Like Strasbourg, Like Gaza and the West Bank?

By Dallas Darling

When Jewish extremists in Palestinian territory attacked a mosque and set fire to Muslim holy books and prayer carpets, it was reminiscent of the cremation of the Strasbourg Jews. Only in this case, it is the cremation of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank, and it includes their dream of an independent state and self-determination. Several days earlier, extremists also set fire to Palestinian houses and vehicles and burned a grove of olive trees in a village near Bethlehem.

In 1349, six-hundred-and-sixty years ago, Jacob von Konigshofen wrote that over 2000 Jews were burned on a wooden platform in their cemetery. They had been blamed for the widespread horrors of the Black Death. Europeans were searching for the causes of the Black Death, when rumors spread Jews had poisoned water wells. It was in Strasbourg, a city along the Rhine River, where Jews were rounded-up, detained, and cremated. After killing the Jews, the Strasbourg Council seized all of their cash and possessions. All debts to those who were cremated were canceled.

For many years, the Strasbourg Jews had been dehumanized. Their synagogues were attacked and religious relics burned. The desecration of a peoples belongings and faith are usually first steps in justifying their elimination. Today, Israel has demolished Palestinian homes and farms and committed night raids and military incursions. They have retaliated with punitive blockades, mass arrests, and imprisonments (including children). Israel has cut-off water and electricity and has isolated Palestinians from the rest of the world. These actions have tragically led to a "soft" cremation of Gaza and West Bank Palestinians.

Groups delivering food and medicine or wanting to visit Gaza like the European Parliament, which reaffirmed a Palestinian state and called for Jerusalem to be a joint capital, have been denied access. Settlement expansions, such as the one at Gilo in East Jerusalem, and the Judaization of Jerusalem, in which almost 5000 Palestinians were stripped of their residency status and brutally deported, reveals a systematic destruction of Palestinian culture. Does the construction of the West Bank Wall, along with the continual dehumanization of Palestinians, point to a future and collectivized cremation?

To prevent another Strasbourg, the United Nations and Security Council will have to revisit decades of mistakes and correct its compliancy of Zionism. The Minority Report of 1947, which India, Iran, and former Yugoslavia proposed, is a good beginning. The report recommended "an independent federal state" with its capital at Jerusalem, composed of two autonomous political entities (Palestinian-Arabs and Jews) but united by a central government that would include both Palestinian-Arabs and Jewish representatives.(1)

The hypocrisy of the Majority Report, which recommended two independent states but only granted Israel one, will have to be addressed too. Perhaps the United Nations can set-out on an ambitious plan to desegregate its peace-keeping missions and include a coalition of Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Education stressing toleration and respect towards others of different faiths, along with a common and shared history, will have to be introduced in Israeli and Palestinian schools. Although this may meet resistance at first, it is better to have a generation of conflict instead of generational and perpetual violence.

The U.S. should pressure Israel in recognizing the Palestinians and their diverse traditions, faiths, and cultural achievements. How truthful was Noam Chomsky’s statement about Israel essentially being a U.S. military base for launching wars and positioning weapons at other nations in the Middle East? President Barack Obama, who once was in favor of a Palestinian state, will have to regain the trust of the Palestinians and recommit to his original pledge for an independent Palestinian state.

Whether it be an epidemic or world war that kills millions and creates new artificial boundaries, no group of people should ever be falsely accused for an act they never committed. Nor should they be used as political scapegoats and then sacrificed. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was correct in condemning the desecration of the mosque in Palestinian territory. When will he and the Israeli Government denounce other "soft" cremations? The world must somehow find the courage to foresee the future and prevent another Strasbourg in Gaza and the West Bank.

– Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for He contributed this article to Read more of Dallas’ Daily Digest at and


(1) Congressional Quarterly. The Middle East, Ninth Edition. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2000. p. 26.

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