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.
...The Israeli government moved quickly to try to defuse the impact of Mr Vilnai's use of the sensitive term. His office put out a statement later trying to water down the meaning of the word.
"Mr. Vilnai was meaning 'disaster'," the statement said. "He did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide."
The foreign ministry also got involved seeking to downplay the linguistic faux pas.
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