The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Amira Hass: Using the Holocaust to Ward Off Criticism

The pilgrimage to Jerusalem of so many European leaders shows that they are not deterred by the criticism of Israel – they are taking part in a media event that can only be interpreted as support for Israel, as it is today.

Amira Hass, Haaretz, Mar 16, 2005

The crowd of world leaders visiting the new Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem attests to the strength of Israel’s position in the West.
Israel is often criticized in the home country of these leaders, but many Israelis and Jews will, as usual, attribute such criticism to anti-Semitism. Palestinians and left wingers including Jews will discover that the knowledge about the Israeli occupation in these countries is meager, and the public’s interest in it is weak.

The pilgrimage to Jerusalem of so many European leaders shows that they are not deterred by the criticism of Israel – they are taking part in a media event that can only be interpreted as support for Israel, as it is today.

At best, the visit can be seen as encouragement to both sides to stick to the “renewed peace process.” But encouragement for what? For the meetings between Mohammed Dahlan and Nasser Yousef with Shaul Mofaz? For the separation barrier, whose construction is continuing with vigor, contrary to the verdict of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague? For the condescending Israeli “gestures” – 200 more movement permits to merchants, a road open to private Palestinian vehicles, not only to public ones? Or for the continued mashing of Palestinian East Jerusalem and severing it from the rest of the Palestinian territory, in violation of the international demand that East Jerusalem serve as the Palestinian state’s capital?

Are the German foreign minister and the Dutch and Swedish prime ministers – after crossing themselves and proving they remember the Holocaust – planning to remind Israel that all the settlements, not only the outposts, are illegal? Will they demand that Israel evacuate them? Which of the participants in the ceremony will go to see the roads for Jews only and for Palestinians only? Will any of them protest the laws discriminating against Israeli citizens, only because they are non-Jews – Arabs – and threaten to impose sanctions unless these laws are revoked?

One of the infuriating absurdities in every injustice, especially one of inconceivable proportions like the German murder industry (with extensive European aid), is that the victims and their offspring remember and live it day in and day out. The perpetrators, however, repress and forget it, and it is easy for their offspring to ignore it.

So let the entire diplomatic throng, which is seeking Sharon’s audience today, go and talk of the European responsibility for the Holocaust in its own territory, not in Israel. Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Krakow, Sarajevo, and the villages and forests around them are soaked with the memories of our parents, with the forgetfulness of the perpetrators and their offspring, and with the helplessness and indifference of those standing idly by. Let the prime ministers and foreign ministers go there and raise the memory and knowledge and historic understanding. And not just once a year, on the day of Auschwitz’s liberation or Germany’s surrender, just to pay lip service.

We remember and feel the pain of that liquidation day by day. Let us confront them with it day by day. For example, let it be inscribed on a large marble slab outside every house in which Jews used to live, where they were deported and where they were murdered. Let every railway station from which the human transports were dispatched provide the information: when, how many trains a day, how many people. Let the names of those responsible for the transport be written down – at the police station, the railway station, city hall.

The way to fight the fading memory is not merely with memorial monuments and ceremonies. It is done mainly with an uncompromising rejection of the master race ideology, which divided the world into superior and inferior races and denied the principle of equality among human beings. We were placed at the bottom of the ladder of the Nazi ideology. Would this ideology not have been criminal had we been ranked in the upper rungs?

An ideology that divides the world into those who are worth more and those who are worth less, into superior and inferior beings, does not have to reach the dimensions of the German genocide to be improper and wrong – the apartheid in South Africa, for example.

Thirty-eight years of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian nation have accustomed generations of Israelis to regard the Palestinians as inferior, and therefore not as deserving as we are. But hush, one must not say that out loud, because Israelis will raise an indignant cry: “How can you compare?”

In the same way, it is forbidden to demand of us – with diplomatic threats – to change our ways. Because then we will remind them of our people who were murdered.

This widely covered event shows that Israel has turned the liquidation of Europe’s Jews into an asset. Our murdered relatives are being enlisted to enable Israel to continue not giving a damn about international decisions against the occupation. The suffering our parents endured in the ghettoes and concentration camps that filled Europe, the physical and mental anguish and torment that our parents were subjected to every single day since the “liberation,” are used as weapons to thwart any international criticism of the society we are creating here. This is a society with built-in discrimination on the basis of nationality, and the discrimination is spreading on either side of the Green Line. This is a society that is systematically continuing to banish the Palestinian nation from its land and usurp its rights as a nation and its chances for a humane future.