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Hamas Chief Asks: Gaza, Holocaust, What’s The Difference?

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Hamas leader Meshaal talks during a news conference in Doha

In several interviews with a variety of international news agencies, the political chieftain of the Hamas terror organization accused Israel of perpetrating “the real Holocaust” in Gaza, charging the Jewish state with “genocide” and comparing Netanyahu to Hitler.

Most sane, fair-minded people instinctively recognize the absurdity of those charges but may not know the most direct and effective means to answer them.

In a typical session with the press, Hamas honcho Khaled Meshaal, 58, met with Yahoo News at the press office of his organization in Doha, Qatar, safely removed from the death and destruction in Gaza. Referring to the Israeli prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff, he asked, “What is the difference between what Netanyahu, Yaalon, and Gantz are doing – killing thousands of civilians, children, women, entire neighborhoods, targeting mosques, destroying hospitals and schools – what’s the difference between that and what the Nazis did in the 1930’s and ‘40’s? And what Hitler did. This is the real holocaust.”

His wording suggests that the other holocaust of 70 years ago wasn’t “real,” or at least not as real as the current devastation in Gaza. But otherwise his statement might be viewed as a step forward: Meshaal at least seems to break with other Palestinian leaders in condemning Hitler’s crimes, rather than endorsing them, and/or claiming they never occurred at all.

Meanwhile, what of his underlying notion that Israel’s response to more than 4,000 Hamas rockets amounts to “genocide” that closely resembles the murder of millions of Jews during World War II?

Any meaningful response should include the following points:

1) The word “genocide,” though used carelessly and irresponsibly in the course of contemporary discourse, actually describes a specific crime with a precise definition.Webster’s New World Dictionary specifically references Hitlerism in explaining genocide and goes on to define it as “the systematic killing or extermination of a whole people or nation.” In legal terms, the United Nations Genocide Convention of 1951 (officially known as The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide) still has the force of international law. As described in Article II, the crime of genocide involves a series of brutal acts “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such.”

It is simply impossible to impute any such intent to the Israeli government, however strongly one may object to their conduct of the recent war. If nothing else, even Israel’s most embittered critics must acknowledge that if the Jewish state truly meant to “destroy, in whole or in part” the Gaza Palestinians, their technological sophistical and military might easily could have claimed far more than the 2,200 people who reportedly died in the fighting. Moreover, the rapid growth in Gaza population during the years of Israeli rule renders any claims of genocidal intent patently ridiculous. At the time that Israel took control of the Gaza Strip in 1967, UN numbers reported 368,000 Palestinians living in the territory. By 2005, when Israel removed all Jewish settlers, soldiers, and police personnel, turning over administration to the Palestinian Authority, the population stood at 1,376,000, making Gaza one of the fastest growing regions in the world. Estimates of population for 2015 stand at 1,897,000 – showing continued rapid growth, and disproving any claims of genocide. In addition to the high birth rate, the increase in population stems from vastly improved health care, sanitation and life expectancy – especially during the 38 years of direct Israeli administration.

2) In terms of impact, any comparison of the Holocaust of European Jewry with the loss of life in the Gaza Strip counts as ludicrous. All historians agree that Hitler and his henchmen succeeded in slaughtering more than half the Jewish population of the European continent. Even taking the worst-case numbers promoted by Hamas and its apologists, the death toll in Gaza represents less than 0.15% of the population in the strip, or 0.05% of the overall Palestinian figures that include the more populous, prosperous West Bank. In either case, the losses hardly amount to “ethnic cleansing” since the birth rate and continued improvement in health standards means dramatic yearly gains in Palestinian population rather than any sort of losses.

3) Hitler and his apostles of death made clear their desire to kill or expel Jews as early as the publication of Mein Kampf in 1923; Netanyahu and the Israel Defense Forces have made clear their desire to spare and protect as many Palestinian civilians as possible. The victims of the Third Reich never benefited from warning phone calls, or leaflets urging them to flee to safety, or “knock on the roof” unarmed missiles falling on buildings before air strikes took them down. While Hitler harmed his war effort by devoting considerable military resources to the murder of Jewish civilians, the Israelis have restricted their war efforts by devoting considerable military resources to spare Palestinian civilians.

4) The Holocaust amounted to a unique crime in the long, bloody history of anti-Semitism because the Jewish targets of Hitler’s murderous wrath could do nothing to avoid their fate. No change of attitude or behavior by either humble Jews or their communal leaders could have spared the six million from the gas chambers. Unlike victims of other persecutions, they couldn’t save themselves through renunciation of the Jewish religion or abandoning Zionist aspirations, or even by embracing Nazism and the twisted ideology of the Master Race. Edith Stein, a convert to Catholicism and today a Saint of the Catholic Church, died as a compassionate nun at Auschwitz because of the inescapable taint of her Jewish ancestry.

For Palestinian victims of the violence in Gaza, on the other hand, their suffering bears no connection to their faith or ethnicity, and certainly has nothing to do with the identity of their grandparents. The hardships and pain that they endure stems entirely, exclusively, from the brutal nihilism of their leaders, who persist in launching rockets against peaceful communities in Israel despite the certainty of terrible consequences for the Palestinian people. In stark contrast to Jewish leaders during World War II, the leaders of Gaza can end all threats and all destruction with a simple and durable cease-fire. As Israel has demonstrated on more than a half dozen occasions, when Hamas rocket and mortar attacks stop, Israeli airstrikes stop. The powerless Palestinian families who bear the brunt of this struggle may not choose for the violence to continue, but the ruthless thugs who act in their name most certainly do, and insist on unremitting bloodshed.

One can only hope that the current cease fire takes hold and leads to a better future in which Palestinians can focus their energies in building their own lives rather than destroying the lives of others. That transformation, however, requires a clear-eyed understanding of the origins and nature of the current struggle and a rejection of hateful, preposterous comparisons of Israeli self-defense with genocidal Hitlerism. It’s not just the matter of scale and proportion that makes this charge so offensive. It’s the insistence on seeing the two thousand Arabs who die in conflict with Jews as somehow more precious, more worthy of sanctification and attention, than the two hundred thousand who have died fighting their fellow Arabs right next door in Syria. If they truly seek sickening examples of genocide and holocaust, the leaders of Hamas can find it easily enough near one of their organization’s lavishly funded operational headquarters in Damascus, which clearly tops Gaza City as an undeniable capital of 21st century suffering.

This column originally appeared at on August 14, 2014.

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Comments (3)

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  1. SSix2  •  Sep 4, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    The current conflict in Gaza (or any conflict in the Middle East involving Israel) can be summed up in two simple sentences. If one side laid down all its arms and said we want peace, there would be peace. Conversely, if the other side laid down all its arms and said we want peace, there would be genocide.

  2. jay  •  Sep 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    well written and well articulated. Big fan of how simple complex issues are made simple by Michael Medved. Thanks

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