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by RAY FLEMING

“SHOAH” is not a word to be used lightly - a Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster but rarely used in Israel except in reference to the Nazi slaughter of Jews during the Second World War. The definitive nine-hour documentary film about the death camps is called Shoah. So when Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, said that the Palestinians firing rockets into Israel would “bring upon themselves a bigger shoah because we will use all our might to defend ourselves” it was inevitable there would be a shocked reaction. Mr Vilnai's spokesman said he had meant the word in the sense of a disaster, but the damage had been done. The Hamas movement is being blamed by Israel and the United States for the rockets. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will be in the Middle East next week, said: “It's very clear where this started.” It is indeed, but not where Dr Rice thinks. It started when Israel and the West refused to recognise Hamas as the legitimate winners of the Palestinian elections in January 2005 and conspired against it by stopping aid, blockading Gaza and supporting the Fatah movement instead. Last week Hamas said it would be ready to stop the rocket attacks if Israel stopped its military operations in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. A poll by the Israeli Haaretz newspaper showed that sixty per cent of those questioned thought Israel should be ready to talk to Hamas.