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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Holocaust Day lessons

Should the lesson be attack Iran or Never Again?

After the speeches, I was a little confused.

I think it is a good thing to remember the Nazi Holocaust and its victims and to vow that nothing like it should ever happen again.

There is, however, a certain irony that is becoming increasingly inescapable- especially with the one year "anniversary" of the Operation Cast Lead (Gaza siege and blockade) last month.

What I found rather strange in reading bits of Netanyahu's speech was that Holocaust Day was used by Israeli leaders speaking that day to stoke anger against Iran. It seemed inappropriate to me. A day to remember suffering (and to vow not to let it happen again) used to incite people to support an attack while oppressing another entire population.

If any comparisons are drawn to the Nazi Holocaust, it should be to Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians or the Nakba or something. Instead of Iran, people should reflect on their nation and what the Occupation is doing to society and democracy. I cannot believe there are Holocaust survivors who have lived to see their own people do similar things to others. Is the slogan 'never again' or 'never again to Jews'? Some Jews do argue that the Occupation is doing far more damage to Israeli society already than anything else.

A quote from the article at the top:

August Kowalczyk spent two years at Auschwitz and survived.

"This place determined who I am today, aged nearly 90," he said.

"I still have one mission - to pass on to the next generation knowledge of what happened here."

It is more than ok to remember Jewish suffering and learn about the Holocaust- for Jews and Gentiles alike. In American schools, we read Anne Frank and do special projects and have guest speakers to learn more about this horrible tragedy. I enjoyed hearing the stories of perseverance myself. I just wonder when it will be ok for Palestinians to talk openly about their tragedy and when others will openly want to learn about it. How long will it take for people to stop calling you a terrorist sympathizer for wondering why Palestinians can't have equal rights and self-determination and aren't entitled to live free and defend themselves? How long will it take for Israeli leaders to acknowledge their role in Palestinian suffering and death and express remorse and sympathy as the leaders embrace, as Germany and Israel do? I wonder when (some) Israelis and others who deny Palestinian suffering or Israeli crimes will be treated as Holocaust deniers are- marginalized and shunned instead of as one presenting valid points to consider.

Maybe you will think me horrible or an anti-Semite to suggest a similarity between Nazis and Israel. It is indeed a sick irony. I don't think I am to blame, though. I read a book last year that told of the intersecting of two lives in the past and present- a Jewish family who came in 1948 and an Arab refugee family who was forced to in 1948. The historic descriptions of the Jewish march to the trains and death camps was so strikingly similar to the descriptions of the Arabs being forced on long marches to one city and then the next, farther and farther from home. In both cases, people died on the way, had babies on the way, the women strapped gold to their bodies in the same way and for the same reasons, and both peoples left with virtually nothing but the clothes on their backs. One group, however, is allowed to remember their dead and prosecute their killers; the other isn't.

Random opinions:

The Jewish left on Holocaust remembrance:

'Holocaust remembrance is a boon for Israeli propaganda'

Finkelstein's book

An Arab opinion:

Arab MK slams Holocaust denial

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