Saturday, January 03, 2009

Which Placard to Pick?

I didn't make it to today's demonstration against the bombardment of Gaza, but was very much there in spirit. When I did join a protest at the Israeli embassy last week, I had a camera in one hand and a six-year-old boy in the other, so carrying a placard was not an option. This saved me from having to pick from not a great choice.

To start on a good note, here is one that I would wouldn't have minded carrying:

This one's kind of sweet, but a bit, you know, wussy - nice sentiment, but it hardly offers a concrete way forward.

But this one, no.

Firstly, it is just factually inaccurate. The hundreds of deaths caused by Israel's bombardment are terrible, but this is not the same as 6 million fatalities in industrial death factories. The holocaust was unique in history - and, hopefully, will remain so - and its uniqueness should not be diluted or denied.

Secondly, it seems likely that the word 'holocaust' has been chosen because Israel is the state involved. Maybe some people think they can appeal to Israelis to oppose military aggression on the basis of the history of anti-semitic persecution, but in reality, the effect (and for some, the intention) of slogans like this is to wind up many Jews. If, say, Russia bombed Chechnya and killed hundreds of people, would the protest placards read 'no holocaust in Chechnya'? Possibly, but less likely, I'd say. So why prod the Jews about the holocaust, when many of them will have lost family members in the Nazi extermination? If the Palestinian solidarity movement wants to involve a significant number of Jews, it has to avoid offensive slogans like this.

Looks like when I do get to go on a protest with my hands free, I might have to make my own placard.