Palestinian professor’s trip to Auschwitz sparks needed debate

Palestinian professor’s trip to Auschwitz sparks needed debate

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Palestinian professor’s trip to Auschwitz sparks needed debate

By Ray Hanania

Saudi Gazette Sunday April 27, 2014

Auschwitz concentration camp, arrival of Hunga...

Auschwitz concentration camp, arrival of Hungarian Jews, Summer 1944 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, a Palestinian professor at Al-Quds University in occupied Jerusalem, organized a trip for his students to visit several former Nazi concentration camps, he sparked an important debate.

Unfortunately, the debate has been one-sided focusing on Arab denial of the Holocaust while ignoring Israel’s denial of its oppression of Palestinian rights.

The Holocaust did happen. More than six million Jews were murdered in gas chambers and their remains were incinerated in ovens.

So why do some Arabs deny the Holocaust? Most are angry because they believe the political movement of the Jewish people, Zionism, exploited the Holocaust to browbeat Western audiences into sympathizing with them over the Palestinian cause.

Many Arabs and Muslims just don’t believe the Holocaust happened. They think it is a lie. But for most, the denial of the Holocaust is more about anger than rejection of a historical fact. When you get beyond the anger Arabs and Muslims have against the hypocrisy of the West and Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians, most Arabs know the Holocaust did happen.

What they don’t get is that the Nazis hated the Arabs as much as they hated Jews, but never got around to exterminating them because Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich never lasted the thousand years he intended. It is a certainty that Hitler’s racial superiority would have eventually targeted the Arabs and Muslims, as it did more than 12 million other non-Jews, Slavs and Russians during the war.

That human beings abandon their humanity when it comes to their enemies is a sickness that results from conflict. Many Arabs have rejected the Holocaust and Jewish suffering because of the intensity of the endless Middle East conflict.

Palestinian refugees (British Mandate of Pales...

Palestinian refugees (British Mandate of Palestine – 1948). “Making their way from Galilee in October-November 1948”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arabs wonder how a people who suffered so much could so easily turn around and brutalize another people. Israel is not gassing Palestinians. Israel is not incinerating their bodies. Israel is, however, engaging in the oppression of a people purely because of their religion. Palestinians are Christian and Muslims, not Jewish. Israel is trying to force them out of the Holy Land so it can create a “Jewish State.”

Many Israelis do not want non-Jews, especially Arabs, to live in Israel.

They want to force them to leave. So they have massacred thousands of Palestinians. They have jailed tens of thousands of civilian Palestinians in the Israeli prison Gulag. They have denied basic human and civil rights to Christian and Muslim Arabs. They have taken Christian and Muslim lands. They have expelled Christians and Muslims from Israel and from the Israeli occupied West Bank. They have built a wall around the Palestinians and placed gun turrets and armed military checkpoints throughout. The Israeli occupied West Bank is an open-air prison of brutality. But, it is not the same as the Holocaust.

What Israel is doing to Palestinians cannot be compared to what the Nazis did at Auschwitz-Birkenau or Krakow. Yet that does not justify Jews closing their eyes to what their own people are doing to the Palestinians. It doesn’t justify Jewish denial of Palestinian rights.

Nakba 1948 Palestine - Jaramana Refugee Camp, ...

Nakba 1948 Palestine – Jaramana Refugee Camp, Damascus, Syria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Denial exists on both sides. It’s a sickness that comes from a conflict that feeds extremism and grows hatred. We have to stop it on both sides.

Professor Dajani was right to teach his students about the Holocaust. When Arabs understand the Holocaust, they can better understand how to correctly portray Israel’s atrocities against Christians and Muslims inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

But the debate Dajani sparked has been truncated. The discussion should be expanded. It’s true that during World War II, some Palestinians invoked the Biblical proverb “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” and some allied themselves with the Nazis. But no one knew the extent of the atrocities being committed in the concentration camps.

Thousands of Arabs fought during World War II wearing American and British uniforms to defeat the Nazis. My father and uncle were among the American soldiers who fought to liberate Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps.
Professor Dajani’s trip to Auschwitz was only one part of the story. While Professor Dajani’s students learned about the Holocaust, an Israeli professor took his Jewish students to learn about the Nakba. The Nakba is the Arab term symbolizing the Israeli defeat of the Palestinians and the occupation of Palestine’s land during the 1948 war.

The Nakba also refers to Israeli brutality against Christian and Muslim Palestinians inside Palestine. That suffering is denied by many Israelis and Jews, and it is just as immoral as denying the Holocaust.

So intense is the hatred of Palestinians by Israelis that Israel has adopted laws to prohibit Palestinians from showcasing Israel’s atrocities. It is a crime in Israel to talk about, promote or commemorate the Nakba.
Israelis can deny what they do to Palestinians. But Palestinians cannot deny what the Nazis did to Jews. The two issues are unrelated, but are both crimes.

I hope the debate over Dajani expands to include Israel’s hypocrisy. Maybe it will help Arabs to become more strategic in addressing Israel’s atrocities and violations of Palestinian civil rights. We don’t need Holocaust denial to fight Israel. In fact, embracing the Holocaust and recognizing it for the inhumanity that it was is the first step in exposing the extremism that continues to grow in Israel.

– Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News at Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites and (Illinois News Network at

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post,, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

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