RSS Feeds
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,    but because of the people who don't do anything about it    
Occupation magazine - Commentary

Home page  back Print  Send To friend

Red Rag Column: The death-cult
By: Gideon Spiro
12 April 2013

The death-cult

These lines are being written at the height of Death Week. We have just
finished the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies, and in a few days we will
have Remembrance Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers. [1]

Holocaust Remembrance Day moves me and irritates me. I am irritated by the
speeches of the Prime Minister and the President of the State, who press that
historical event into the service of their squalid political objectives. Yet
again they intone the mantra about destruction from Iran, and immediately add
that unlike during the Holocaust, now we have an army. And once more: we have
an army, and yet again: an army; and we will defend ourselves. And they hint
that if “the world” (which of course means the United States) does not act, we
will (again) “defend ourselves” because we have a “magnificent army”. Then
comes the dark warning that “in every generation they rise against us to
destroy us”, but this time we have – wait for it – an army. And so on. Israel
is really pushing the US to war, and as that superpower, which has been badly
burnt by wars that it has waged and continues to wage, tries to soothe Israel
with the mantra “all the options are on the table”, it is really begging
Israel to give diplomacy a chance. And the antisemites? They rejoice as they
watch the tail wag the dog.

What is missing to me in the series of ceremonies that take place on this day
is the universal dimension. A visitor from another planet attending the
Holocaust Day ceremonies in Israel would think that the Nazis murdered only
Jews – that the war against the Jews is the sum total of the story of Nazi
Germany. But that is a crude distortion of history. If Nazi Germany had
concentrated only on the war on the Jews, then we must assume that the Second
World War would not have broken out, and the invasions of Poland,
Czechoslovakia, Russia, Scandinavia, Yugoslavia and Africa would not have
happened. Just for the sake of its hatred of the Jews Germany would not have
endangered itself by taking on the whole world. It is important to emphasize
that the Nazis were first and foremost the enemies of humanity. Their racial
doctrines were combined with imperial aspirations that transcended the Jewish
issue. The Thousand-Year Reich was supposed to rule over a Europe without Jews
and without Roma, without Blacks, Communist, socialists, liberals, homosexuals
and the mentally retarded.

In other words, the Jewish Holocaust is distinct but not unique among the
crimes of the Nazi regime. Therefore it is important to incorporate the
universal aspect into the observation of Holocaust Day. But that is precisely
that the custodians of the memory of the Holocaust in Israel seek to prevent.
The universal lessons from the Holocaust are first and foremost that we must
protect human rights, democracy and the rights of minorities; that we must aid
refugees and struggle against racism. But in today’s colonial Israel, where
racism and arrogance towards Blacks and Arabs are triumphant, those are all
dirty words.

Israel has raised a generation that is ignorant about everything connected to
the Second World War. The Holocaust has turned into trips to Poland to march
at Auschwitz. The Army pulls soldiers out of their duties of oppression in the
service of the Occupation and sends them as IDF delegations to the death-
camps, whence they return full of motivation to continue the work of
preserving the Occupation and apartheid in the Occupied Territories.

It is the same at the secondary schools. Encouraged by the Education Ministry,
they send youths who are about to graduate and join the army to Auschwitz,
where they are brainwashed that the most important lesson is the importance of
the Jewish army, and they return full of motivation to join the army. Most
ironically, the Auschwitz camp has become an effective propaganda instrument
for promoting the prestige of the army and for the justification of Israeli
racism by those in charge of education in Israel. This year IDF Chief of Staff
Benny Gantz had the leading role in the “Auschwitz for the Army” show. The
absurdity in the Auschwitz procession reached such a point this year that Bank
Leumi sent a group of its employees to Auschwitz, where they were shown
television displaying signs adorned with the Bank’s logo. Thus has Auschwitz
become a platform for commercial advertising for a bank that has refused to
transfer the money of Holocaust victims to their heirs.

I am also irritated by the military unit that stands on the stage at the main
ceremony at the Yad Vashem plaza, for they are soldiers who were taken from
their duties of occupation and oppression, and after the ceremony they will
return to their brutal duties. The participation of paratroopers in the
ceremony is a reminder that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been

I am also irritated at all the talking in the name of the six million, none of
whom can reply. In the The “El male rachamim” (“God full of compassion”)
prayer, which was composed especially to commemorate those who perished in the
Holocaust, is a moving text up to the point where it says “they departed from
this world in sanctification of God” and “God is their legacy”. This is how
religion takes control of life in Israel. The secular Jews were not murdered
in sanctification of God, and the million Jewish children were not murdered in
the sanctification of God; that is not their legacy, for they had not yet
formed their outlooks on the world.

Human beings were murdered on the altar of a demented racist ideology, whether
they were Jews or Roma, and it is regrettable that God is being put into the
picture here, for if He exists, He was silent, just like His terrestial
deputy, the Pope. Why do they have to put religion into a ceremony that is
essentially secular? And besides, if those six million lived in Israel, a
substantial percentage of them would not be recognized as Jews, whether
because they were married to non-Jews or because only their fathers, and not
their mothers, were Jewish, and they would be buried in separate burial-
grounds, as is shamefully happening today to soldiers whose Jewishness has
been cast in doubt by the Rabbinate. And if they’re going to involve the Chief
Rabbis, the Ashkenazi one reading a passage from the Book of Psalms and the
Sephardi one reading the Kaddish (the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead),
it would only be fair to invite a priest to the ceremony to say a prayer in
memory of all the Jews whose Jewishness has been found to be lacking by the
busybodies in the rabbinical courts. It irritates me that at a secular
ceremony conducted in the open air, secular men wear kippot on their heads, as
if they were in a synagogue.

And while the leaders of the State pretentiously speak in the name of the
dead, Israel is revealed in all its ugliness by its treatment of the Holocaust
survivors who are still with us. Over a third of the remaining Holocaust
survivors are living in poverty. The State of Israel, which has received
mountains of money in their name, is a tightwad when it comes to their needs.
Every year at the main ceremony the Prime Minister promises to fulfil previous
commitments to the welfare of the survivors, and those words are forgotten
within days. Poverty and deprivation continue to afflict them. One really gets
the impression that the government is waiting for the last of the survivors to
die; then they can intone all those pious words without any need to do

On Holocaust Day, everyone comes together with the members of their families
who were murdered, and that is done in my home as well. My partner’s family
and some of my family were murdered in the Holocaust. But unlike the vast
majority of Israeli Jews, I also give a thought to another victim of the
Holocaust – the Palestinian people: indirect victims of the Holocaust. There
is no doubt in my mind that the Holocaust and thousands of Jewish refugees in
Displaced Persons’ camps in Germany, many of whom yearned for Palestine,
provided the decisive impetus for the passage of the United Nations Partition
Resolution of 1947. The Arabs, who were a massive majority in the country, saw
how their country changed after Jewish immigration. Their opposition to this
demographic change, which changed the character of the place, was natural, no
less than is that of the residents of Ramat Aviv, a middle-class secular
neighbourhood, who are staging demonstrations against the attempt by Chabad
Hassidim to change the character of their neighbourhood by opening free
kindergartens and mounting an “invasion” of rental apartments by Chabad

If not for the Holocaust, most of the Jews of Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia,
Romania and Hungary would have stayed in their countries, as do most US Jews
today. Zionist immigration to this country would not have exceeded the trickle
of the early 20th century, the State of Israel would not have been born in
1948 and Moroccan Jewry would not have been transplanted here either. The
Nakba would not have happened. The Holocaust created a tragedy within a
tragedy and no solution is visible on the horizon.

On Holocaust Day, the tears flow like water. The personal stories of the
survivors are translated into a growing number of films, and I too cannot stop
my tears. The aspiration for a national home for the Jewish people is an
understandable one in the era of nation-states. The misfortune is that this
right conflicts with the rights of those who have been living in this land
since before our arrival.

I am continuing to throw digital stones, as I promised in my last column. This
time, at the Yad Vashem Institute, the management of which has remained silent
in the face of 46 years of Occupation.

Sixty-five years of independence

On the eve of the 65th Independence Day we commemorate Memorial Day for the
victims of Israel’s wars. Memorial Day and Independence Day are observed on
two consecutive days. In the morning we are sad; in the evening we are happy.
Some people want to separate the two days, but the tradition that has been
created is being preserved this year as well. On Memorial Day, ceremonies of
remembrance are conducted in military cemeteries all over Israel. Ministers
and senior army officers fan out to the cemeteries and give speeches full of
pathos, and in the cases of some of them whom I know personally, I can say
with certainty that they don’t believe a word that comes out of their mouths.
“By their deaths they have commanded us to live” and “Here are buried the best
of our youth” and “The IDF will continue to defend Israel against those who
seek to destroy it”, and of course it wouldn’t do at all without the Iranian
Threat and other such words that are repeated every year, which are an echo of
the words that were uttered a week before on Holocaust Memorial Day.

What is not said at these ceremonies is the truth that is lurking shamefacedly
in a corner. And that truth is that a big percentage, maybe the majority, of
those buried in the military cemeteries sacrificed their lives not for the
security of Israel but fell victim to policies of military adventurism
embraced by various Israeli governments.

The reprisal actions of the 1950s were at least in part provocations by
Israel; in the 1956 Sinai War Israel served as a vehicle for the advancement
of the imperial aspirations of Britain and France, two fading powers; in the
June 1967 war, counter to the myth, Israel was not in danger of destruction,
and we are still eating the bitter fruits of that war to this day. The Yom
Kippur War broke out in consequence of the Israeli government’s refusal to
respond to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s peace overtures; the misguided war
Israel launched in Lebanon in 1982 was to implement the megalomaniacal project
of installing a president who would be an Israeli puppet. That fiasco
reverberates to this day, and the price is paid in military cemeteries; the
Israeli insistence on keeping the Occupied Territories and on wallowing in the
war-crime of the settlements and ruling over millions of Palestinians are at
the base of the War of the Territories that has been ongoing in waves for 46
years now and which has cost the lives of thousands of Israelis who are
called, in the sanitized language of the Occupation, “victims of Palestinian
terror”. I prefer the term “victims of the Palestinian resistance”, the
methods of which are sometimes so reprehensible you’d think they had learned
them from the Irgun, which in the 1930s and 1940s threw bombs into crowded
cafes and teeming markets. The authors of those actions are today recognized
in Israel as “the fighters of the Irgun”, immortalized in museums. Not as
saboteurs or terrorists.

On Remembrance Day, when the siren sounds for two minutes and all the House of
Israel stand at attention and bow their heads in memory of the fallen, I too
will bow my head in their memory; but also in memory of the thousands of
Palestinians who have fallen victim to the terror of the Israeli Occupation.

It all starts in kindergarten

A friend has drawn my attention to a phenomenon that was bothering him. His 5-
year-old daughter goes to kindergarten and the parents have received a letter
for the Independence Day party. Among other things, the letter says:
“On this day, the children should come dressed in a white shirt (or a white
dress). The children do not have to bring lunch, because we will serve falafel
in class. We need two volunteers to bake cakes for this occasion. Please let
us know by e-mail. In honour of our soldiers from the Nahshon Battalion, we
ask each child to prepare a package for a soldier. The package can contain
such items as a toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, deodorant, snack-food or any
other such items as may occur to you. In addition, please include in the
package a letter or drawing from your child. You can also add a telephone
number, because sometimes the soldiers call to give thanks personally.”

They’re already brainwashing our children at age 5 on everything related to
the army. This is how they plant the seeds of the catastrophic continuum at
the end of which stand the Feiglins and The King’s Torah [2] Our duty,
as seekers of peace, defenders of human rights and opponents of the
Occupation, is to spare no effort to cut this line of continuity, so that
military refusers will appear in the place of soldiers of the Occupation –
refusers like the 19-year-old Natan Blanc, who has now been sitting in a
military prison for over 100 days because he is unwilling to take part in the
crimes of the Occupation. Who is the real hero? The one who refuses to be a
war-criminal. Imagine how different history would have been if there had been
a million military refusers in Germany, and tens of thousands in Israel, who
said to their governments: “We will not participate, or lend our names to
this.” The trouble is that here as there, the decisive majority of youths
stream blindly and willingly into the army, where they are kneaded into shape
until they become desensitized and cruel obeyers of orders. My message to the
parents of children in kindergarten is this: Don’t send them with gifts for
soldiers; for they are learning to kill, and we want our children to live.

The refuge of the scoundrel

I sent the following letter to the CEO of Bank Hapoalim:

To Zion Kenan, CEO, Bank Hapoalim
50 Rothschild Avenue, Tel Aviv
11 April 2013

This morning I received with the Haaretz newspaper a plastic bag
containing an Israeli flag to which advertising for the bank was affixed,
along with a flyer indicating that the flag was a gift from Bank Hapoalim to
the citizens of Israel. The bank informs us that “to us, the flag represents
the brotherhood and unity that characterize the House of Israel” and invites
us, the citizenry who are being extorted by a flood of banking fees and
interest charges, to display the flag.

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. And you are huge and
hypocritical scoundrels, who rob the public with fees for everything, you pay
no interest on customers’ positive bank balances, but you skin the customers
with interest charges on loans and bank accounts in overdraft. You are
insulting the public if you think that from the lofty heights of your office
towers and the extortionate salaries of the bank management you can soothe our
anger by handing out miserable flags which come out of your advertising
budget, and the expenses for which are almost certainly deducted from your

Instead of wasting money on flags, cut your massive incomes and lower banking
fees and interest charges. In view of the scandalous gap between rich and poor
in Israel along with the ongoing Occupation and oppression of the Palestinian
people in the Occupied Territories, your presumptuous talk about `brotherhood
and unity` in Israel is rubbing salt into our wounds. What kind of brotherhood
and unity can there be between the owner of the bank, the billionaire Shari
Arison and the clique who earn millions of shekels per month on the one hand,
and employees of employment agencies who earn minimum wage on the other? What
kind of unity is there between opponents of the Occupation and its supporters?
Where do you find brotherhood between racists and facists and defenders of
human rights?

This flag does not absolve you for your sins. I am returning it to you, folded
into four parts so you cannot re-use it, because it is unsuitable for use.

Gideon Spiro

Translator’s notes

1. In 2013 Israel observed Holocaust Day - officially called Holocaust and
Heroism Remembrance Day - on 8 April, and Remembrance day for Israel`s fallen
- officially called Remembrence Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Hostile
Actions - was observed on 15 April, the day before Independence Day on 16

2. Moshe Feiglin is the leader of an extremist faction within Israel’s right-
wing Likud party. The King’s Torah is a book published in 2009 by
Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur that caused a great deal of
controversy and anger because it discussed the circumstances under which Jews
could kill Gentiles – including children.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent


Links to the latest articles in this section

The US and nuclear programs in the Middle East
How can Israel, Palestine return to a two-state solution?
A matter of concrete debate