Like Sheep to the Slaughter, Like Sheep to the Occupation

There is no comparing the Holocaust and the occupation, but the act of resistance is equally legitimate and just in both cases.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council in the West Bank on April 25, 2014.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas gestures as he gives a speech during a meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council in the West Bank on April 25, 2014.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

I will never forget the fierce arguments in the schoolyard. I was young then, a loud proponent of the “How did they go like sheep to slaughter?” school. We were ashamed of them. Ashamed that they didn’t resist, didn’t fight, didn’t struggle. We wanted fewer martyrs and more heroes on Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day.

It was a time of shame, overall: I was ashamed of my parents’ non-Hebrew names (Thea and Heinz), of their non-Hebrew language (German), of the name of my maternal grandfather’s town (Cârlibaba), of the name of my father’s illegal-immigrant ship (Frossoula) and of the names of the camps in which some of my relatives were killed (Transnistria and Treblinka). It was all so alien and so shameful, especially the “sheep to slaughter” part.

I was young, and now I am old, and everything looks different now. The non-Hebrew names have turned into provinces of longing, and the sheep went to slaughter because it was the only path available. But the schoolyard belief in the imperative of resisting tyranny has remained.

Before the jingoist comments start flying on the Haaretz website, let me say unequivocally: There is no comparing the Holocaust and the occupation. But the act of resistance is equally legitimate and just in both cases.

Today, on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Day, we should have marshaled the mental strength to empathize with those who live under the tyranny of another nation. Just as we admire the powers of resistance of Europe’s conquered nations, the Partisans and the Resistance, we should be able to understand the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation. It should be one of the lessons of the Holocaust, the opposite of the state’s brainwashing, which is now set to begin in kindergarten.

Palestinian resistance is actually one of the feeblest in history. With the exception of the accursed years of the second intifada, when both sides bled, the 47 years of the occupation have been quite pleasant for the occupier.

Last week marked the end of another depressing chapter of the longest “peace process” in history, and the Israeli propaganda machine is once again trying to depict the limited Palestinian resistance − now nearly violence-free − as illegitimate and the Palestinians as bearing all responsibility for the failure.

What does Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel say to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestine? Sit quietly and don’t dare resist. Sit quietly in the face of the settlements, which continue to be built unchecked on your lands. Don’t dare use terror, but not diplomacy either, which as we know is “political terror.” No civil disobedience and no boycott of the settlements. Buy only “blue-and-white” Israeli products. Don’t demonstrate and don’t consider nonviolent protest.

Cooperate with the occupation army and its dark institutions. Use their security subcontractors, even against your own people. Welcome “price tag” acts with love. Recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even if Israel doesn’t know the meaning of the term, and of course even if it doesn’t recognize you, if only for a moment, as a nation with equal rights.

Forget about the right of return, don’t mention it even in jest, abandon the refugees to their fate, erase your history and your heritage. The most you can dream of is a bisected and demilitarized state, compromise upon compromise, long after you already conceded the majority of the land. In other words: Register for Likud, assist the Israel Defense Forces and don’t disturb “the sabra.” Anything less will count against you.

The truth is that Abbas, shockingly, has already complied with most of these conditions. But not all of them, and that isn’t good enough for Israel. In effect, nothing would every be good enough for it − Israel will keep piling on new conditions for as long as he meets the previous ones.

Abbas will go down in Palestinian history as a collaborator with the occupation, a type of Rudolf (Israel) Kastner without the killings or the rescues. So we went like sheep to the slaughter, and now we are demanding that the Palestinians go like sheep to the occupation. On this day, at least, Jews and Israelis should understand this.

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