by Carey Wedler
April 7th, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is growing near. As Israelis around the world prepare to mourn the loss of Jewish life 70 years ago, however, the situation in the “promised land” of Israel is far from a peaceful, thoughtful acknowledgment of lost life and oppression.
Just yesterday, April 2, Palestinian prisoners began a protest following the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiya, an ex-Palestinian general who was imprisoned for attempting to bomb a cafe in Jerusalem. Though the bomb failed, he was sentenced to life in prison. Now, nearly 4,600 prisoners have declared a 3-day hunger strike to show their disgust at the Israeli prison system and general police state. Hamdiya died of complications from cancer, which many Palestinians allege was exacerbated by medical neglect on the part of the prison. While Israeli authorities deny this claim, the reality of the situation has much deeper implications than one general’s death.
This event is singular compared to protests that occurred only three days earlier, on March 31, in Gaza and the West Bank. Land Day commemorates the anniversary of the murder of Palestinian protesters at the hands of the Israel government in 1976. As they protested the expansion of Israeli settlements, they were violently reprimanded. The protest this year turned violent after protesters threw stones at Israeli riot police, who retaliated with force and tear gas.
Of course, it could be argued that Hamdiya died of cancer, not neglect. It could be argued, too, that the protesters on March 31 provoked Israeli forces. They had no choice but to fight back with definitive aggression.
Regardless, the upcoming Holocaust holiday–designated by the Israeli government in 1951– is intended to recognize the great suffering inflicted on Jews. Considering the marginalization and oppression the Israeli government commits daily against debilitated Palestinians, this is enough hypocrisy to encourage a scoff at the state-sanctioned day. But when considering the reason for choosing April 7th for the holiday, its meaning becomes bastardized, absurd, and offensive.
When Israelis were deciding what day should be chosen for this commemoration, they opted for one that fell on the anniversary of another date. While they could not choose the exact date for its proximity to the Passover holiday, the Israeli government chose a day close to the famous uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto on April 19, 1943. Though this revolt was put down by the Nazis, it was intended to instill an image of strength and determination surrounding the Holocaust, not victimization.
Though it serves as brilliant political theater, this specific choice of date for the holiday is particularly outrageous. As Palestinians protested on the 31st of March by planting seeds on land confiscated by Israelis, they were dispersed and put down, just as the Polish Jews 70 years ago. They were told they had no right to do exactly what Holocaust Remembrance day is all about–to protest unjust, tyrannical, and inhumane policies that strip humans of their dignity. Israeli authorities uprooted the seeds planted peacefully and claimed they had no choice but to retaliate against protesters with violence.
As Israelis contemplate the failed uprising on April 7th, the Israeli government will exploit the sorrow to propagandize for continued occupation. While they do this, they will be indistinguishable from the detestable Nazis who prohibited any uprising. They will render insincere and artificial any shows of humanity as they oppress Palestinians within their prisons and without, proceeding with land confiscations, arrests, and violence. They will glorify their own poorly armed uprising by exhibiting fascist force on those who are now in their position.