- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 23, 2004

TEL AVIV — Jewish settlers opposed to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to evacuate the Gaza Strip decided to drop a campaign to wear Star of David badges after it stirred public outrage for drawing a comparison between the settlers’ plight and victims of the Holocaust.

Worn by dozens of adults and schoolchildren in the Gush Katif settlement block in the Gaza Strip, the orange stars evoked the yellow Star of David patches that Nazi Germany forced European Jews to wear. The display touched off a wave of criticism, including from settler leaders and right-wing opponents of the disengagement plan.

“Gush Katif residents who decided to wear the orange stars did it to protest what the prime minister is going to do to us — expel the residents from their homes,” Motti Sender, a member of the campaign, told Israel Radio. “But Gush Katif residents are cognizant of the heartache of the citizens of Israel.”

The orange star protest, which employed the color of the anti-disengagement campaign, was started independently of the Yesha Council, the umbrella body for settlers in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the local leadership in Gush Katif. The botched campaign illustrated the difficulties that the settler leadership could encounter in the coming months in controlling followers who are fervently opposed to the evacuation.

On Wednesday, the Yesha Council issued a statement objecting to the orange badges. The settler leaders, who came under attack earlier this week for encouraging civil disobedience to block what would be the first-ever removal of settlements from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, said using symbols from the Holocaust was going too far.

“We strongly oppose this,” said Yehoshua Mor Yosef, the spokesman for the council. “I’m afraid that it caused damage to the struggle because it touched an emotional chord. We have a thousand better arguments against the disengagement.”

Moshe Frieman, a leader of the orange-star campaign and the son of a Holocaust survivor, insisted that the halt in the protest was temporary and that the initiative would be re-evaluated.

Although he insisted that the badges drew several calls of support from Israel and abroad, he acknowledged that the general reaction to the campaign was unexpectedly negative.

“[The campaign] came out not according to plan,” he said. “It caused a wave that we didn’t want.”

Yesterday, criticism of the orange patches was voiced by the military top brass, which usually steers clear of domestic political disputes. Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, head of the army’s manpower branch, likened the settlers wearing the badges to Holocaust deniers.

“If what they did in the Holocaust is similar to what we’re doing to them, then the Holocaust was apparently something not so terrible,” he told Channel 2 television news. “There’s no choice but to say this is insane.”

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