A group of settlers opposed to Israel's plan to force Jews out of the Gaza Strip have begun wearing orange stars recollecting the Holocaust.
Moshe Freiman says the Gaza plan is a new Shoah
"I want to shock Israel, and if I have to don a Star of David I will do it," Gaza settler Aharon Tzur said.
The move has touched a raw nerve in Israel, where many support the Gaza pullout and see the settlers' protest as trivialising the Nazi genocide.
Critics say the protest equates the Israeli army with Nazi forces.
"With all the empathy one feels for people being uprooted from their homes, the notion that Israel is about to send them to Auschwitz is a horrible distortion," said Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Under Nazi rule in the 1930s and 1940s, European Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David before and during the genocide as an emblem of shame.
Chairman of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Avner Shalev, accused the protesters of damaging the memory of the Holocaust, that was "a unifying factor in Israeli society, not the opposite".
The Yesha council of settler leaders joined in the criticism, although it has urged followers to break the law to resist evacuation from Gaza.
Protesters denied that the settlers were likening the Israeli government to the Nazis.
"I am not making a comparison with the Nazis, because our star is orange, not yellow," said Moshe Freiman of the Gush Katif settlement bloc.
"I sense that I am a victim of a new expulsion of Jews and that a Shoah [Holocaust] is being visited on my home where I have lived for the last 28 years," he added.
PM Ariel Sharon has urged settlers to obey the law
Meanwhile, Israel's police chief has expressed concern that resistance by ideological settlers could hamper the evacuation.
"The evacuation will be hard to execute, but if it is not, this will be dangerous for Israeli democracy," Moshe Karadi said in a speech .
The government plans to compensate Jews who leave the settlements peacefully, but has threatened to impose heavy fines or imprison settlers who do not obey the law.
Bitterness among Gaza settlers was increased on Tuesday when Palestinian rockets hit a synagogue in the Netzarim settlement during morning prayers, causing damage but no injuries.
The disengagement plan entails evacuating the 8,000 settlers from Gaza and four West Bank enclaves and the troops who protect them, but keeping control of Gaza's borders, coastline and airspace.
Israeli forces have occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank - home to nearly four million Palestinians - since 1967.
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