Michelle Berkon from Jews Against the Occupation ’48 gave the following speech to the Palestine Action Group rally in Gadigal/Sydney on January 28.
• • •
Firstly, I acknowledge that all of Australia is unceded Aboriginal land, and pay my respects to First Nations elders past and present.
As always, I’m speaking as a representative of Jews Against the Occupation '48.
Yesterday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we honour the memory of the millions of people, including six million Jews, murdered in the Nazi genocide. As Jews we mourn the loss personally as well as collectively. We insist that its horrors not be diminished.
Nevertheless, the Holocaust does not belong to us. Nor to any one of the other groups targeted by the Nazis — not Roma, nor Sinti, nor Slavs, nor Black people. Not disabled nor LGBTIQ people.
Genocide is a crime against humanity, all of humanity and against everything that our shared humanity means.
Yet Israel has always appropriated and exceptionalised Jewish suffering. It has always wielded our persecution in Christian Europe and our martyrdom in the Holocaust as a weapon in its war on Palestinians.
Even while WWII was raging, Zionist leaders were so intent on building a racially pure Jewish nation in Palestine that they ignored or opposed efforts to rescue the Jews of Europe as they were ghettoised, starved and murdered.
In the 1950s, Mossad terrorists used the spectre of antisemitism to drive Jewish Arabs to Israel by planting bombs in Iraqi and Egyptian synagogues, libraries, cafes, cinemas and train stations. When Egyptian authorities found and tried the perpetrators, Israel launched a major propaganda campaign claiming that Nasser was “Hitler on the Nile”.
Israel has no moral compass. None. From their earliest days, Jewish Israeli children are inculcated with existential terror through traumatising Holocaust propaganda, and Palestinians are demonised as moral descendants of the Nazis. Every act of Palestinian resistance is portrayed as a threat of annihilation. Every attempt to call Israel to account is dismissed — with outrage — as antisemitism.
Israel has transplanted the horrors of European persecution to Palestine. It uses roundups and checkpoints, builds ghetto walls and even a concentration camp. Just as the Nazis adopted strategies from the German colonisation of Namibia in its genocide in Europe, Israel uses colonial violence against Palestinians.
In an act of ruthless exploitation tantamount to Holocaust denial, Israel linked the October 7th attacks to the almost total extermination of Europe’s Jews. It called a few thousand poorly-armed escapees from the largest and most deeply deprived prison on Earth, Nazis. Its fevered descriptions of fake Hamas atrocities evoke the most vile antisemitic tropes used for centuries against Jews.
Jewish Zionists everywhere spoke of Holocaust trauma. My Holocaust trauma was awakened too — by Israel’s depraved brutality in Gaza: starvation, dehydration, disease, deprivation of medical care, carpet bombing, entombment under tonnes of rubble, displacement ... Real annihilation. Real existential threat.
The ICJ ruling is a powerful political moment. Israel on trial for genocide has turned the tables on “the Jewish State” and its appropriation of victimhood. Comparisons between Zionism and Nazism are now legitimised. The IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] can now be called the IGF ... G for genocide.
As anti-Zionist Jews, we reclaim our suffering under Nazi persecution from Israel’s propaganda machine. We refuse to legitimise its bloodthirsty conquest of Palestine. We affirm that the message of the Holocaust is that “Never Again” means anyone. In our thousands and our millions, we are all Palestinians. Free Palestine.