A group of Holocaust survivors and descendants of those targeted by Nazi Germany have harshly criticized Israeli actions in Gaza and called for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Following a letter from survivors of the Holocaust printed in the New York Times on Saturday, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which helped coordinate the letter, organized a press call Monday, where some of those who signed the letter spoke out against the assault on Gaza.
Participants in the press call included Edith Bell, whose parents died in concentration camps and who was taken to four camps herself; Suzanne Weiss, whose mother was murdered in Auschwitz and who was hidden by French peasants; and Liliane Kaczerginski, whose father Schmerke was a Jewish fighter against the Nazis in Lithuania. Also joining the call were Monadel Herzallah and Hani Jamah, two Palestinians with family in Gaza who expressed appreciation at the descendants’ and survivors’ efforts.
40 survivors of the Holocaust signed the letter and 287 descendants of victims also added their names.
“I resent anybody who will use those events as an excuse to exterminate Palestinians,” said Bell, who said she survived concentration camps by “pure luck.”
The letter printed in the New York Times has garnered international media attention from the likes of the BBC and Ha’aretz. “As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine,” the letter says. “We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. ‘Never again’ must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”
The advertisement cost $18,000. The funds were raised by some of the signatories.
“I applaud your courage for doing such a statement like that, that speaks from the heart,” said Herzallah, a member of the US Palestinian Community Network whose family was expelled from what is now Israel into Gaza. “I’m not surprised when I see these courageous statements by Holocaust survivors and their families…Our children and grandchildren will learn together in Gaza and all over Palestine that never again truly means never again for anyone.
The impetus for the letter came from Holocaust survivors and descendants of victims of the Nazis who were outraged that Israel used their histories to justify assaults on Palestinians. One of the signatories who helped organize the letter was Dr. Hajo Meyer, a German-Dutch physicist who survived Auschwitz and who died the day before the letter was printed in the Times. Meyer was an outspoken critic of Israel, telling the Electronic Intifada that he “had to quit grammar school in Bielefeld after the Kristallnacht…Therefore, I can fully identify with the Palestinian youth that are hampered in their education. And I can in no way identify with the criminals who make it impossible for Palestinian youth to be educated.”
The letter calls out Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who was the author of another advertisement that ran in the New York Times calling on Hamas to reject “child sacrifice” and casting the Israel/Palestine conflict as a “battle of civilization against barbarism.”
“Reading the Elie Wiesel ad made me literally sick to my stomach,” said Maia Ettinger, whose mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust by escaping the Warsaw ghetto. “The ad is an act of towering and transparent projection because what is barbaric is collective punishment, and what is barbaric is indiscriminate bombing.”
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network says that much of the response they have received has been positive, though there have been violent messages sent to their e-mail address. +972 Magazine’s Ami Kaufman reported that some Israelis have expressed revulsion at the letter on Facebook.
“It’s a shame Hitler didn’t finish the job,” one Israeli named Asher Solomon said, while another, Katy Morali, added that “Holocaust survivors who think like this are invited to go die in the gas chambers.”
Correction: This article originally reported 47 Holocaust survivors had signed the letter. The actual number is 40.