From an article in the December 4 New York Times:

"Israel Resumes Sealing of Houses as Punishment

"For years, Israel [had a ] policy of demolishing or sealing houses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to combat Palestinian resistance to Israel's military occupation. Hundreds of homes were shut or destroyed, most in the first four years of the uprising that began in December 1987..... Palestinians say, and human rights groups agree, that the policy violates international law, amounting to collective punishment while doing nothing to to stop the uprising. If anything, they say, resentment bred by such practices produces even more rock throwers and killers."

The United States Constitution prohibits "bills of attainder"--laws or judgments penalizing human beings for being related by blood to a criminal. Any American Jew (I am one) who is sensitive to constitutional rights and protections will be hard put to defend Israel's actions of closing or destroying Palestinian houses. Instead, such issues are passed over in silence, or weakly rationalized: "Conditions are different there," and "You can't comment unless you have lived there," are two commonly heard statements.

In reality, no-one who condones the bulldozing of houses in Israel really supports Constitutional rights in the U.S. or human rights anywhere. Support of rights for some humans, and not for others, is just selfishness concealed by hypocrisy. "None is free until all are free." The test of a right or protection is not whether you are happy to see it exercised by your friends, but whether you are willing to grant it to your enemy. If you are not, you do not believe in rights at all, only privileges.

There is irony and sadness in the sight of Jews bulldozing Arab houses. If Jews can do this, and other Jews (some who undoubtedly also contribute to the ACLU) can defend it, it is one more proof, along with Bosnia and Rwanda, that no-one has learned anything from the Holocaust, that the most terrible events of history may repeat without end, amen. For a victimized people to try to claim their little corner of safety on earth at the expense of another people was wrong. Once you get off balance, it is so hard to regain it; and the impulse then is to justify, to become assertive, to see it through with bravado. Was it really necessary for the Jews to prove that they can be as brutal as the Nazis? Is this the only way to claim the status, so long sought after by Herzl and the Zionists, of a respected nation in the world?

It is not well known today that Herzl, who wanted a state for the Jews as the only way to protect them from the hatred and contempt of other people, would have been happy to go to Uganda; religious men among the Zionists prevented this plan from realization, insisting there is no place for the Jews but Palestine. If Herzl had founded the Jewish state in Uganda, it would have been another South Africa-- because Israel is in fact South Africa, with the role of black people played by the Palestinians. The democracy of some, with the subjection of the rest, is no democracy.

The special suffering of the Jews in this century, and throughout history, is real. But it is not a credit card. You don't earn suffering points which can be cashed in for the right to oppress another people.

The turning point for the Jews of Germany was Kristallnacht, the night of November 9 to 10, 1938, when the Nazis smashed shop windows and burned synagogues all over Germany, punishing Jews for an alleged blood guilt, a punishment meted out for the crime of being Jewish. Every time Israelis destroy a Palestinian house, they are participating in and extending Kristallnacht, this time as the oppressors.

See also "The Unconscious Hypocrisy of Schindler's List" in this issue.