Monday, December 29, 2008



By Kevin Anthony Stoda

Jane Yolen wrote a fictional work on the Holocaust some years ago. The book dealt with the numbers and statistics used by the Nazi’s (and their helpers from all over Europe) who came to see both their dehumanized Jewish and non-Jewish Untermenschen compatriots from across the continent as statistics to be calculated or canceled out.

That popular Jane Yolen fiction book was entitled The Devil’s Arithmetic and was made into a TV movie for Showtime.

Many modern youth who have read Yolen’s work have felt drawn into the haunting numbers game of Nazi’s--including tattooed numbers on people and trainloads of numbered, living, dead, and dying victims.

One real victim of the Holocaust was the author known by most readers as Primo Levi, a Holocaust survivor, poet and chemist—who had gone to Auschwitz and actually survived to tell his tale. (Levi was also known in some works by the pen name: Damiano Malabaila.)

Levi committed suicide many decades after the Holocaust, but he did not die a forgotten number.

Levi was a chemist and administrator for years after WWII with the SIVA-company in Italy, his homeland.

It has been reported that when Primo Levi traveled to Germany for professional reasons in the 1950s and 1960s to deal with his German counterparts, Levi always wore short sleeves so that the apparently unrepentant Germans of WWII age would see the numbers tattooed on his forearm by the Nazis decades before.

One of Levi’s later publication, The Periodic Tables, is called by some the best written science book of all time—although it included some fictional chapters as well. In this work, 22 elements are linked together to tell the story of chemistry and the story of Levi’s own life.


As the fourth day of bombings of Gaza this holiday season begins, Israeli military officials are busy with numbers and statistics.

For examples, the number of sorties are counted by F-16s.

Tonnage of bombs are notated.

Bodies of so-called Hamas supporters are counted by Israelis and presented to the Israeli media.

Meanwhile, bodies of women and children are being counted as Gaza residents morn the loss of non-combatants.

The score-sheets on the first three days (as tallied on Reuters & Yahoo) of attack on Gaza by the mighty Israeli military state is reported as follows:

“The three-day death toll rose to at least 315 by Monday morning, with some 1,400 wounded. The U.N. said at least 51 of the dead were civilians, and medics said eight children under the age of 17 were killed in two separate strikes overnight. Israel launched its campaign, the deadliest against Palestinians in decades, on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns. Since then, the number of Israeli troops on the Gaza border has doubled and the Cabinet approved the call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers.”

Numbers shared from the Gaza (or Palestinian) side include:

For example: “In northern Gaza, a father lifted the body of his 4-year-old during a funeral Monday for five children from the same family killed in an Israeli missile strike.”
Moreover, it is noted by some media sources: “On Monday, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, confirmed that at least 51 innocent civilians have been killed by Israeli air strikes since the airstrikes began on Saturday, purportedly to root out armed groups that have been firing barrages of rockets toward southern Israeli targets. Since Saturday, two Israelis have been killed and about 20 others are injured from projectile attacks.

Finally, more statistics include this important data—not noted much in Israeli and USA press--:“Gaza is the most densely populated place on the planet, with nearly 1.5 million Palestinians contained to a 20 square meter strip on the Mediterranean coast. Palestinians living in Gaza have been without food, electricity or water in their homes for several weeks.”

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers everywhere!

Some reports are that the new barrier walls in Israel already approach (or soon will reach) over 681 kilometers.

Concentration camp fences in Europe were never that big!!—Even those encircling West Berlin during the Communist-Fascist era of Erich Honnecker were less lengthy and shorter!

The Berlin Wall, which I climbed over on December 31, 1989, was only 155km.
One other website notes: “The average height of the Berlin Wall was 11.8 feet (3.6 metres), compared with the maximum* current height of Israel's Wall -- 25 feet (8 metres). [*it is not clear whether the shorter fence sections, about 6 meters in height, are first or final stages in Israel's construction of the barrier.]”


The elements that make up war are not only numbers of things but numbers of people in anger, who no longer have the heart to keep or make peace.

These are the elements that should be looked into—and Forthwith!!!!

Instead, we still have both Israeli and Palestinians concerned with tit-for-tat numbers.

Who shot how many missiles at whom?
Who shot first?
What transpired second?
How many civilians were killed? Or how many peoples’ lives were devastated?
How many Hamas targets were hit?

It seems that both the Palestinians (and their supporters) and the Israelis (and their friends—mostly in the White House--) are only concerned with numbers in determining who is at fault and who is damaging the other.

For example, just today, I heard in a BBC radio interview with the Israeli Ambassador in Washington. In the interviewer the Ambassador was rightfully called to task for worrying about the numbers of missiles fired by Hamas in the last year—even while the numbers of Palestinians killed in three days outnumbers the number of Israelis killed by Hamas territory based missiles over the past 4 years.

The Israel Ambassador did not have to respond logically because dealing with real numbers have never been that important to him. Hyperbolic usage of numbers is enough.
(Admittedly, too many Arabs and Palestinians—as well as the Bush Administration—prefer hyperbolic usage of numbers and stats over facts on the ground, too.)
All this gamesmanship and keeping-score is getting no one any closer to peace or justice.


I’m sure Primo Levi, if he were alive today, would write a poem about the similarity of the chemical elements making up the hostile social and political environment of Israel and Palestine. He would likely be able to compare it to the one in Europe under NAZI hegemony.

Levi could certainly, as a chemist, notate the similarity between Walls and barbed wire and the chemical compounds used to build prisons and walls in Dachau and in the construction of the separation barrier of Israel-Palestine paid with by US taxpayer largess.

However, such number crunching and elemental analysis gets no one any closer to the real issues of hate and memory in Israel-Palestine.

Neither numerical number crunching nor study of numbers and sizes of fences and measurements of destruction (or ruins and numbers of lives destroyed) encapsulate the issues that need to be discussed in 2008, 2009, and beyond, i.e. to make the Middle East (or planet Earth) a healthier place in ours and our children’s lives.

In short, STOP COUNTING and stop bombing people and elements they live in into smithereens!!!!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

LONDON (AP) — Demonstrators hurled shoes at the tall iron gates outside the British prime minister's residence in London on Saturday and waved Palestinian flags in more than a dozen European cities as tens of thousands protested Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Amid increasing criticism of Israel, international diplomatic efforts are growing to end the strikes, which have killed more than 460 people and left 1,700 injured. In London, at least 10,000 people, many carrying Palestinian flags,...

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out If you agree, please sign their letter and pass it on.

8:07 PM  

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