Renowned Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize-winner Jose Saramago, drew comparisons Monday between Israel's blockade of the West Bank city of Ramallah and the Holocaust. On a trip to Ramallah, Saramago said that "the spirit of Auschwitz" was linked to what was going on in the city. "This place is being turned into a concentration camp," he said, referring to the IDF's siege on the city.
Saramago was part of a delegation of the International Parliament of writers (IPW) which had come to visit Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, one of the parliament's founders, and other intellectuals. The delegation also met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah on Monday.
Saramago said that, before his visit to Ramallah he knew there were Israeli tanks there and that Arafat had been confined to his offices. "I didn't know that two colonies with army posts overlook Ramallah," he said. "I didn't know that every Palestinian settlement is under a separate siege."
Asked by Ha'aretz where the gas chambers were, he replied; "So far, there are none." He added that, as a writer, it was his prerogative to make emotional comparisons in order to shock people into understanding.
IPW executive director Christian Salmon later told Ha'aretz that the comparison did not reflect the views of the parliament.
Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein told Army Radio on Tuesday that Saramago's comments were a display of "ignorance" and that any reasonable person knew they were baseless.