Gaza is a concentration camp, and it’s an American delusion not to recognize that — Weschler

Israel/Palestine
on 33 Comments
Lawrence Weschler

Lawrence Weschler, by David Shankbone

Lawrence Weschler, a writer of considerable mainstream prestige, is sick of prevaricating about Israel. It’s rabid. It has rabies. And Gaza is a concentration camp. Weschler has let loose chiefly because of the “remorseless” and “repetitively compulsive” aspect of Israeli violence. I believe that understanding is now widely shared in the liberal mainstream, and interventions like Weschler’s make it easier for others to speak up. From Truthdig:

I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I’d put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures—which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning’s four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?

For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis (and here I am speaking of the vast majority of the population who somehow go along with the antics of their leaders, year after year) manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp.

Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” I am not comparing Gaza to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but one cannot help but liken the conditions today in Gaza to the sorts of conditions once faced by Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the Boers in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War, or the black South Africans years later in such besieged townships as Soweto, or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.

And it is quite simply massively self-serving delusion that Israelis (and their enablers and abettors here in America, among whom incidentally I count a steadily declining number of American Jews) refuse to recognize that fact.

Weschler goes on to say that support for Israel is strongest in the U.S. among evangelicals. This is a standard dodge, employed by liberals, to avoid the hard reflective work of considering the power of the reactionary Jewish establishment. Does Obama care a fig about evangelicals when it comes to gay marriage or abortion? No. But here there is a unity of interest, and the power is in the Jewish establishment. Israel calls on Jews to recognize what Avram Burg said a few years back at the NY Public Library, that Jews created two structures in the wake of the Holocaust, a Jewish state and an American Jewish leadership.

For me Zionism was the scaffolding… that was supposed to help the Jewish people to rebuild, to restruct [sic] itself from an exilic reality to sovereignty. And the structure went on and on and on and on, and and now 150 and 100 and some years later, when you look around the Jewish existential reality, you realize that actually the Jewish people built two structures. One is the semi-autonomous American Jewry, which was not here 150 years ago– powerful influence, access to the corridors of power, impact on the culture, and civilization… plus the infrastructure of the community of solidarity and fraternity and support system and education etc and also the sovereignty over there in the Middle East.

Thanks to Ed Moloney.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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33 Responses

  1. LuLu
    July 19, 2014, 11:52 am

    Zionism discusses me, I will never, EVER compare Zionist with Jews or Judaism beliefs.. It is impossible.. As I told my brother last night while eating Iftar. Zionist do not fear God, nor do they really care about their fellow Jews, if anyone goes against their beliefs system even a Jew, they too will be prosecuted and violated in anyway they can get targeted.. Zionist put many evil people who are in history who committed similar acts to shame when it comes to their evil. I feel really sorry for the innocent Jews living in Israel under this dictatorship of the evil Zionist… When God unleashes His punishment, it is the people under the dictators who are the victims because of its leaders. Jews should form a NEW Party.. called Taking back our name, or not in our name, and I do not think any Palestinian would really care if they ran the entire region of Palestine or Israel, as long as they are God fearing Jews who know the difference between right and wrong and do not harm to others..
    I told my brother, the Zionist are no different to skin heads who scream white power, they are ruthless and have no sense of reality when it comes to other human beings that are not like them.. shameful…

    • Marnie
      July 19, 2014, 1:00 pm

      LuLu “I told my brother, the Zionist are no different to skin heads who scream white power, they are ruthless and have no sense of reality when it comes to other human beings that are not like them.. shameful”

      Completely agree.

      Meanwhile, local news in Israel eulogizing the 2 israeli soldiers “killed by Hamas.” It rings a bit hollow compared to the 300+ Palestinians murdered.

      • LuLu
        July 19, 2014, 5:22 pm

        Marnie, evil and ruthless people never last.. Look at history. Military power does not mean ANYTHING, when God starts sending his wrath and punishment. People who report one sided bias media on the Gaza genocide are not really journalist, rather prostitutes for Zionism propaganda. It mind boggles me how people no longer have a self conscious..

  2. Henry Norr
    July 19, 2014, 12:03 pm

    Too bad Weschler no longer works at the New Yorker – this piece would carry much more weight if published there than at (with all due respect) truth dig.com. Of course, if he were still at the New Yorker, they wouldn’t publish it anyway…

    I was a fan of his work on Poland in the 1980s, so I’m glad to see him speaking out about Palestine – for the first time I know of. And most of what he writes is much sharper than the usual liberal BS. But in addition to the point Phil raises about him dodging the role of the Jewish establishment, I also object to his final paragraph, which says the conflict is part of a “primordial, atavistic blood feud.” He’s trying to sound progressive by saying you can’t apply that kind of framework just to other far-away conflicts (Shia/Sunni, Serb/Bosnian, Tutsi/Hutu), but I don’t think it’s a useful framework for understanding any of those issues – in all cases, it’s a way of avoiding the concrete analysis of concrete conditions.

  3. can of worms
    July 19, 2014, 12:25 pm

    “Gaza is a concentration camp and it’s an American delusion not to recognize that”.

    –What did they think it is? You think they were really deluded? –Also, is it only Gaza that’s a concentration camp? And what did you suppose West Bank and Jerusalem are? “Lesser concentration camps”? “Lite concentration camps”?

    Street level: Out my window I can see my neighbors here relaxing in their backyard.

    • Marnie
      July 20, 2014, 12:28 am

      Gaza is Auschwitz, the WB and Jerusalem are Theresienstadt.

    • can of worms
      July 21, 2014, 2:59 am

      No, but: “Any colony tends to become one vast farmyard, one vast concentration camp where the only law is that of the knife” –Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

    • Vacy
      July 23, 2016, 6:40 pm

      ” Note, incidentally, I say “concentration camp” and not “death camp.” . Gaza was definitely a death camp during Operation Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge.

  4. Sumud
    July 19, 2014, 12:30 pm

    I have used the term “concentration camp” in the past, but not so often. In the last few weeks, watching Gaza and Israel closely, I have adopted it.

    ‘Largest open air prison in the world’ just does not cut it. That phrase doesn’t even begin to capture the toll the nearly-decade long siege has taken on the population in Gaza. And it does not account for dismissive and even gleeful reactions among many Israelis when they hear of another kill by the IDF.

    From the Oxford Dictionary [my emphasis]:

    concentration camp
    NOUN

    A place in which large numbers of people, especially political prisoners or members of persecuted minorities, are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labour or to await mass execution. The term is most strongly associated with the several hundred camps established by the Nazis in Germany and occupied Europe 1933–45, among the most infamous being Dachau, Belsen, and Auschwitz

    Who will tell me that doesn’t apply?

    Concentration camp is such a loaded term that even the Oxford Dictionary can’t help but mention the nazi camps. And it is this association, when Gaza is described as a concentration camp, that irritates zionists. It reminds them of past suffering and it unequivocally, vividly, answers the question that we have all asked “how was it ever possible that the holocaust happened?”

    • Elisabeth
      July 19, 2014, 2:36 pm

      ….. and it unequivocally, vividly, answers the question that we have all asked “how was it ever possible that the holocaust happened?”

      Wow, you nailed it there. That is such an important aspect of the comparison, and I never realized it, or thought of it in that way before.

  5. tommy
    July 19, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Israeli nationalism has made the world a ghetto for Palestinians.

  6. just
    July 19, 2014, 12:49 pm

    “there is plenty of blame to go around”

    That phrase should be attacked and destroyed with regard to P/I.

    So should the idea that WMD armed Israel is somehow entitled to security while the Palestinians in the OPT are not.

    And, yes, it is a Concentration Camp today and for a very long time. And the US does nothing but support, arm, and pay the villainous, war criminal, apartheid Israel.

  7. MahaneYehude1
    July 19, 2014, 1:06 pm

    A concentration camp with about 10,000 missiles, many of them long-range missiles, with a network of tunnels, each is built from 600,000 tons of cement. A concentration camp that has armed drones and an army of several thousand soldiers. A concentration camp controlled by an organization who do not care its own citizens…

    …No, I am not speaking about Buchenwald nor about Bergen-Belsen.

    • Talkback
      July 19, 2014, 6:59 pm

      MahaneYehude1 says:
      A concentration camp with about 10,000 missiles, many of them long-range missiles, with a network of tunnels, each is built from 600,000 tons of cement. A concentration camp that has armed drones and an army of several thousand soldiers. A concentration camp controlled by an organization who do not care its own citizens…

      …No, I am not speaking about Buchenwald nor about Bergen-Belsen.

      Damn, why can’t these Gazan inmates just be passive, right? It would be so much easier to just go in and kidnap and torture their children. Instead you have to kill them.

      • tear-stained uzi
        July 19, 2014, 9:55 pm

        The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    • Qualtrough
      July 20, 2014, 1:32 am

      So, you would have sided with the Nazis should history have been otherwise and the inmates of Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen had somehow been equipped with rockets, tunnels, and other means of resistance. I suspected that, but it’s good to know, thanks.

      • MahaneYehude1
        July 20, 2014, 11:35 am

        @Qualtrough:

        Do you call long range missiles launched on civilians “means of resistance”? If yes, you are no more than war crimes supporter. Good to know, thanks.

  8. Donald
    July 19, 2014, 1:17 pm

    “Weschler goes on to say that support for Israel is strongest in the U.S. among evangelicals. This is a standard dodge, employed by liberals, to avoid the hard reflective work of considering the power of the reactionary Jewish establishment. ”

    That’s true. Evangelicals do deserve a lot of criticism here, but I’ve often noticed liberals going out of their way to shift blame exclusively towards them, presumably because they’re afraid of the antisemitism charge if they start talking about AIPAC. It’s not the power of the Christian right that had both parties in Congress giving Netanyahu standing ovations and siding with Netanyahu when Obama initially tried to stop settlement expansion.

    I’ve also seen liberals professing to feel sorry for Israel that they have these embarrassing “Left Behind” type Christians supporting them. Which is nonsense–the Israelis may not have any respect for the Left Behind crowd’s religious beliefs, but they welcome the “Israel can do no wrong and God wants us to support them” mentality.

    • Elisabeth
      July 19, 2014, 2:42 pm

      That’s right. Dutch members of CIDI (a Dutch Jewish organization that fights anti-Semitism but mainly seems to be busy defending Israel) eagerly give talks at meetings of Dutch Christian-Zionists but joke about them afterwards. No need to feel sorry for them; they do not distance themselves fron these groups at all, and instead willingly enlist their support.

  9. michelle
    July 19, 2014, 1:47 pm

    .
    the worst of concentration camps
    the worlds concentration camp
    a place for certain people of all ages
    watch the people suffer and die
    .
    still wondering who really killed
    the three Israel boys
    .
    still wondering where are our world leaders
    has Israel taken over the world where do they point their atomic bombs
    would that G-d would take over Israel
    .
    G-d Bless
    .

  10. Citizen
    July 19, 2014, 2:00 pm

    30 million Christian Zionists, known to themselves as Evangelical Christians, they often don’t even know the history of Jewish Zionism. They are biggest dummy goy to0ls in the world. Israel First Jews hate them, but are happy to take their volunteer $ & support. Yes, the poor Christian Zionists in USA pay for Israeli fascism,right along with Adelson. Let’s all watch Jerry Springer show,

  11. seafoid
    July 19, 2014, 2:39 pm

    Gaza has been a concentration camp since 1948. But what very few jews in the states want to discuss is that israel continues to deteriorate. The rabies is not stable. It’s like the madness that alcoholism can lead to. Israel is fucking nuts.
    In addition to rabies, Israel also has rabbis . Very sad.

  12. Keith
    July 19, 2014, 4:02 pm

    PHIL- “Gaza is a concentration camp, and it’s an American delusion not to recognize that — Weschler”

    I am sure that those Americans responsible for US policy are fully aware of the conditions in Gaza, which they helped create and fully support. When it comes to straight talk about Gaza, here is what one prominent American intellectual and Mondoweiss villain has to say:

    “When Israel is on “good behavior,” more than two Palestinian children are killed every week, a pattern that goes back over 14 years. The underlying cause is the criminal occupation and the programs to reduce Palestinian life to bare survival in Gaza, while Palestinians are restricted to unviable cantons in the West Bank and Israel takes over what it wants, all in gross violation of international law and explicit Security Council resolutions, not to speak of minimal decency. And it will continue as long as it is supported by Washington and tolerated by Europe – to our everlasting shame.” (Noam Chomsky)
    http://zcomm.org/zcommentary/gazas-torment-israels-crimes-our-responsibilities/

    Perhaps you could provide some comparable quotes from Mondoweiss heroes such as Chas Freeman, Chuck Hagel or John Kerry? Okay, Hagel and Kerry are former heroes.

    • tear-stained uzi
      July 19, 2014, 10:33 pm

      Great quote from Chomsky. But doesn’t its very strength (“straight talk,” as you put it) stand in stark contrast to his recent BDS comments, which were decidedly, as our State Dept is fond of saying, “unhelpful?”

      Chomsky’s progressivism appears to have collided with some sort of tribal red line, and gone squishy. He’s certainly not a villain in my eyes, but it’s frustrating that he provides cover now for PEPs.

      • Keith
        July 19, 2014, 11:10 pm

        TEAR-STAINED UZI- “…it’s frustrating that he provides cover now for PEPs.”

        Curious, how expressing an honest opinion on certain aspects of BDS can be considered as providing cover for PEPs. His opinion on effective tactics differ from yours? So what. This hardly explains the extreme and unjustified vilification of Chomsky by more than a few Mondoweiss commenters. Same with Finkelstein.

      • Sumud
        July 19, 2014, 11:36 pm

        I like that: Chomsky has gone squishy.

    • W.Jones
      July 20, 2014, 12:21 am

      Hello, Keith.

      You asked for comparable quotes by Mondoweiss favorite Chas Freeman. Here are two:

      …Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank, who are treated as stateless prisoners in their own land; and Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza ghetto, who are an urban proletariat besieged and tormented at will by the Israeli armed forces…

      Israel is now known around the world for the Kafkaesque tyranny of its checkpoint army in the Occupied Territories, its periodic maiming and slaughter of Lebanese and Gazan civilians, its blatant racial and religious bigotry, the zealotry and scofflaw behavior of its settlers, its theology of ethnic cleansing, and its exclusionary religious dogmatism.

      http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/israels-inflicted-existential.html

      Unlike Chomsky, Obama, Hagel, and Kerry are politicians and their careers depend on them saying the right thing. Even if they were to the left of Chomsky, it would not be fair to demand of them the same standard in public statements.

      For example, one might guess that due to political pressure, Obama would not be able to voice support for BDS even if he wanted to, while Chomsky on the other hand is certainly not acting out of political pressure when he attacked BDS in The Nation.

      Nonetheless, you gave a good quote by Chomsky in which he was eloquent about Israeli abuses on Palestinians. His eloquence about this is his greatest forte when it comes to IP. Nonetheless, he also has his major weaknesses, unfortunately, which T.S.U. mentioned.

      • Keith
        July 20, 2014, 7:24 pm

        W JONES- “Unlike Chomsky, Obama, Hagel, and Kerry are politicians and their careers depend on them saying the right thing.”

        Yes, pity the career imperialist who is constrained from speaking out against policies he supports and implements. You gave me two quotes from Chas Freeman, how about Hagel and Kerry? Some Mondoweiss commenters wrote their congressmen in support of these guys, even as they bad mouth Chomsky. Freeman is no longer in government and can speak his mind about Palestine and his troubles with the Lobby. Other than Palestine and the Lobby, how does this career imperialist’ record on progressive issues compare to Chomsky? What is his opinion on the School of the Americas, neo-liberal globalization, the Libyan intervention, the Ukrainian intervention, and the pivot to the East? Actions speak louder than words, and Freeman’s career in support of empire speaks volumes about your hero. Unless you fundamentally support empire EXCEPT in the Middle East, it would seem to me that lauding Freeman and vilifying Chomsky is irrational, unless the purpose is denigrate Chomsky for other reasons.

      • W.Jones
        July 20, 2014, 10:41 pm

        Hello, Keith.
        Here is a brief comment by Hagel that compares to what Chomsky says:

        It’s notable that Obama chose him even over stiff resistance on this issue, and this implies that Obama sympathises with Hagel on this point. Hagel’s recantation and the extreme pressure to which he was subjected reflects the Lobby’s power. Since Hagel sympathizes with Palestinians – despite being pressured into recantation as was Goldstone, it makes sense that “Mondoweiss commenters wrote their congressmen in support of these guys”. I also signed a petition in support of Hagel because I want a saner Mideast policy. It doesn’t mean that I think Hagel is awesome, but if the Lobby is fighting him this hard, it means that he has a good side to him that makes it worth recommending him.

        You commented: “Other than Palestine and the Lobby, how does this career imperialist’ record on progressive issues compare to Chomsky?”
        Overall I think that Chomsky is very progressive, and so overall I like him. The main point of contention that comes up is not that Chomsky is overall reactionary, but that on certain topics related to the Palestinian Conflict, like the Lobby, Apartheid, BDS, the Right of Return, and whether a society should ideally be divided on religious lines, Chomsky takes a PEP position. On other areas in the topic, like whether Palestinians are being abused, Chomsky is admirably outspoken.

        Were you and I not writing on Mondoweiss, a blog about the IP conflict, but on a blog about Latin America, things might be different. If Freeman was a leading spokesperson on Latin American affairs and he was in favor of brutalizing the Western hemisphere, while Chomsky was totally progressive, then naturally we would not be having this conversation.

        Instead, when Chomsky, a leading professor on IP, writes an article in The Nation denouncing BDS, People will naturally voice disagreement, but not consider him a total villain. Meanwhile, if Freeman loses his career because of his position on the issue, people on a blog about Palestinian rights will naturally sympathize with Freeman.

  13. atime forpeace
    July 19, 2014, 4:27 pm

    Those who support that Frankenstein monster in the Middle East and do not hold it accountable do a disservice to Judaism.

    Oy, gevalt!

  14. yonah fredman
    July 19, 2014, 6:06 pm

    “or for that matter Jews and gays and gypsies at Dachau and Theresienstadt in the years before the Nazis themselves settled on their Final Solution.” I cannot take this guy seriously. He is a propagandist.

  15. last served
    July 19, 2014, 7:25 pm

    Do you all see what you are doing here? It is the same thing repeated elsewhere… everywhere. All I can ever see is people lining up with their signs and slogans, eyes wide, clenched teeth and clenched fists, ready with forceful words to take sides and mark lines in the sand. All words of blame but no words of disgust at intolerable situations. Cruelty is cruelty, violence and death are always violence and death and political reasoning falls on its face when lives are used as bargaining chips. This isn’t naivete, it’s just facts. Terror and killing is being used by all sides to justify not wanting to share existence and an unwillingness to compromise. None of us should accept this, period. Nor should we, any of us, accept any explanations as to who, what or why. When we start rationalizing killing, on any ‘side’ life loses its meaning and becomes worthless–for everyone.

  16. Les
    July 20, 2014, 1:44 pm

    To appreciate the news coverage of Gaza by 100% of our main stream media, think of the Germans getting news from their media during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising whose sources were exclusively the German government and the German military.

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