1) Europe has been held hostage by the guilt of the Holocaust since World War II. But honoring the memory of the Holocaust will mean stopping the killing in Gaza now. And finally honor it, because that memory was betrayed until we reached this: 2.3 million people locked in a ghetto, bombed day and night, half of them displaced, without water, food, assistance.
And it was also betrayed in the West Bank ghetto-archipelago, where almost three million Palestinians face violence from increasingly radical settlers. Today, the 700,000 settlers that Israel planted with concrete and tar, firmly attached to the ground, both in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, are all illegal in light of what Europe signed. And that is how they prevent the “Two State Solution”, as world leaders — all of them — are tired of knowing.
2) The world is tired of knowing. There is no more mediated war. No other place is embedded in so many humans, by faith, by history, by thought. At the same time, it’s as if the world at a time doesn’t know. There are those who were children during the First or Second Intifada, just now. There will always be those who are waking up, and those who may yet wake up. As there will always be those who don’t think.
Not thinking is very dangerous. In the epilogue of Eichmann in Jerusalem —a book about the trial of the Nazi responsible for transporting millions of Jews to extermination—, the Jew Hannah Arendt talks about the non-thought that makes the crime possible.
We wrote a lot after Auschwitz, despite the hole that seemed to have swallowed poetry. We have echoes of many songs, many films. After Auschwitz there was Hiroshima, and each time we saw nothing: we saw nothing that would make us better.
The proof is that we are here. It is the State of Israel — founded so that the Holocaust would never happen again, and at the cost of a lot of fighting, including Zionist terrorist attacks — to have built a wall around five million people, and for these lives to disappear on the other side.
Were they worth less than those of the Israelites? Are they worth less than ours, each one, now? Are they worth less because in Tel Aviv life is a party for beautiful white people where the West imagines itself better? Five million is half of Portugal. And half of those five million are children. They disappeared from our sight, but in front of us, in the most televised place in the world.
3. I write these words in a newspaper in a European country with a Christian majority. Many will have gone there or dream of it, the Holy Land, where Christ was born and died crucified. Those who have visited it in recent years have already seen Belém behind a wall. The Holy Sepulcher surrounded by soldiers. The Via Dolorosa full of machine guns. Out were the settlers, up and down, challenging this heart of Jerusalem. Some readers of this text will have even crossed the checkpoint to Ramallah, seeing the West Bank.
But very few were able to enter Gaza. The first time I went there, in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada, it was already difficult. A normal traveler could not, only if they were an accredited journalist, member of an NGO or diplomat/politician. And it got worse.
In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian general elections, a clean victory —and not surprising, given Fatah’s failure—, but one that the EU decided not to recognize, joining the US in this, contributing to alienating and radicalizing Hamas. A missed opportunity. Everything changed for the worse. Isolated, in a break with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas started to govern Gaza, and it became even more difficult to go there.
All of this served Israeli colonization.
Meanwhile, Israel prohibited its citizens from entering any Palestinian city. The Israelis have long since lost civil contact with the horror on the other side. Only when they are in a uniform, with a gun in their hand. Or when they are settlers, this kind of militia, cannon fodder for apartheid. Which also helped crush the left and empathy.
Therefore, very few people in the world entered Gaza. The new generations of Israel only know Palestine as soldiers. And it was under fire and occupation, behind a wall, between humiliating checkpoints, that the new Palestinian generations were born.
Does anyone really think it’s strange that young people like this “radicalize”, imprisoned, without prospects, surrounded by death? Does anyone think they could keep their head on straight? That I wouldn’t go crazy? Wouldn’t you think of everything to free yourself?
I experienced a tiny bit of those checkpoints, those massacres, those days and nights under bombs in Gaza. In the same room as children who have never known a night without nightmares. I always felt that the miracle in Palestine, but especially in Gaza, was life despite everything. Hospitality, mutual help. Everyone hasn’t gone crazy, though.
Despite the parents having already been arrested, occupied and killed, and the grandparents ditto, and everything is getting worse every day. And despite the world —even without entering Gaza, even with the wall— seeing, knowing and allowing it.
4. And who will justify this to new generations around the world? Who can explain to them why Europe is not stopping this slaughter? Why are their parents and grandparents so caught up in their own guilt, in their own fear, that is, in themselves, that they are not capable of honoring the dead of yesterday by saving the living of today?
The memory of what the Holocaust was goes from the concentration of Jews in ghettos to their extermination. Also of half a million gypsies, also of homosexuals and mentally ill people, but above all, overwhelmingly, of Jews: an unprecedented genocide, following millennia of persecution. Including in Portugal. We are all heirs of that memory, in a collective and continuous way that can be summarized as: never again.
It is never again the mirror that is in front of everyone now, and that mirror says: am I still human?
5. Since the Hamas attack on October 7, European Union (EU) leaders have had no new words for the unprecedented darkness we are in. The declaration that they painfully articulated on the 15th was as old as the many decades that lie behind it. As hollow as hundreds of previous statements. I looked for the word “occupation” in the text. It is neither an adjective nor an opinion. It is International Law, UN resolutions signed by EU countries and much of the world. But that word wasn’t there.
Throughout all these decades, Europe has failed to live up to what it voted for. He speaks for human rights, peace and civilization. More, as the founder and guardian of it. But when this is violated by the State of Israel, EU officials do not question that Israel is a democracy, and they do not force the implementation of what they signed.
Europe’s inaction is an action against its own word.
6. The brutal October 7th was the greatest trauma that the State of Israel has ever experienced in the war with the Palestinians. In every Israeli home there is now mourning, conversations about evacuations by boat to Cyprus, possibilities of emigration or at least a soldier, a reservist, children of friends. People who will die in a land invasion of Gaza. And I also think about the anguish of the so-called Arab-Israelis, that is, Palestinians who live in the territory of Israel. Israel has turned inward, and the abyss will only serve the extreme right, and that war parasite that is Netanyahu.
We saw, we are seeing and we will see images that we had never seen, or thought we would never see again. It’s a very dark night in many directions.
7. Some of the readers of this text had not yet been born the first time I went to Gaza. They don’t understand that we don’t do anything. Just like they don’t understand that we don’t do anything when there is no planet B. And how can we understand? What is there to understand? And do.
This is a generation ripe for a change that didn’t happen in mine. For a liberation from the trauma that imprisons Europe where the Holocaust took place, with the complicity or inaction of so many, besides the Germans. Let Europe listen to this generation, because they know all about urgency. It was yesterday, it is now.
I talk about Europe because I am European, and we really need European leaders to dare to oppose the weapons that the USA already wields, allying themselves with the Netanyahu government.
In addition to Hannah Arendt’s book —which on October 7th I was reading in Portuguese translation, I finished in the meantime, and for me it became fused with what we are experiencing now—, I have on the table We, children of Eichmann, by the also Jewish philosopher Günther Anders, who was Hannah’s husband.
Yes, we, children of Eichmann. Bad animals, as I wrote on Saturday in this newspaper. For those who read it, my friend W. responded again. Friend of many years in Gaza, and who suffered a lot at the hands of Hamas. Even though he had difficulty walking, he tried to go south, following Israel’s evacuation order. He caught an explosion on the way, killing dozens. He turned back. He suffered a fracture again, he never recovered from the torture. Food was not important, he wrote to me, but water was. Some neighbors helped. Someone always helps, it’s what they have, it’s what they have. That’s what I’ve always seen, in 21 years of going to Gaza: they have each other.