- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 21, 2004

JERUSALEM — Some Jewish settlers said yesterday they will be wearing orange Star of David patches — similar to those the Nazis forced Jews to pin to their lapels — in an escalation of protests against a planned Gaza Strip withdrawal.

The campaign stirred an uproar in Israel, which gave refuge to large numbers of Holocaust survivors after World War II. About 250,000 survivors still live in Israel, and mention of the Nazi genocide in a public forum remains an extremely sensitive subject.

Settler activists in Gaza said they would distribute the orange stars this weekend, but a handful of Gaza residents had begun to display the badges yesterday.

“We want to shock the nation,” said Miriam Freiman, a 67-year-old Holocaust survivor who lives in the Neve Dekalim settlement in Gaza.

The protest touched a raw nerve. Images of a woman wearing the star on her lapel ran on the front page of an Israeli newspaper, and radio shows discussed the settler campaign nonstop.

Former Israeli chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau denounced the initiative.

“Spare us this return to the nightmares of the past and leave the Holocaust in its proper place,” he said. “The deliberate murder of 6 million Jews is such a sacred and significant thing that it cannot be compared with absolutely anything else in the world.” Rabbi Lau is a Holocaust survivor.

The official Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center urged the settlers to refrain from using the stars. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights group that focuses on Holocaust issues, accused the settlers of cheapening the memory of Holocaust victims.

“The Nazi term ‘resettlement’ was to take Jews from their homes to be mass-murdered. They’re trying to create imagery that this is the same resettlement,” said Efraim Zuroff, head of the Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, who lives in a West Bank settlement. “We’re not headed to Auschwitz, with all due respect.”

Under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan, Israel will withdraw from Gaza and a small part of the West Bank next year. The plan will uproot about 8,800 settlers.

After spearheading the settlement movement for decades, Mr. Sharon says the continued occupation of Gaza is untenable and the pullout will improve Israel’s security.

But Gaza settlers accuse Mr. Sharon of caving in to violence. Palestinian militants attack Gaza settlements with mortars almost daily and frequently attempt infiltrations.

“This withdrawal process will bring us another Holocaust. I want to prevent another Holocaust,” said Mrs. Freiman, who came to Israel from Ukraine as a 4-year-old after fleeing her home in the back of a cattle train. She said she lost 30 relatives to the Nazis.

“They want to accuse me of cheapening the Holocaust?” she said. “They have a right to do that? I barely survived.”

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