Holocaust remembrance does not contradict Arab morals
Too often, people allow their emotions to take control of their reason and their inner humanity to turn anger into something more. Blame. Hate. Racism. That happens often with Jews and Arabs when it comes to the Holocaust, one of the greatest inhumanities. Some extremists use the Holocaust as a bludgeon to attack Arab rights, and other extremists challenge the Holocaust believing it was used to impose injustice on Palestinians.
By Ray Hanania
Last week, Jews throughout the world commemorated the Holocaust, one of the most horrendous human tragedies of our time.
More than six million Jews were targeted because they were Jews by the Nazis during their attempted and brutal conquest of Europe and the Middle East during World War II.
The Jews were among nine million more human beings murdered by the Nazis during the war, many targeted because of their race and ethnicity, including the disabled.
Yet the tragedy of seeking to eradicate an entire religious group using some of the most inhumane methods that include cold blooded murder, torture, experimental surgeries on live subjects and the gassing of victims, men, women and children is unique in its horror.
Many Jews have used the Holocaust as a reason to establish their own state, and some extremists use it to justify violence and injustice against Palestinians. The battle over who owns and controls the land of that state has been intertwined. And that is wrong, too.
The use of the Holocaust as a justification for the creation of Israel for the Jews and the denial of Christian and Muslim Palestinian rights was viciously portrayed in the fictional book and movie, Exodus, by anti-Arab hater Leon Uris.
In fact, the propaganda that has been used to libel the Palestinian cause including the vicious lie that the Palestinians supported the Nazis and the Holocaust can be traced back to the political crafting of the book “Exodus.” Author Leon Uris was commissioned by pro-Israeli interests to design a propaganda so vile it would blind Americans and the world against any sympathy for the Palestinians.
Uris exaggerated the reason why some Arabs looked towards the Nazis for help in their own struggle against Jewish terrorism by the Irgun, Stern Gang and the Haganah, pre-state armed militias that terrorized non-Jewish populations in Palestine.
The movie scene showing a Nazi in beige-colored clothing demanding that the head of a Muslim village gather 300 Arabs to join in an attack against a nearby Israel settlement of 300 children and a dozen adults because “it would be an easy victory” is disgusting and a fabrication. It is the foundation of much of the lies and propaganda that have been used in the Israel-Palestine conflict to undermine and discredit Palestinian rights.
But just because Uris was a racist Arab hater, and Exodus was a vicious blood libel against the rights of Palestinians and the Palestinian cause, does not mean that the Holocaust itself is something Palestinians should challenge or deny.
It shouldn’t be.
There is NO reason why any Palestinian or Arab should ever feel anything but total sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust. It was one of the world’s greatest human tragedies, incomparable to anything that happened to anyone else.
Despite the mutual animosity that may exist between many Jews and many Arabs, the Holocaust should be off-limits for engagement of criticism.
No Palestinian is betraying their rights or demands for justice against the injustices caused by Israel’s government by honoring the memory of the Holocaust. It DOES NOT conflict with our Palestinian and Arab morals. We can and should be sympathetic to the suffering of others, especially to the victims of the Holocaust. It is the moral thing to do.
Palestinians have an absolute right to criticize the policies of the government of Israel. They even have a justification to use resistance against Israel’s use of violence and military force to impose discriminatory policies.
Israel’s government is guilty of violating the human rights of Christians and Muslims, but that is a far separate issue from what the Nazis did to Jews during the Holocaust.
For many Palestinians and Arabs, their anger has overcome their reason. It is anger, not anti-Semitism, that drives much of the criticism against Israel.
Palestinians didn’t call Israel a “Jewish State,” Israel calls itself a Jewish State. How can you not criticize Israel’s “Jewish” government in that context. Yet when Arabs do criticize pro-Jewish policies, pro-Israel activists turn it around and denounce it as examples of anti-Semitism.
Pro-Israel activists and Jews who describe criticism of Israel as “anti-Semitism” are the equivalent of Arabs and others who deny the Holocaust.
Israel has murdered far more Palestinians than Palestinians have murdered Israelis. Yet even in the total carnage over just the past 70 years, nothing even comes close to the systematic destruction of the Jewish people by the Nazis. The Nazis turned the murder of the Jews into an industry using a factory-like system to kill.
Yet, the Nakba, the catastrophe of the destruction of Palestinian rights by Israel, the British Mandate, the United States, the United Nations and even some Arab countries, doesn’t even come close to the inhumanity of the Holocaust. It is a tragedy, but it is not the equivalent of the Holocaust! And it doesn’t have to come close to be recognize as an injustice of enormous magnitude.
We can argue about the policies of governments, the resistance of the victims, the violence of terrorists on both sides, the injustices of the Jewish settlers and the rejectionism of Arab and Palestinian extremists.
But denying the Holocaust is not legitimate. It’s wrong. It undermines the just cause of the Palestinian people when some in our community in their discomfort and through uncontrollable emotion and anger try to hurt Jews by denying the Holocaust.
Palestinians and Arabs should separate the issue of the Holocaust from their moral high ground from which they can demand justice in Palestine.
Denouncing or denying the Holocaust doesn’t improve our argument. It doesn’t strengthen our case. It doesn’t make the injustice of Israel’s creation any more unjust.
Sometimes people in anger exaggerate suffering believing it might make it more believable. But when you exaggerate suffering too much, human nature is such that the exaggeration becomes the bigger crime than the actual injustice.
I am comfortable expressing my total sympathy for Jews who were gassed by the Nazis at the many death camps organized and managed like businesses in the Nazi Final Solution.
I am comfortable recognizing the Holocaust for the inhumanity that it represents.
And I am also comfortable demanding that Israel, which is a government, respect the rights of the Palestinians, who are an occupied people with unreconciled rights.
We can have it both ways and be stronger in our demands against Israel’s government for the injustices we have suffered and continue to suffer.
But don’t undermine our justice by trying to exaggerate our pain.
The Holocaust happened. Millions of innocent civilians were destroyed in one of the worst instances of genocide and religious ethnic cleansing of the world.
Let’s respect the Holocaust as Palestinians and Arabs and focus on the reality of the injustices that exist outside of that horrendous suffering.
Israel’s government is engaged in atrocities and violence against Palestinians. Israel’s prison Gulag system denies basic rights to imprisoned human beings, Christians and Muslims targeted because of their political activism against Israel’s growing extremism. Israel’s growing racism fuels the violence against Palestinians which causes a chain reaction of counter violence highlighted by the biased mainstream American news media’s one-sided, pro-Israel coverage.
But all that is incidental to the reality of the Holocaust, a sacred tragedy heaped upon six million innocent human beings simply because they were Jewish.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and author. Email him at email@example.com.)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
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, Hanania 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. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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