by Stephen Lendman
Yom HaShoah/Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated annually. It runs from sundown April 7 to sunset April 8. This year’s theme is “Defiance and Rebellion during the Holocaust: 70 years Since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.”
Sunday night Warsaw and Jerusalem ceremonies included government officials, dignitaries and holocaust survivors. At 10AM Monday morning, a two-minute siren echoed across Israel. It marked the beginning of other ceremonies that followed.
Yad Vashem is Israel’s official holocaust memorial. It’s located on Mount Herzl’s western slope on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. Its complex includes the Holocaust History Museum. It’s second only to the Western Wall as Israel’s most visited site.
A wreath-laying ceremony was held there. Holocaust victim names were publicly recited all day. Much more takes place annually. Never forget. Never again. Hollow words. Other holocausts go unmentioned. More on that below.
Norman Finkelstein’s “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” discusses its politicization and commercialization. He documents distortions and deceptions. He quotes former Israeli official Abba Eban saying “There’s no business like Shoah business.”
He explains the myth of “unique Jewish suffering.” It’s connected to power politics. Vested interests take full advantage. Israeli criticism is deflected. Anti-Semitism accusations target those who dare. Crimes of war and against humanity go unmentioned.
Holocaust imagery rationalizes occupation harshness, dispossessions, and other international law violations. Yom Ha Shoah promoters ignore other human suffering. They characterize Hitler’s terror as unique. They’re mindless of other genocides much greater.
In WW II, three times as many Slavs died as Jews. America’s Native American genocide was perhaps the greatest ever. Who knows? Who honors the victims? Who cares?
Those who do call it the “500 year war.” “The world’s longest holocaust in the history of mankind and loss of human lives.” “500 years of hate crimes.”
They continue today. They go unmentioned. Few Americans know. They’re airbrushed from history. General Phillip Sheridan explained saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
Howard Zinn said America committed “genocide brutally and purposefully.” It was done “in the name of progress.” US leaders buried ugly truths “in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth.”
Over centuries, America reduced its indigenous population to at most 3% of its original total. In his book titled, “A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present,” Ward Churchill said:
Millions were “hacked apart with axes and swords, burned alive and trampled under horses, hunted as game and fed to dogs, shot, beaten, stabbed, scalped for bounty, hanged on meathooks and thrown over the sides of ships at sea, worked to death as slave laborers, intentionally starved and frozen to death during a multitude of forced marches and internments, and, in an unknown number of instances, deliberately infected with epidemic diseases.”
Shockingly, “every one of these practices (continues in new forms). The American holocaust was and remains unparalleled, in terms of its scope, ferocity and continuance over time.” Today, its entirely ignored in mainstream discourse.
The African holocaust was just as grim. It resulted from 500 years of colonization, oppression, exploitation, and slavery. Much of it trafficked to America. Black Africans were captured, branded, chained, force-marched to ports, beaten, kept in cages, stripped of their humanity, and often their lives.
Around 100 million or more were sold like cattle. Millions perished during the Middle Passage. They were packed like cargo under deplorable conditions in coffin-sized spaces. Sometimes they were placed one atop another. They experienced extreme discomfort. They had poor ventilation, little or no sanitation, and overall appalling conditions.
Dysentery, smallpox, ophthalmia (causing blindness) and other diseases became epidemics. Conditions below deck were dark, filthy, slimy, full of blood, vomit, and human excrement. Women were beaten and raped. Claustrophobics became insane. Others were flogged or clubbed to death. Anyone thought to be diseased was dumped overboard like garbage.
Arrivals with three-fourths of human cargos were considered successful voyages. The Middle Passage claimed as many as half of those trafficked. Estimates range up to 50 million lives lost.
Zinn called American slavery “the most cruel form in history: the frenzy for limitless profit that comes from capitalistic agriculture; the reduction of the slave to less than human status by the use of racial hatred, with that relentless clarity based on color, where white was master, black was slave.”
Post-WW II US genocides are ignored. Millions of North Koreans, Southeast Asians, Central and Latin Americans, Africans, other Asians, Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians and others perished. More die daily. Who knows? Who cares? Who honors them?
Vulgar dishonesty exploits Jewish suffering. Palestine’s Nakba gets short shrift. Palestinians today are as helpless as Jews were under Hitler. Israeli state terror targets them ruthlessly. They cling to hope courageously. No one intervenes to help. Edward Said once asked:
“Is this the Zionist goal for which hundreds of thousands have died.” It began during Israel’s war without mercy. Genocidal ethnic cleansing reflected official Israeli policy. Cities and villages were depopulated. Jewish ones replaced them.
About 800,000 Palestinians were dispossessed or massacred. Rapes and other atrocities were committed. No one was allowed to return. Decades of occupation followed. So does institutionalized persecution.
Life in occupied Palestine includes economic strangulation, poverty, unemployment, collective punishment, loss of fundamental freedoms, targeted assassinations, punitive taxes, stolen land and resources, Gazans suffocating under siege, separation walls, electric fences and border closings, curfews, roadblocks and checkpoints, bulldozed homes and crops, as well as arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, torture, and other ill-treatment.
On May 15, Palestinians commemorate Nakba day. It reflects one of history’s great crimes. It continues daily. Israel’s Nakba Law prohibits commemorating it. Penalties are imposed for doing so. Erasing this horrific event from Israeli consciousness is policy.
It remains etched in collective Palestinians’ memories. It represents decades of horrific suffering. No words adequately explain. Few Israeli Jews understand or remember. Palestinians lost their lives, land and futures.
Israel never accepted responsibility. Jewish suffering alone matters. Nakba’s memory remains. Israeli law and ruthlessness won’t erase it. Not now. Not ever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
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ADDENDUM: OTHER GENOCIDES
While the Nazi persecution of Jews in WW2 is without a doubt one of the greatest crimes ever recorded in history, other genocides merit attention, ranging from the Turkish annihilation of about one million Armenians (the “Armenian Holocaust”, 1915-1923) to African victims of organized slavery, whose numbers are also in the millions. The horrors of the “Middle Passage”, where ships arriving with 70% of their original “cargo” were seen as successful, speak eloquently to this mind-boggling crime. But besides these enormous and well-organized atrocities, there’s the systematic extirpation and enslavement of Native Americans, not only in the North American continent, where most US public attention has been focused, but throughout the Caribbean basin and South America, as well. None of the great colonialist powers is exempt from this appalling crime. Spain, Portugal, England, France, and Holland lead the pack, but the stain dishonors the whole of “white” European civilization.
Historian Howard Zinn has given us a memorable portrait of what it meant to be “civilized” by the Europeans. In the first chapter of his indispensable People’s History of the United States, “Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress,” he lays out the tender mercies extended by the first Europeans to the welcoming natives. [READ IT HERE]. As well, we have found the work of Bob Corbett of great merit. His research into the history of Haiti (Hispaniola) is both gripping and eloquent about the fate of less warlike civilizations at the mercy of greedy foreigners. Those who still celebrate the arrival of Europeans to this continent will have to reckon with these unsavory facts. —Patrice Greanville
THE GENOCIDAL END OF THE ARAWAK/TAINO INDIANS
By Bob Corbett
There is a great debate as to just how many Arawak/Taino inhabited Hispaniola when Columbus landed in 1492. Some of the early Spanish historian/observers claimed there were as many as 3,000,000 to 4,000,000. These numbers seem to be based on very little reliable evidence and are thought to be gross exaggerations. However, since nothing like a census was done, the methods for estimating the numbers are extremely shaky, whether by these early historians or later critics.
One long technical article on the population comes in the with the low estimate of 100,000. Several other modern scholars seem to lean more forcefully in the area of 300,000 to 400,000. Whatever the number, what happened to them is extremely tragic. They were not immune to European diseases, especially smallpox, and the Spanish worked them unmercifully in the mines and fields. By 1507 the Spanish were settled and able to do a more reliable job of counting the Arawak/Tainos. It is generally agreed that by 1507 their numbers had shrunk to 60,000. By 1531 the number was down to 600. Today there are no easily discerned traces of the Arawak/Tanio at all [Publisher’s note: This is not at all certain, and evidence to the contrary is offered by the web page of the Taino Inter-Tribal Council.] except for some of the archaeological remains that have been found. Not only on Hispaniola, but also across the Windward Passage in Cuba, complete genocide was practiced on these natives.
Disease was a major cause of their demise. However, on Columbus’ 2nd voyage he began to require a tribute from the Arawak/Tainos. They were expected to yield a certain quantity of gold per capita. Failing that each adult of 14 was required to submit 25lbs. of cotton. For those who could not produce the cotton either, there was a service requirement for them to work for the Spanish. This set the stage for a system of assigning the Arawak/Taino to Spanish settlers as effective slave labor. This system contributed significantly to their genocide.
In Sidney Lintz’s interesting introduction to James Leyburn’s THE HAITIANS, he argues that not only did the Indians die out, but nearly all cultural traces did too. He says this is a very unusual phenomenon. Haiti’s culture is almost entirely African and European. There are some anthropologists who believe that some Voodoo rites, and especially the Petwo Voodoo rites, might have their origins in Arawak/Taino religion, but this is speculative.
Regardless, it does seem that the Arawak/Tainos disappeared without a trace. Michel Laguerre does caution that despite the early date of the demise of the Arawak/Taino, numbers of them did last long enough to have worked alongside the African slaves who were being brought to Haiti in increasing numbers. Laguerre suggests that there would probably have been some inter-mating and thus it is highly unlikely that Indian blood completely died out in Haiti, even though their cultural heritage did disappear without a trace.
SPECIFIC INDIAN LEADERS AT THE TIME OF COLUMBUS
There were five major caciques when Columbus landed and they had various relations with Columbus. These caciques, their provinces and relations with the Spanish were:
- cacique Guacanagaric
The province of Marien (Bainoa) This province was on the north east coast + interior, in the area of the bay of Samana in the Dominican Republic.
He wanted Columbus to protect him from the marauding Caribs who often came into this area, and he became a friendly advisor to Columbus and a lifelong friend of the Spanish invaders. His own village was about 2 miles SE of Cap Haitien.
- cacique Caonabo
The province of Ciguayos (Cayabo or Maguana) After the Spanish “settlers” at La Navidad perpetrated many horrors on local natives, Caonabo led a band which crossed into the province of Maden and killed all the sailors.
Caonabo then became the rallying point for resistance to the Spanish. Under a pretext of making peace, Columbus lured Caonabo into a trap. The Spaniard Ojeda gave Caonabo a gift of polished iron chains and handcuffs. Mistaking them for ornaments, Caonabo allowed himself to be chained and taken away. Columbus then sent him off to Spain.
Caonabo’s brother, Manicatoex, then led an uprising. The Spanish, with their superior firepower crushed the natives and the defeated Arawak/Taino were forced to agree to pay tribute to the Spanish.
There seems to be some unclarity among scholars about these natives. Some claim that these Indians were not from the Arawak/Taino group, but some other tribe. lt does seem that an earlier group, the Ciboney, did live in this area. But, it’s not clear if at the time of Caonabo these were Arawak/ Taino or not.
- cacique Guarionex
The province of Magua (Huhabo) This was a densely populated area. This was good inland agricultural land. In 1494 Guarionex was made to submit, then was imprisoned. The Spanish raped his wife in front of him, then executed him. They suspected him of being involved in the attack which Caonabo led on La Navidad.
A brief digression on La Navidad. Columbus landed at Mole St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, 1492, his second land fall in the “New World.” On Dec. 24, 1492 he was sailing away and on Christmas Eve the Santa Maria ran aground and sank off the north coast of Haiti, just near Cap Haitien. The Pinta was lost and the Nina could not accommodate all the sailors. Thus Columbus, with the help of Arawak/Taino, salvaged a good deal of the Santa Maria and built a small fort called La Navidad (The Nativity) and left a group of sailors there.)
On his return on the second voyage all the sailors were discovered to have been killed. It seems that they began to violate native women and property and the natives rose up against them.
- cacique Behechio
The province of Xaragua This was in the southwest peninsula. They grew lots of cotton here and also in the cul de sac, north of where Port-au-Prince lies today.
Behechio’s sister was Anacaona, widow of Caonabo. After the Spanish killed Caonabo and Behechio, she succeeded her husband in Xaragua and was much loved by her people. However, the Spanish were threatened by this popularity and the power that went with it. Ovando, a successor to Columbus, went to her village under the pretext of collecting the Spanish tribute. Despite Anacaona’s instructions to the people to be fully cooperative and hospitable, and despite her own friendly welcome, the Spanish began a slaughter, burned the village and took Anacaona prisoner. She was hanged at Santo Domingo.
- cacique Cotubanama or Cayacoa
The province of Higuey (Caizcimu) There were rumors of there being gold in Higuey. De Las Casas reported that “infinite was the number of people l saw burned alive” in order that the people tell where the nonexistent gold was. (I’ll do a separate piece on De Las Casas, a most interesting fellow.)
After the death of Anacaona, Cotubanama too was considered dangerous. The Spanish attacked his province, captured him and hanged him in Santo Domingo.