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When Is a Shoah not a Shoah?

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It must depend on who is using the word. A war of words would of course be preferable to what is going on in the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. Now there is the threat of a Shoah against those in Gaza for the firing of rockets into Israel on a more consistent basis, they say, than in the past. What this means is that Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, has used this word but then his spokesperson in trying to clarify the issue said that Vilnai just meant that the Palestinians were going to bring a disaster upon themselves (as reported in The Guardian over the weekend).


Do you find all of this as hard to take as I do?


I read about what is going on in Israel and the situation begins to look like a very long boil that never burns off any of the noxious fumes but seems to increase them. Visually you can picture this as some kind of burbling pot where the foam that rises brings the violent ones to the surface and the more moderate ones remain at the bottom of the pot and receive whatever misfortunes trickle down from the bomb throwing ones who flourish at the top of the pot.


Where are the voices of our government? I know that Robert Gates told the Turks last week that they had to end their incursion into northern Iraq. But where is he now while the military in Israel is promising the Palestinians the new Shoah? Where is our peacemaking president who had sworn to make a peace deal before the end of his term in office? What do we know of his efforts at this moment to try and stave off the latest announced incursion by the Israeli military into the Gaza Strip to further decimate a group of people who are being destroyed daily even if no military force were being used against them? We now know that the Secretary of State will make an appearance there but it seems that there are others in the region doing more than we in the US, despite our promises, intend to do.


Do you recall that Israel last month cut off all electric power to Gaza? This is in clear violation of international law. Where was the outrage from this government, from these candidates running for office, from the American Jewish community, from the international world? When the Gazans broke through the border into Egypt to buy the necessities of life, where were you, where was I?


We say so often, never again, we, the Jews who were destroyed in gas ovens and treated like dogs, but we sit still, don’t we, and we try to use some kind of Clintonian logic to figure out the best way to solve this 60-year-old problem, rather than learning what Solomon tried to teach us about fairness. We seem to have no further need of Solomon, not in Israel and not here in the United States.


We just like the banners, the slogans and the self-righteous way it makes us feel. We can send letters, sign petitions or even make a donation. But the real physical exertion of boycotting things and refusing to participate in the wasteful military use of our minds and our creativity, that doesn’t seem to find its expression.


Last night at dinner, my partner, Suzanne, said she had been thinking. This is her way of announcing that something important is on her mind and needs to be said immediately. She had been noticing, she said, how much money was taken out of her paycheck every payday that went to the Federal government. Not being good at math, she knew not to try to figure out the exact amount but she knew it was large. It made her sad because she knew that it was going towards the killing of people in Iraq. (And of course, that same military budget helps to arm the Israeli Army as well.) She was not going to be a Thoreau and refuse to pay her taxes but she felt that she had not been duly consulted over these expenditures and she wanted to have a voice in it. Today we learn that it is going to cost each American family $50,000 for the war in Iraq.


I listened and remembered when I had suggested a year ago that we not pay our taxes due to the war and the escalating costs but I said nothing and did nothing.


Now we are still in that same conundrum. What do we do? And what do we do when the men and one woman running for president don’t speak up right now to say what they think of this announcement. What are we to do when Israel announces that they are about to present the people of Gaza with a Shoah?


Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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Deborah Emin is the founder of the publishing company, Sullivan Street Press (www.sullivanstreetpress.com). She is also the impressario of the Itinerant Book Show as well as the program director of the REZ Reading Series in Kew Gardens, NY. Her (more...)
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