Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Settlers adopt orange stars in protest

STRAINED ANALOGY Settlers angered by Sharon's plan to evacuate Gaza are using the stars to equate the move with the Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were killed

THE GUARDIAN , Jerusalem

Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip have adopted Star of David badges similar to those which Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis in the 30s in protest at the Israel's plan to evacuate them from their homes.

Many of the settlers equate the prime minister Ariel Sharon's plans to evacuate the settlements next year with the Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis. Sharon wants to remove the settlements by the end of next year.

Jews were made to wear yellow stars by the Nazis, but the settlers plan to wear orange ones to denote the color of the Gaza Settlements Council and the campaign against disengagement.

The idea has angered many Israelis. Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial centre in Jerusalem, said it was irresponsible.

"The plan to wear orange stars perverts the historical facts and damages the memory of the Shoah [Holocaust]," he said.

"It is important that the memory of the Shoah remain a unifying factor in Israeli society, not the opposite."

Despite the sensitivity of the subject, insults and comparisons relating to the Holocaust are a common part of Israeli political discourse.

Last month a Palestinian was forced to play his violin at a checkpoint, which reminded many of concentration camp treatment, and any form of government compulsion is routinely described as Nazi.

Roni Bakshi from the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim, the initiator of the plan, said he hoped it would wake people up to what the government was doing.

"I will hand out the stars with a letter of explanation to the residents. My family and I will wear them.

"This is exactly what I want -- to shock. I would not dare to do this if I did not have the bad feeling that the plan here is to expel Jews," he told the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Moshe Freiman, 56, whose mother survived the Holocaust, and is now buried in a settlement, said he would wear the star on his shirt.

"We, the second generation of Holocaust survivors, always complained to those who were there -- why did they not rise up, why did they not cry out and do something?" he said.

"Today, justifiably, this is said about us -- why are we not doing anything against this plan?"

Provocative statements about Sharon's disengagement plan in the Israeli media this week coincide with the arrival of a number of ministers from around the around the world, including Tony Blair.

Pinkhas Wallerstein, a council leader in the West Bank, said he was prepared to go to jail or die to prevent the evacuation of settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.

Moshe Karadi, head of the Israeli police, who will be responsible for evacuating the settlers, said the task would be much harder than the evacuation of settlements in the Sinai peninsula in 1982.

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