Judith Butler: 'Holocaust analogies demean Palestinian suffering'

From a lecture given by the philosopher from the University of California, Berkeley, at the 'Holocaustal Premises' discussion at the University of London
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The Independent Online

The evacuation of Gaza was quite telling, though: approximately 8,000 Israelis were compelled to leave their homes there, 1,719 Palestinians have been killed there since 2000, another 9,000 Palestinians have been injured there and 2,704 Palestinian homes razed there, in which dwelled some 20,000 people. I do not say this to set up equivalents or to show that the non-equivalence is overwhelming, I say it only so that the picture might be widened to understand where and how the human suffering in that region occurs.

The plight of the Israelis evacuated from Gaza can deflect attention from the suffering and the political oppression of the 1,300,000 who exist there with radically restricted means of making a living. If the story and the image of the Holocaust lays claim to the most unimaginable suffering, then the story and the image can work precisely to demean any other suffering or to rename any other act of aggression an extension and reiteration of the Holocaust itself.

Consider that the relatively simple claim by an Israeli that she or he would like to live in a secular state, one that did not discriminate on the basis of religion, ethnicity or race, is enough, in some quarters, to bring down the charge that such a person is plotting the "destruction" of the Israeli state. The overtones carried by "destruction" are clear, and the resonance of the Holocaust has become mundane in arguments of this kind.