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The Holocaust is not your political tool

A large, castle-like building with a metal sculpture out front on a blue-skied day.
Firestone Plaza during the daytime.
Calvin Grover / The Daily Princetonian

When Israel “tried to tell 1.4 million people to flee on foot in 24 hours, we knew this was genocide. And now we see their final solution,” Ellen Li ’24 shouted at the emergency die-in for Rafah held outside Firestone Library last Wednesday. Referencing a “final solution,” words that invokes the Nazi plan to systematically murder every single Jew in Europe, in the context of a war fought through means of a totally different nature and guided by principles that stem from a totally different intent is a horrific representation of the anti-Jewish hatred that Li — and the members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) whom she represents — spreads. Furthermore, such an unjustifiable comparison represents the extent to which their activism operates in a self-created reality, entirely different from the one experienced by Gazans and Israelis in the conflict zone.

Some might wonder why words are relevant when there are lives at stake. Isn’t any rhetoric useful if it can minimize tragedy? Li and her peers are not waging a campaign of action, but of optics. An emergency die-in for Rafah will have no immediate or material effect on the lives for which they are advocating, who may be in imminent danger — this much is made clear by the fact that the so-called “emergency” action was postponed a day due to snow. Furthermore, the clarification Li provides to explain how her words were thoughtfully selected to directly target Jewish listeners is helpful in understanding the real aim of this campaign.


 In an interview with the Daily Princetonian following the event, Li stated why she used the incendiary words “final solution.”

“The reason we used the words ‘final solution’ is because we’re often accused of calling for a final solution. People often accuse Students for Justice in Palestine of calling for a genocide of Jewish people, while it’s actually the State of Israel that is committing a genocide of the Palestinian people. It’s a reversal.” 

In order to dismiss concerns about a resurgence of hatred against a minority suffering from intergenerational trauma due to an almost successful attempt at their annihilation, Li and her peers saw fit to wrongfully turn sufferers into oppressors. They — and I use a group term because Li uses “we” when clarifying the intention of the language —  make a one to one comparison. They work against an assumption they impose upon their audience: many see SJP as perpetrators of enmity against Jewish victims. Instead, they claim that the reverse is true.

The obvious conclusion of this comparison is that while SJP represents the Palestinians, the victims, Israel represents the Jews, the guilty ones. 

This sentiment draws sharp and hate-filled boundaries along ethno-national lines, indicating that it is one’s belonging to a certain people which defines their status as either good and bad. Li’s rhetoric suggests that she thinks entities — be they student groups or nations — represent entire populations, and that the actions of the former constitute grounds for universal judgment of the latter. Such a racist claim, made with the same terms in which racism against Jews was channeled into a plan for their genocide less than a century ago, is disturbing in its nonchalant attitude towards this history and hatred. It’s clear that this statement was made not to magnify the suffering of Gazans and advocate for avenues through which relief could be found, but primarily to target and vilify Jews by weaponizing their pain. 

Raising awareness is of course a noble goal, and publicly using bodies to disrupt the daily lives of students going in and out of Firestone is a useful tool for turning attention to the grave plight faced by Gazans in Rafah. But, it is crucial to remember that the intentions of these activists remain rhetorical in nature — there is no direct policy change that will come from the die-in, and certainly none that will help those in mortal danger.


Yet SJP, Princeton Alumni for Palestine, and Princeton Israeli Apartheid Divest Coalition use purposely inflammatory language to attract attention that distracts from the horrors experienced by Gazans and Israelis, and is at odds with the goal of raising understanding of and awareness about their struggles. Not only is alluding to Israeli actions as the Nazi “final solution” horrifically callous, it’s a pointless and unhelpful comparison in the context of this war.

Whatever atrocious suggestions have been made by racist Israeli politicians about their military hopes for destruction in Gaza, one cannot understand this conflict through these terms of premeditated, planned, and unprovoked industrial mass murder. In a U.N. court ruling last month, Israel was charged to “take action to prevent acts of genocide,” but not “to stop its military offensive,” which was named as an act of self-defense by the American government. Israel has no blueprint for total annihilation of an ethnic group. Outside of Gaza, for example, there are around 2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel and an estimated 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank who are not targets of this war. Claiming that a targeted elimination plan exists only further obfuscates the complex conflict over the future of Gaza.

When these groups divorce their language from its real meaning, they demonstrate that their activism is not intended to interact with the real situation in Gaza and Israel, but to create a new reality that defines the relationship between Palestinians, Jews, and outsiders in terms that have nothing to do with truth. Further examples are can be found on a Sunday Instagram post, when these communities declared the ‘Prince’ complicit in genocide for rejecting a guest op-ed submission: such a patently absurd claim removes all the weight that the word genocide carries in the first place.

To discuss the utility and moral implication of comparing the Holocaust to other genocides — alleged or real — is far outside the scope of this column. However, Li’s declaration that the comparison was made not to impress upon listeners the dangers and horrors faced by Gazans in Rafah but to accomplish “a reversal” that purposefully weaponizes Jewish historical trauma to specifically cast Jews as evil, in the same way their murderers were, goes beyond such a conversation. It reveals a driving force for her activism, and that of those whom she represents: a desire to promulgate anti-Jewish hatred. 

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Abigail Rabieh is a junior in the history department from Cambridge, Mass. She is the public editor at the ‘Prince’ and can be reached via email at arabieh[at] or on X at @AbigailRabieh.