, for war crimes in Gaza. We must call on the UK Government to support the ICC.

  • Richard Hayward says:

    George Wilmer’s comment is very perceptive. Beyond the immediate issue of antisemitism itself, I think many of us will have been horrified at the sight as the veil of the UK’s ‘free’ media has been drawn back. The blanket control of the main public avenues of analysis and debate truly gives the lie to any meaningful concept of a liberal and democratic society.

  • Ruth Sharratt says:

    I read Netanyahu’s speech which he gave on Holocaust Day. He was clearly using the Holocaust to justify Israel’s existence and policies.
    (For a full transcript – see
    I want to quote just one sentence from his speech.
    “It (ie the Holocaust – my words) is the culmination of what can happen when our people have no voice, no land, no shield.”
    Apart from being completely wrong in his analysis of the causes of the Holocaust, his words are a chilling description of the current status of the Palestinian people.

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