I live in Spain. I am Jewish. I am sometimes in favor of the international policy of the government of Israel but during the governments of Ariel Sharon and Olmert I have been mostly against these policies. For example I was against what I considered a disproportionate retaliation to the Hizbollah attack. As a result of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon I created a spontaneous vehicle to donate to the Lebanese who were victims of this invasion called Jews For Lebanon. And my personal opinion is that again the Israeli government over reacted to the attacks of Hamas last week and killed many innocent civilians in Gaza including children. Now that is my opinion. But the problem with El Pais, Spain´s leading newspaper and Jose Maria Ridao in particular the journalist who writes the article, is that in order to disagree with the policies of the government of Israel they simply lie. The one page article in El Pais written by Jose Maria Ridao says that the Israeli government declared (and this is clearly false) that should Israeli civilians continued to be bombed from Gaza the Israeli government would undertake a “holocaust of the Palestinian people”. Yes, in those words, a holocaust as if this is something that the Israeli government could possibly say. And moreover in order to illustrate this anti Israeli article, Nazi imagery is used that includes in big letters and in an illustration that occupies a quarter page the horrendous Nazi phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” (image is not in the online edition). But as you can guess these images do not mean to remind us of the 6 million Jews and other victims of the Nazi Holocaust but instead to show us how committed the Israeli government seems to be to its own holocaust. As I said I live in Spain. And I am by now a Spanish citizen. And there are many, many things I love about Spain. But it is hard and sad for me to see that the majority of the Spanish people, and I mean what I say, probably believes the article. Indeed El Pais contains a voting platform and other than my vote all other votes were extremely positive.

Addition after reading comments:

Even though an Israeli official evidently made those comments that I was not aware of and then the Israeli government immediately clarified that it did not mean that it was its plan to commit a holocaust on the Palestinian people I still think that my general comment about El Pais stands. The question really is this. We all know what the holocaust was, it was the systematic killing in gas chambers of the vast majority of European Jews plus other minorities including gypsies. So the key issue here is. Does El Pais really believe that that is the plan of the State of Israel, to systematically kill every Palestinian person in a way that is similar to Hitler´s final solution? I don´t think so.

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joe vazquez on March 20, 2008  · 

Dear Mr Varsavsky,

I enjoyed your article but am afraid I must correct you. I attach a copy of the UK Independent newspaper dated 1st March where you will see an Israeli minister ( Matin Vinlai) quoted verbartim where he is threatening the possibility of a palestinian holocaust befalling these people ( the hebrew word for holocaust ¨ shoab ¨ is used). I guess this is what El Pais has picked up on.

Best Regards

Israel’s warning: rocket fire from Gaza will result in a Palestinian ‘holocaust’

Saturday, 1 March 2008

An Israeli government minister warned yesterday that increasing rocket fire from Gaza would bring Palestinians a Shoah – the Hebrew word normally used to denote the Nazi Holocaust inflicted on Jews during the Second World War.

The declaration by the Deputy Defence Minister, Matan Vilnai, came amid fresh calls from some Israeli politicians for a ground invasion of Gaza provoked by the launch of eight Soviet-designed Grad rockets into the southern city of Ashkelon during the lethal violence of the past three days.

Mr Vilnai declared: “As the rocket fire grows, and the range increases – and they haven’t yet said the last word on this – they are bringing upon themselves a greater Shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground.”

The former Labour minister and general in the IDF military told Army Radio: “We’re getting close to using our full strength.”

Government spokesmen launched an immediate damage limitation exercise saying that Mr Vilnai was merely using the word to mean “disaster” and not in any way intending to convey the idea of genocide. But Shoah is rarely used in modern Hebrew parlance for events other than the Holocaust.

The Israeli air strikes have killed at least 33 people, including five children, in the past two days. The strikes were launched in response to the barrage of Qassam rockets launched from Gaza, one of which killed an Israeli mature student in the southern town of Sderot on Wednesday.

The rocket attacks themselves followed the killing of five key Hamas militants in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis earlier that day.

One girl, aged 17, was injured by the more powerful, longer-range rockets fired at Ashkelon, a city of 120,000 people situated 11 miles north of Gaza. Another missile went through the roof of an apartment building and landed three floors below. Palestinian militants have not used them in such quantities before.

Arye Mekel, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, reinforcing comments made by Mr Vilnai’s own spokesman, added: “Matan Vilnai used the Hebrew phrase that included the term Shoah in the sense of a disaster or a catastrophe, and not in the sense of a holocaust.”

But Hamas was quick to seize on the minister’s remark. A spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said: “We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people.”

One man was slightly wounded by a rocket attack on Sderot yesterday – one of 16 which the military said had been fired during the day. Palestinian sources in Gaza said that five people – including two children – had been wounded in three air strikes in the northern Strip yesterday.

Tony Blair, envoy for the Middle East international Quartet, while “utterly condemning” the rocket attacks from Gaza, said last night: “It is vital that in action against them, everything possible is done to avoid the loss of innocent Palestinian life, so that there are not even more victims of the situation created in Gaza.”

The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, is thought to be very wary of authorising a major ground offensive in Gaza. But Tzachi Hanegbi, chairman of the Knesset foreign affairs and defence committee and a hawkish member of Mr Olmert’s ruling Kadima party, said yesterday: “The State of Israel must make a strategic decision to order the IDF to prepare quickly to topple the Hamas terror regime and take over all the areas from which rockets are fired on Israel.” He said the IDF should prepare to remain in those areas for years if necessary.

Yossi Beilin, the former minister and ex-leader of the left of centre Meretz Party, said that a diplomatic rather than military solution was needed.

He said that Hamas had at least twice made requests “via a third party” to agree a truce. He added: “My solution is to reach a ceasefire with Hamas.”

A Haaretz-Dialog poll this week showed that 64 per cent of Israelis were in favour of such an agreement to end the rocket fire, and secure the release of the Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Gaza militants in June 2006.

On a visit to Ashkelon, however, the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, gave little sign that the government was contemplating such a course. “Hamas is directly responsible for the current situation and will be the one to bear the cost of our response. An Israeli response is necessary and will be carried out,” he said.

Ismail Haniyeh, the de facto Hamas prime minister in Gaza, speaking at a mosque near his home in his first public appearance for a month, said: “What does a large-scale raid mean? You [Israelis] were in the Gaza Strip and you quit because of the resistance.”

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Javier on March 20, 2008  · 

Hi Martin,

Why do you think this happens? If I had seen such a heavy claim in a Wikipedia article I would have expected a note saying ‘Citation Needed’. I think there is a need for more transparent, democratic and participative journalism. At least, it should be possible for people to dispute the claims to incentivise authors to substantiate them in the first place.
Do you think this can be solved by start-up?


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Martin Varsavsky on March 20, 2008  · 

When I wrote my article, I had not seen these declarations as they were not quoted in the Spanish article and now I see that they are from 2 weeks ago. As I read the news, I see where the confusion could stem from.

I still don´t believe that the phrase used meant the deliberate elimination of all the Palestinian people as the Holocaust was the deliberate elimination of all the Jewish people. I still believe that El Pais is the most anti Israeli of the major papers of Europe.

Having said this, I also rectify my position that El Pais had no basis to say this as there was that declaration 2 weeks ago.

Kees on March 21, 2008  · 

Well, genocide perhaps not, but it is ethnic cleansing. So why is that the Israeli goverment is treated different then the Servian goverment?
Because of the collective guilt feeling in the west towards the Jews during WWII and the period before and the explotation of this feeling by the Israeli’s. It is time that we in the west come to grip with our past and start to treat everybody the same and stop the funds towards Israel as long as they don’t threat others who live in the same country the same. If Catelan people would decide that only Catelan people can expand their property around Barcelona and demolish houses of other people when someone of their group kills a Catelan, Spain and the world would fall all over them. When Israel does this, most people will argu that Israel has the right to defend themselves. If goverments in the west would implement the same anti-terrorist laws as Israel has and act the same, half of the goverments would be toppled by the people. If Israel wants to be regarded as not just another Arab semi democracy or dictatorship and wants to be viewed as a real western governement with possible EU membership it has to change 180C and for instance realise they’re also a multicultiaral society, not a Jewish multicultiaral society and one with equal rights for all of it’s citizens. After all they say that Jeruzalem is undivided and claim all of it. I’m not Servian but if Israel was, we could see a Nato fleet at the coast of Israel and it would not be there to protect them.

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Wanunu on March 21, 2008  · 

Martin: Every time that you have the great opportunity to explain the fascist phenomena within the Jewish community you backpedal into how progressive you are and take offense because the attack to the Jewish community. Israel Zionism is not a isolate case, for the diaspora works internationally.

I am afraid that you do not want to touch to this subject because it will affect your business. That’s fine, but then again do not pretend that the worst fascists hide behind the national Jewish centric aspirations.

You remind me of the Argentinians AAA, Opus Dei funded that will do anything for what the Vatican promulgated and dictates.


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Dave Burstein on March 25, 2008  · 


Few things have horrified me more in recent years than when I followed up an article like this. A prominent member of the government spoke of a coming “shoah”, and the contemporary meaning in Hebrew seems pretty clear.

I agree he probably meant it metaphorically, and El Pais may have taken it too far. You’re probably right the situation in Palestine is unlikely to include gassing and deliberate murder.

I believe my political work is most effective when I address my own community. So if I were choosing to comment about this, I would be far more likely to write about the horrible threat by the Israeli minister rather than El Pais. Which does not underestimate the continuing antisemitism that probably inspired some of the coverage.

Dave Burstein

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Uri L. on March 26, 2008  · 

HI Martin,

I enjoy reading this blog regularly and we even met at the kinneret last year.

Usually, I never comment on the political posts, since I’m more interested in learning from the conversation and debate in the comments.

Thanks for bringing this item – I knew about the anti-Israeli trend in major Spanish press, but wasn’t aware that it could turn in such way.
But while I usually thought it stems from a clear “pro-minorities” semi-socialistic viewpoint that wraps up pro-palestinian, anti-american attitudes (which is legitimate in the scope of a political debate), it’s quite surprising to see this kind of aggressiveness.

Is El Pais an independent newspaper, or considered as a voice for left/right wings?

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B.Warshavsky on March 29, 2008  · 

Martin, please don’t get mixed in a discussion about how bad is Israël. The subject is very old, antisemitism was an invention of the Vatican, many years ago and “generously” used by many lands and governments. Curiosum, most of these “chronic antisemites” lands and governments reside in Europe and belong to the “european culture”. And just the Europeans go on playing this macabere game-annex anti USA, perhaps because it is already a “respectable tradition”. Spain is the first in this fixture: they expelled the Jews and the moslims during the kingdom of the “muy católicos reyes” (racisme, ethnic cleansing? please help) en had pleasure in burning them in the long period of the Inquisición. The Russians did nothing against the pogroms (see the Wikipedia), Czechoslovakia exterminated Jews in de Middle Ages, Poland was altijd known als antisemite and the ruling class of Germany since the XVIII century was already anti-Jews. Their efforts became “efficient” with the help of their protegé, someone called Adolf, had a narrow moustache and I think that he also wrote a book, temporarily out of the bookshops.
The best known antisemite outside Europe was an Argentine General, an exception that enforces de rule.
But all that is not so important als the new antisemitisme, born again out his own ashes, a Phoenix of Evil, now relatively active in Europa and of course, the Arab lands. It has an aroma of politically correct, proportionality in the self-defence, love your neighbour, etc. I have personally no hope that this time the Jews will have an easy work-around if they don’t have a strong own land: Israel.

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Jacob Silverman on October 25, 2008  · 

Sir: what you said was that Mr. Jose Maria Ridao “simply lies.” That was a personal statement, not a metaphorical one, and not one less specific about a newspaper institution, or about some cultural institution. I am in the library today googling the name of Ridao.

Now, what was it that that Israeli official who as you say “made those comments” doing? In the real sense — he is intentionally replicating the word used for what the Nazi Regime did in order to use that word himself.

In sum, your own statement that “they simply lie,” about a specific human person, was apparently not something you felt the need to correct or revisit. Good day.

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