Thinking intensely about the holocaust, Israel and Gaza

Mar 10, 2024
Ghaza in 1949. Map

The vengeful, scheming, genocidal response unleashed since October last year in Gaza, by Israel, has prompted a profoundly intensified global review of the punishing history related to the establishment of the State of Israel and its colonial-settler expansion ever since 1948.

An exceptional commentator, Pankaj Mishra, has now contributed an avidly argued, candid extended essay situated within this framework. Entitled, “The Shoah after Gaza”, it has recently been published in the London Review of Books.

Mishra begins by outlining the enduring malevolent impact on Israeli thinking about modern Jewish history – and the subsequent shaping of Israel’s view of itself – by Menachem Begin, who became Prime Minister in 1977. He had previously been the leader of the Zionist, militant-terrorist Irgun group. Mishra describes him as:

[A] demagogue from Poland, who turned the murder of six million jews into an intense national preoccupation and a new basis for Israeli identity. The Israeli establishment began to produce and disseminate a very particular version of the Shoah [or Holocaust] that could be used to legitimise a militant and expansionist Zionism.

Certain, apt comparative reflections on the menacing political impact of amplified Hindu nationalism in India are also woven into the article.

The case convincingly made is that the roots of the mass slaughter in Gaza we are now witnessing in horror may be found in these vehement, self-justifying (and self-absolving) politics from many decades ago. Right now, Mishra says:

Every day is poisoned by the awareness that while we go about our lives hundreds of ordinary people like ourselves are being murdered, or being forced to witness the murder of their children. Adding that, Biden’s stubborn malice and cruelty to the Palestinians is just one of the gruesome riddles presented to us by Western politicians and journalists.

This article compels one to think, right through to the final paragraph, where Mishra concludes:

Against the acts of savagery, and the propaganda by omission and obfuscation, countless millions now proclaim, in public spaces and on digital media, their furious resentments. In the process, they risk permanently embittering their lives. But perhaps, their outrage alone will alleviate, for now, the Palestinian feeling of absolute loneliness, and go some way towards redeeming the memory of the Shoah.

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