The word ‘holocaust’ stirs up emotions among people all over the world for many different reasons. The word ‘genocide,’ which most people agree the Holocaust was, is defined as ‘the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political or ethnic group.’ As you are walking around campus this week, you are going to see fliers talking about Israel as being the Fourth Reich and there being a ‘Holocaust in the Holy Land.’ The question becomes, are these assertions truthful?
The Holocaust (the attempted genocide of Jews in Europe) saw 6 million Jews murdered, and countless others displaced, many permanently. The Armenian Genocide saw 1.5 million Armenians murdered at the hands of the Turks, although many have (sadly) long forgotten about this horrible period in world history. Currently, in the Darfur region of the Sudan, over 400,000 people have been murdered, warranting the label of ‘genocide’ by the American government. Now that this has been presented to you, I assume you think that the number of Palestinians who have died since the beginning of the first Intifada in 1987 (no earlier data is available, including at the Muslim Student Union Web site) would be at least in the hundreds of thousands. Would you be surprised to find out that the number isn’t even in the tens of thousands? Despite claims that there is a holocaust in the Holy Land, not more than 6,000 Palestinians have died since the start of the first Intifada.
Lumping the ‘genocide’ that is occurring in ‘Palestine’ in with the other historical genocides is not only shameful, it is hurtful. Writing as a Jewish person, I know that one of the major historical narratives of American Jewry is the Holocaust. We know that it happened. Germany is forced to teach their youth about what happened. The United Nations has declared Jan. 27 the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. To hear the word being used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict angered me. I went back to the dictionary and looked up ‘holocaust.’ Meriam-Webster defines it as ‘a thorough destruction involving extensive loss of life especially through fire.’ Jews were put into ovens and cremated, literally thrown into the fire. To my knowledge, nobody, including radical Palestinian advocates, has claimed that Israel is throwing Palestinians into ovens.
Due to my acceptance and approval of the free speech policies of the UC Irvine campus, I can’t say that I want the MSU to change the title of their anti-Zionism week, which is what the week truly is. I can’t ask the president of the MSU to take down signs that compare Israelis to Nazis, even though typing those words, in such close proximity, is painful for me. All that I can do is appeal to the campus community to realize what is being said and what the truth is. Please, don’t take this the wrong way. I am not decrying the MSU’s policies of anti-Semitism, nor am I saying that the anti-Israel argument shouldn’t be heard on campus. I am merely asking that students at UCI show other students a modicum of respect when it comes to the history of the group that they belong to.
To compare the plight of the Palestinians (which is substantial) with that of Jews in Europe, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, or the people of Darfur is extremely hurtful to those directly involved in those conflicts, and to cheapen the loss of life suffered in those conflicts is nothing more than a sad plea for attention.
Alex Chazen is a second-year political science major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.