Is the Star of David the new swastika?

In a disturbing reversal of symbolism, Israeli extremists are defacing Palestinian property with the Jewish symbol

Topics: Israel, Religion, Middle East,

Time was when Nazis used to slather swastikas on synagogues and Jewish businesses to prepare the local population for expulsion or much worse. It’s sad that this sort of behavior persists around the world, as a new study by Tel Aviv University shows. But it’s even sadder to see Israelis regularly defacing Palestinian property with Stars of David with equal glee and with what appears to be the same brain-dead mindset.

Your local paper might not have covered it, but in the wee hours of Wednesday morning a gang of Israeli settlers attacked the West Bank village of Hawara. “Palestinians reported two torched cars on the village’s central road early yesterday,” Haaretz writes. “A small village mosque, used only on the weekend, had the word ‘Muhammad’ sprayed in Hebrew and a Star of David. Haaretz also found graffiti with the Jewish prayer ‘Praise be onto him for not making me a gentile.’” The attackers also took the opportunity to destroy some three hundred olive trees, a major source of local income.  

In February of 2009, a Canadian writer by the name of Marcello Di Cintio witnessed how “earlier this week, the IDF raided Jayyous. Soldiers entered the village at night, seized about a hundred young men and penned them in the school gymnasium. The troops also occupied several village houses and spray-painted a Star of David over a pro-freedom mural on a school wall. The IDF took about a dozen men with them when they left, and the men are still in custody somewhere in Israel.”

According to the Maan News Agency, in December 2008, “Israeli settlers rampaged through five villages in the northern West Bank early on Tuesday, vandalizing mosques, attacking farms and harassing residents. In the villages of Yatma, Qabalan and As-Sawiya, south of Nablus, settlers slashed the tires of more than 20 cars and also set fire to thousands of shekels worth of straw bales, used as animal feed. In As-Sawiya, settlers wrote slogans insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammad on the walls of a local mosque. [S]ettlers painted a star of David and slogans such as ‘Death to Arabs’ on the village mosque.”



“On 19 March 2007, Israeli settlers illegally occupied an empty four-story Palestinian building,” the Electronic Intifada reported. “This multi-unit Hebron building is close to the Kiryat Arba settlement of 7000 residents and is strategically located to link Kiryat Arba to the smaller enclaves inside Hebron’s Old City. … Palestinians say that another settlement will lead to yet another checkpoint and tighter curfews, further isolating this part of the city. Already settlers have placed a wire at the entrance of the Palestinian house across the street to trip residents as they exit their home. They have stoned the house and spray painted a Star of David on the front door.”

Also in 2007, Tim McGirk blogged about his own experiences in the West Bank for Time Magazine:

Not long ago, I ventured into Hebron … I wanted to see what [the Palestinians] thought of their Jewish neighbors. On this street, winding up a hill, it was easy to spot the Arab houses. Their windows and doors were covered in metal grills to protect them from stones, rotten fruit and the occasional gunshot coming from settlers living across the road. Over the years, a few Jewish settlers had also been shot by Palestinian militants, and Israeli soldiers had cordoned off this section, emptying life from the heart of old Hebron. The Arab houses were easy to spot for another reason. The settler kids had spray-painted a Star of David on walls of all the Arab houses. A religious symbol used for intimidation. I found this disturbing, like seeing the Klu Klux Klan’s cross blazing on a black man’s lawn.

Blogging for the Madison Times, George Arida described a visit to Nablus in 2003:

We stopped at Joseph’s Tomb, a site of archaeological and religious significance. It also had military significance; the Israelis had bombed it over a year ago (the dome and outside walls were damaged) and then had later used it as a base of operations. The soldiers had left a spray-painted Star of David on the ancient stone wall. This spray-painted souvenir was left by the Israelis on the walls of many buildings in Nablus.

Israeli troops pulled out of the West Bank city of Ramallah in 2002. “The home of Hamdi Flaifer, 35, was in ruins after an Israeli search,” the New York Times reported. “Windows were broken, furniture was smashed, sofa cushions slashed, closets and cabinets were emptied onto the floor. Just outside his front door, Israelis had spray-painted a Star of David and a number, indicating to other Israelis that his house had been searched.”

The Mogen Dovid is a symbol that has experienced a roller coaster of shifting meanings over the centuries. The six-pointed star was a symbol known to many religious and spiritual traditions and only became firmly associated with Judaism and Zionism in the late nineteenth century. But its power as a Jewish symbol derives less from what Jews have done with it than from what anti-Semites have tried in vain to make it into. Storm troopers painted Stars of David on Jewish businesses during their boycott of Jewish shops in 1933. In September, 1941, SS leader Reinhard Heydrich signed a decree demanding that all Jews in German-occupied Europe wear a yellow star – first to shut them up as potential defeatists, and later to mark them for extermination. After the war the new State of Israel chose the Star of David as its national emblem. Thus it has gone from a symbol of pride to a symbol of shame and fear and then back again to a symbol of pride and endurance against impossible odds. 

Will it return to being a symbol of shame and fear – perhaps permanently? With attacks like the ones I described above on the increase, and now that the Israeli military has approved plans that could lead to the mass deportation of tens of thousands of West Bank residents on short notice, Palestinians are increasingly experiencing the Star of David as a threat to their very existence. This should be a scandal to everyone who remembers what the star has meant in the past. My message to Israelis is simple: Stop doing this. NOW.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>