Lula is right about Gaza

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By GLENN GREENWALD*

Who owns the memory of Nazism and the Second World War? The sentences handed down at Nuremberg cannot give any country, including Israel, a justification for its own actions

Since Lula evoked the Holocaust to denounce the destruction of Gaza for Israel, the mainstream Brazilian media came together, with rare exceptions, to condemn him. On Monday (19) night, journalist William Waack stated on CNN Brasil that Lula’s statement “offends Jews all over the world”.

Leaving aside the incongruity of seeing William Waack position himself as a watchdog against intolerance and an inspector of what can be said in public discourse, the question I ask is: based on what he positions himself as a spokesman for “Jews around the world ”?

It is true that Lula's statement infuriated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, which declared Lula “persona non grata” in Israel. But equating the Israeli government with “Jews around the world” is not only false, it is also anti-Semitism.

Like all groups, Jews are not a monolith. Anyone who, like me, grew up in a Jewish family and immersed in these traditions knows that the group is far from homogeneous. There are discussions and disagreements among Jews on the most diverse subjects, including the State of Israel, the inhumane treatment given to Palestinians and the abject immorality of the destruction of Gaza.

A month before the Hamas attack on October 7, the former head of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, Tamir Pardo – appointed by Benjamin Netanyahu – stated that Israel imposes “a form of apartheid on Palestinians”. Many Israeli leaders, including former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, they already said the same.

Brazilian Jewish journalist Breno Altman vin repeatedly comparing Israel's actions in Gaza to Nazism, to the point of being investigated by the Federal Police for expressing your vision. A group of Brazilian Jews, as reported by the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, issued a note to defend Lula's statements.

This week, Russian-Jewish writer Masha Gessen received the Award, the second most important award in US journalism, for your brilliant essay in the magazine The New Yorker titled “In the Shadow of the Holocaust”. In the text, Masha Gessen points out how the Holocaust is often evoked to silence criticism of Israel's war crimes.

Masha Gessen quotes the philosopher Hannah Arendt, a Jew who in 1948 compared extremist Zionist groups to the Nazi Party, both in their mentality and in their tactics – all less than three years after the end of the Second World War.

In the same year, Jewish physicist Albert Einstein and other important Jewish intellectuals published a letter comparing the operating methods of Menachem Begin, the Zionist terrorist who would later become Prime Minister of Israel, to those of the Nazis.

In her article, Masha Gessen documents how the most important post-war Jewish intellectuals insisted that the lessons of the Holocaust should be applied universally, and that no country or group, Zionists included, should refrain from absorbing this learning.

Masha Gessen then describes how, visiting Holocaust museums around the world, she remembered the suffering of the people of Gaza at the hands of Israel.

Knowing then about this enormous plurality within the Jewish community, how can we explain the intention of a person like William Waack, who, like the vast majority of the Brazilian media, feels entitled to speak on behalf of the Jews and to impose limits on discussions about the Holocaust? ? And the Jews who reject the dictates of the Netanyahus of the world, who will speak for us?

Equating the actions of the Israeli government with the entirety of the world's Jews is offensive. All polls show that the Israeli public has turned strongly against Benjamin Netanyahu and eagerly awaits to depose him. There are protests against him, led by Israeli Jews, every week. Many of the leaders most vocal in their denunciations that the war in Gaza is a genocide are Jews.

But there is still a much more important issue brought to light by the controversy: who owns the memory of Nazism and the Second World War? Is there anyone with the legitimacy to dictate how the Holocaust can be discussed, by whom, and with what political agenda? Are there specific countries whose actions are immune, for some reason, to comparisons with the worst abuses of World War II? If so, what is this immunity based on?

When World War II ended and the true extent of the Holocaust was revealed, the Allied countries, once victorious, decided not to immediately execute the Nazi leaders. Instead, a transparent legal process, known as the Nuremberg trials, took place.

The objective was to publicize and legitimize the verdict –, more than that, to show the world the evidence of the atrocities committed by the Nazis to, above all, establish the principles by which countries should be guided in the future.

The chief US attorney at the trial, Robert Jackson, emphasized in his initial statements that Nazi evil would be repeated in the future. “These Nazi prisoners represent a sinister influence that will continue in the world even after their bodies return to dust.”

Referring to sentences against specific Nazi criminals, Robert Jackson said: “If this trial is to be of any use in the future, it must also serve to condemn the aggression of other nations, including those here in the position of judge.”

The horrors of the Holocaust were not a lesson in the evil of the Germans or the vulnerability of the Jews. They were a lesson in human nature and our capacity for evil, and how sophisticated, educated societies can succumb to genocidal impulses. Therefore, the sentences handed down at Nuremberg cannot give any country, including Israel, a justification for its own actions. On the contrary: the crimes of the Holocaust cannot be repeated by any country, ever again.

The horrors of Israel's destruction of Gaza are now visible to all who want to see. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant promised at the beginning of the war: “We are imposing a total siege on Gaza. Not electricity, not food, not water, not fuel. Everything blocked.” The reason: “We are fighting animals and we act accordingly.”

Today we can see that this promise, as well as the idea that Palestinians are subhuman, was not a bluff. According to a UN report, of all the people in the world facing extreme hunger, 80% are in Gaza. This is an unparalleled humanitarian crisis, says the text. There are countless cases, uncontroversial and widely documented, of children on the verge of death from hunger.

At least 29 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began retaliating against the Hamas attacks on October 7: 70% are women and children. The destruction of civilian life in Gaza is worse than any war the world has seen in the XNUMXst century.

More bombs were dropped by Israel on Gaza, a small, densely populated territory, in the first week of the armed conflict (about 6.000) than were dropped annually by the US on Afghanistan from 2013 to 2018 (during that period, no year recorded more than 4.400 bombs), according to data from the Israeli Air Force and the US Air Force Center.

No one, not even Lula, is suggesting that the scale of the deaths in Gaza is comparable to the Holocaust. What many people are saying – including some of the world's most prominent Jewish intellectuals, such as Masha Gessen – is that the same principles of disregard for life and collective dehumanization that culminated in the Holocaust are also behind the destruction of Gaza.

*Glenn Greenwald is a journalist, writer, lawyer specializing in constitutional law in the United States, author, among other books, of No place to hide (First person).

Originally published in Supplement Illustrious from the newspaper Folha de S. Paul.


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