October 1, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 424

Professor Edward Said Compares the Holocaust and the Palestinian Disaster: 'Every Human Calamity is Different'; 'But... There is Value in Seeing Analogies and Perhaps Hidden Similarities'

October 1, 2002
Special Dispatch No. 424

In an article published in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat,[1] Palestinian-American professor Edward Sa'id compared the European Jewish Holocaust with the current situation of the Palestinians. The English version of Sa'id's article, titled "Low Point of Powerlessness," appeared in Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line.[2] The following are excerpts from the article:

'Every Human Calamity is Different' But...[3]
"Sixty years ago, the Jews of Europe were at the lowest point of their collective existence. Herded like cattle into trains, they were transported from the rest of Europe by Nazi soldiers into death camps where they were systematically exterminated in gas ovens. They had offered some resistance in Poland, but in most places they first lost their civil status, then they were removed from their jobs, then they were designated official enemies to be destroyed, and then they were."

"In every significant instance they were the most powerless of people, treated as insidious, potentially overpowering enemies by leaders and armies whose own power was far, far greater; indeed, even the idea of Jews representing a danger to the might of countries like Germany, France, and Italy was preposterous. But it was an accepted idea, since with few exceptions most of Europe turned its back on them during their slaughter…"

"Every human calamity is different, so there is no point in trying to look for equivalence between one and the other. But it is certainly true that one universal truth about the Holocaust is not only that it should never again happen to Jews, but that as a cruel and tragic collective punishment, it should not happen to any people at all. But if there is no point in looking for equivalence, there is a value in seeing analogies and perhaps hidden similarities, even as we preserve a sense of proportion."

Israel Makes Arafat Feel Like a Hunted Jew
"Quite apart from his actual history of mistakes and misrule, Yasser Arafat is now being made to feel like a hunted Jew by the state of the Jews. There is no gainsaying the fact that the greatest irony of his siege by the Israeli army in his ruined Ramallah compound, is that his ordeal has been planned and carried out by a psychopathic leader who claims to represent the Jewish people. I do not want to press the analogy too far, but it is true to say that Palestinians under Israeli occupation today are as powerless as Jews were in the 1940s. Israel's army, air force and navy, heavily subsidized by the United States, have been wreaking havoc on the totally defenseless civilian population of the occupied West Bank and Gaza strip…"

'Criticism of Israeli Policy is Equated by the Zionists and their Allies with Antisemitism'
"And still Sharon makes the case that Israel is struggling to survive against Palestinian terrorism. Is there anything more grotesque than this claim, even as this deranged killer of Arabs sends his F-16s, his attack helicopters and hundreds of tanks against unarmed people without any defenses at all?… As popular protests grow worldwide, the organized Zionist counter-response has been to complain that anti-semitism is on the rise… Criticism of Israeli policy is now routinely equated [by the Zionists and their allies [4]] with antisemitism of the kind that brought about the Holocaust…"

"What conclusion is one to draw from all this? That Israeli policy has been a disaster for the entire region. The more powerful it becomes, the more ruin it sows in the countries around it, to say nothing of the catastrophes it has executed against the Palestinian people, and the more hated it becomes. It is power used for evil purposes, not self-defense at all. The Zionist dream of a Jewish state being a normal state like all others has come to the vision of the leader of Palestine's indigenous people hanging on to his life by a thread, while Israeli tanks and bulldozers continue to wreck everything around him. Is this the Zionist goal for which hundreds of thousands have died?… Isn't it time for those who feel that his [i.e. Sharon's] appalling actions do not represent them to call a halt to his behavior?"

[1] Al-Hayat (London), September 30, 2002.


[3] Headings added by MEMRI.

[4] This phrase appeared only in the Arabic version.

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