Relatives of a Palestinian boy killed in an Israeli rocket attack
By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
2:25PM GMT 29 Feb 2008
A senior Israeli politician provoked controversy today when he warned that Palestinians firing rockets from Gaza would be punished with a "bigger holocaust" from Israeli armed forces.
The use of the Hebrew word for holocaust, "shoah", tends to be used exclusively in Israel to describe the Nazi persecution of Jews.
Palestinian activists routinely claim to be suffering a "shoah" at the hands of Israel, but the Jewish state normally denies any moral equivalence between the suffering of Palestinians today and European jewry under the Nazis.
Matan Vilnai, deputy defence minister, broke that taboo when he used the term "shoah" during interview on Army Radio.
"The more qassam fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," he said.
His use of the term reflects the febrile atmosphere in Israel where public opinion demands the government does something decisive to stop the daily barrage of rockets fired from Gaza over the border into Israel.
The issue dominates the media, sparking angry protests from Israelis who live within rocket range of Gaza and prompting an intense national debate about whether to negotiate with the Hamas authorities in Gaza.