On the second of every month I buy Al Arabi, a leading Arabic magazine published in Kuwait and distributed throughout the Arab world, Europe and the United States. This month’s issue of Al Arabi commemorated the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba of 1948. Everywhere else, Al Arabi was distributed with an attached publication: a map of lost Palestine. This month Al Arabi arrived seven days late to Palestine, and the map, showing areas of my homeland that were lost 52 years ago, was missing. Israeli authorities disallowed distribution of the map that was sure to remind Palestinians of dispossession and occupation.
Last week marked Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel and around the world. Just as there was a Palestinian Nakba, there was a Jewish Holocaust, a dreadful transgression that bears remembering. Local and international TV channels, newspapers, magazines and web sites gave us a mélange of Holocaust programming. Special as the day was, it was not particularly unique in Israel. Books, short stories, continuous documentary films, plays and Hollywood movies about the Jewish experience of mans’ inhumanity to man never fails to keep the Holocaust before us.
No one I know denies what happened to those of the Jewish faith before and during WWII. Even for Palestinians, sympathy does not wane, in spite of the fact that we became victims of Israel’s, and therefore Jewish, inhumanity to man, which echoes of an era Jews themselves ask that they never forget and never duplicate.
What happened during Palestine’s Nakba (we have a word for mans’ inhumanity to man as well) is another matter. Deleting maps from an Arab publication is considered necessary as an Israeli “security measure.” It is also a sham, the act of a frightened bully of a nation that preaches what it does not practice. Prohibiting maps to hide the reality of what the maps show perjures the sincerity of Jews who ask the world to remember their tragedy.
A frightened overweight and impertinent bully, afraid of his own insufficiencies cannot be comfortable without constantly nullifying his lean and disconcerted opponent in words, if not in deeds. He must always maintain the lie, the perception of strength hidden by bulge that is in reality only fat without sinew. The bully must never succumb to the reality of who and what he really is; a people frightened by the success of their own fabricated, overweight nationality is rightfully afraid. Some of those who know that Israel was deliberately undemocratically established and maintained on the basis of construed ethnicity, suggested by religious leaders like Moses Hess long before the Holocaust, have much to disguise. Like the fat bully, they must never succumb to allowing justice for those who trouble its conscience, and they must bolster their image by constantly reminding the world of their own suffering.
Keeping the Holocaust in the thoughts of all of us is useful in terms of reminding us of the wrong that can be wrought in the name of right. Individuals devised the Holocaust through manipulation of industrialization and were able to use modern techniques to destroy those they saw as capable of knocking the air out of their myths of cultural superiority. Jewish groups in Palestine today who place possession of land above globally recognized laws of human rights are capable of generating endless holocaust and catastrophe, not just for those of us who are Arab, Christian and Muslim, but Jews as well. They bully anyone who wishes to take a role in a successful democratic, economically viable modern Middle Eastern system that acts responsibly in the world that is realistically available to us today.
Isn’t it time we began to expose the bully of Zionism and the history that made our life what it is today? Yes, we must remember the Holocaust. After all, it was leveled against Semitic people like ourselves and against others unlike us. It was not just a Jewish disaster, it was a human disaster. Is it enough to argue that the Holocaust was worse than other tragedies because it grew out of the industrialization of murder? Does industrialization of murderous concentration camps matter to the families of Palestinians massacred at Deir Yassin? Is there a justifiable difference between pulling the gold teeth from the mouths of dead Jews or cutting off the ears of dead Deir Yassin women to steal their earrings?
When Moses Hess initiated the idea of Zionism in the last l9th century, he did not do so because of anti-Semitism. If anything, life for Jews at that time was better than it ever had been before. Moses Hess wanted to create a Jewish “ethnicity in reaction to fear that modernity would compromise Jewish identity.”
Many Jews did not agree. Said one Isaac Wise, a non-Zionist leader in the early 20th century, “Judaism is a religion, not a nationality.” Judah Magnes, another non-Zionist leader, said in his effort to dissuade Zionism, “the Arabs too have fundamental rights in Palestine – rights, which measured by ordinary standards, are perhaps even more basic than those of the Jewish people.”
Israel was created by formulated nationality, guilt inspiring visualization of the most recent genocide in history and the tragedy of an era which came too quickly to allow for inter-cultural adjustment. If we can, we must understand the history that has put Israel into the position of bully: one that laments its own pain, but hides the suffering of those its intimidates.
The Jews’ physical tragedy may have ended at Auschwitz but their spiritual and ethical tragedy is still in tact and will be until the reality of Zionism is understood and dissolved through compassionate intervention.
Every time a Jewish settler or a government acting to placate a settler ravages the hearts, minds and land of those of us who are not deemed one of the chosen, Palestinians mostly, but other Jews as well, a little Holocaust happens all over again. It is time to give Palestinians their rights to the land of their forefathers and to restore to the Jews their rightful place in history as authors and sustainers of some of the great spiritual values of civilization.
(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)