My Word: Gaza is no ghetto

Israel treats Gazans in Israeli hospitals and provides (unpaid for) electricity and humanitarian aid even when under rocket attack.

August 21, 2014 22:41

PEOPLE TAKE part in a protest against Israel in Malaga, Spain, on August 8. The words on the shirt read ‘Netanyahu must be judged. Second Zionist-Nazi Holocaust.’. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Talk about shoot to kill: I received a press release this week – mid-rocket attacks – proudly announcing the successful conclusion of filming of a docu-drama called What Does Anne Frank Mean Today? – including on-location work in Gaza.

I’m loath to give the movie more publicity but I’ll let the press release speak for itself. (Spoiler alert: The answer to the title’s question in my opinion is “very little.” It seems there is no limit to how low one can sink in cheapening Anne Frank’s name and memory in the name of art.) The film is by Croatian director Jakov Sedlar with screenplay by his son and co-director, Dominik, and is being produced by Holocaust survivor Branko Lustig (who won an Oscar for his work as producer of Schindler’s List) and Stephen Ollendorff. The musical score is by Daniel Barenboim.

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“Now, 70 years since the Frank family were discovered in hiding, What Does Anne Frank Mean Today? is a fascinating look at Anne Frank’s life and diary and how the words and thoughts of this exceptional young woman in hiding have relevance in today’s world,” reads the publicity material.

“Shot entirely on location amidst the turmoil of Gaza, Ramallah, Jaffa and Kosovo, the film takes a modern look at how relevant her thoughts and dreams are for young people in these regions today through conversations with ordinary Palestinian youths who talk about love, their first kiss and other subjects covered in Frank’s diary.

“Sedlar faced many challenges shooting during the most recent conflicts in Gaza, trying to shoot scenes in between bombings and was witness to horrific images of war.

“The film will have six young Palestinian actresses portraying Anne Frank between the ages of 12 and 14 and Sedlar hopes that the film being done in Arabic (with English subtitles) will ‘open some eyes.’ ‘We must not repeat history,’ Sedlar adamantly vows.”

My eyes opened so wide I stared at the email and checked I’d read it correctly and it wasn’t just the stress of Operation Protective Edge playing tricks on me.


This movie might be one of those cases of people being so open-minded that their brains fell out.

According to the press release, the Sedlars and Lustig are seeking a distributor for the movie, and I’ve no doubt they’ll find one. The world is a very sick place.

In interviews, Sedlar, whose movies can be found at Yad Vashem, has told reporters that he is making the film to help counter Holocaust denial in the Arabic- speaking world.

It is a noble aim, but there are other ways to go about it – educational programs in Palestinian Authority schools would be a good place to start.

Sadly, I wasn’t surprised by the kidnapping of Anne Frank’s story as part of the Palestinian narrative. The “Israelis are the new Nazis” theme has been gaining force over the years and with the latest round of hostilities in Gaza (the fighting that so played havoc with the Anne Frank movie filming) it has become a virtual motif – the language, the images, the claims.

If you study the photos coming out of Gaza as much as I do, you might even notice the recent addition of Spielberg- like pictures of a young child dressed in red against the gray backdrop of destruction.

LAST MONTH, I was asked by a London radio station to relate to the claims by Britain’s former deputy prime minister Lord John Prescott which appeared in the Daily Mirror equating Gaza with a ghetto (and the condemnation by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the body which officially represents Anglo Jewry, that this was trivializing the Holocaust).

The program producers requested that I write a few lines about my opinion prior to the broadcast. At the last minute the topic changed to the threat of the Hamas tunnels; however, writer that I am, I had already sent them more than a few sentences. In the heat of the moment, or the heat of my anger, I’d managed to produce several paragraphs.

Here are my main points: Lord Prescott’s statements are not only trivializing the Holocaust, they are grotesquely distorting it: The Holocaust was an attempt by the Nazis to completely eradicate the Jewish people, their religion, culture and any memory of them just because they were Jews. None of that is the case in Israel’s treatment of Gaza – Israel has set up a field hospital, treats patients in Israeli hospitals and actually provides (unpaid for) electricity and humanitarian aid (often while the crossing itself is under missile and mortar attack). And of course Gaza does have a border with Egypt, too.

If anything – although I don’t want to fall into the same trivialization trap – it is Hamas, whose charter calls for the elimination of Israel and which would like to set up an Islamic Shari’a-abiding caliphate in its place – that is reminiscent of the Nazi ideology.

Israel is not indiscriminately bombarding Gaza (if it were, the casualties would of course be far higher during the period of fighting). It is making every effort to avoid hurting the civilian population. It is Hamas that has a deliberate policy of endangering its own population and using them as human shields.

It has even abused UN-affiliated schools, turning them into depots for arms and ammunition.

Every death of an innocent person is a tragedy, but that doesn’t automatically make it a war crime.

Much of Gaza is truly impoverished. Had the millions and millions of dollars of international aid been spent on trying to build it up in the last nine years since Israel unilaterally pulled out instead of on missiles (not so primitive it seems) and the huge underground warren of terror tunnels – all aimed at destroying Israel – the Palestinians in Gaza, and indeed the whole region, would have benefited.

And, no, the tunnels from Gaza into Israeli communities were not built to help poor Palestinians escape a modern-day ghetto. They are part of the terror network.

I am frequently asked if what we’re experiencing today can be compared to Europe of the 1930s for the Jews.

One of the obvious differences is that the State of Israel does exist, much to the chagrin of our many enemies.

Another difference is that in the 1930s, the attempts to eradicate the Jewish people did not rely on finding Jews who would do the propaganda work for the Nazis.

An email I received from BDS advocates in the US contained a recommendation for Jewish members to stress their religion in their boycott campaign work.

Among this summer’s disturbing events are the declaration a week ago by British MP George Galloway that his Bradford constituency is an Israel-free zone (something Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub, among others, set out to challenge with a well-publicized visit and talk there).

There were also the two incidents in which branches of different British supermarket chains removed products that could be associated with Israel (or Jews) because of boycott activities inside and outside the stores.

The group Sussex Friends of Israel comprising both Jews and Christians, which formed partly to counter boycott activities in this region, on Britain’s south coast, this week held a heartwarming pro-Israel rally, and I’m pleased to see the group also offered its support to an event highlighting the plight of the Kurds and other minorities under Islamic State. Such rallies are truly pro-peace.

Back to the Anne Frank movie, because it’s now playing on my mind, the press release informs us: “It was August 4, 1944, when Anne Frank and her family were discovered by the Nazis while hiding in a secret annex in Amsterdam.”

Truth be told, if the truth still means anything, the Frank family weren’t “discovered by the Nazis.” They were betrayed, most likely by their non-Jewish Dutch neighbors, although that’s the part of the story that is not often emphasized.

Anne Frank died because she was a Jew. Period.

Israel is being attacked because it is the Jewish state.

That’s it.

Rewriting history – adapting it to a new narrative – doesn’t change it; it only means it will be repeated in a new form.

The writer is editor of The International Jerusalem Post.

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