I’m writing my Senior Research Paper (at Cal State Northridge) on the Palestinian Right of Return, and my professor suggested I examine the precedents of compensation and repatriation set by the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.
I started investigating the Claims Conference stuff, and I decided to delve deeper into the actual stories. The more I read the more I was horrified.
Horrified that humanity could watch this and do nothing. Horrified by the parallels between Nazi treatment of Jews and Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
And furious at the exploitation of these innocent victims to justify dehumanizing and oppressing other people.
Before this, about all the Holocaust education I’d ever gotten was watching Schindler’s List in my 8th grade History class. I put together a list of statements about the Jewish condition then that resonated to the Palestinian condition today:
"The Jewish quarter is separated from the rest of the city by walled-in streets, windows, doors and empty lots, fire and partition walls having been incorporated. The walls are 3 meters high (The West Bank wall is 6-8 meters high" B’tselem); another meter is added by a parapet of barbed wire. Furthermore, surveillance is provided by police patrols on horseback and in motor vehicles."
"An internal Jewish police force was created which maintained ‘law and order’ and squelched Jewish resistance in the interest of, and at no expense to, the occupation forces."
"Following the occupation of Warsaw the German authorities had created a blatantly inequitable exchange system between the ghetto and the outside world. In return for the ruthless expropriation of Jewish finances, services and goods, this cunning mechanism provided only for grotesquely inadequate food supplies; its aim was the slow starvation of the ghetto"
"Jewish survival increasingly hinged on one dangerous recourse: smuggling…Smuggling was a dangerous business, pursued by courageous men constantly risking their lives."
"The Gestapo, SS and regular German troops made frequent forays into the ghetto, indiscriminately harassing, plundering, interrogating, arresting, beating and shooting the population. Even when they refrained from such incursions, they still were busy sealing off and starving the ghetto."
"The semblance of such a (autonomous communal) structure did exist, except that it was far from autonomous, primarily serving to camouflage the true intentions of the Nazis."
"…a tendency to blame the Jews for moral shortcomings which — if they existed at all — were ultimately the product of German repression."
To say that Israelis are "doing the same thing to Palestinians which was done to them" by the Nazis isn’t true. You can’t compare 2/3 of European Jews to the number of Palestinian deaths.
But it’s not about body count comparisons. It’s about dehumanization. The dehumanization is what is truly disturbing, the utter dehumanization both Nazi Germany and Israel have taken part in. Their victims are simply less than human, and they deserve to die in the street.
The Warsaw Ghetto in Photographs
When I was confronted with utter Jewish vulnerability, it made me wonder what happened to these people between their liberation and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.
The tables turned.
Jews are now the ones segregating "the other" into ghettoes, imprisoning them inside huge concrete walls.
Jews are now the ones who capture land through aggressive war.
Jews are now the ones who lavish praise on the ghetto elite (Palestinian Authority and their Security Forces).
Jews are now the ones racially classifying “the other” by law.
Jews are now the ones banning intermarriage to maintain the “purity” of their “race”.
Jews are now the ones forcing "the other" to carry identifying symbols.
Jews are now the ones inciting pogroms on "the other".
Jews are now the ones enacting specific laws governing social activities with "the other".
Jews are now the ones expropriating "the other’s" land and property.
Jews are now the ones banning books from "the other’s" schools.
Jews are now the ones trying to destroy another peoples’ way of life.
This is the tragedy of Zionism.
After reading about the history of the Warsaw Ghetto, I found myself feeling sorry for Jewish people. What a concept.
Due to Israel’s actions, I’ve never known a world where Jews were David not Goliath.
For the obvious reasons, I constantly felt guilty during my visit to Israel last December. At times, I felt a sort of Jewish pride and identification.
I’m not gonna lie; sometimes it felt good. But guilt would snap me back to reality.
I think I like learning about the Holocaust so much because I get to connect to my Jewish identity, whatever that may be, without feeling guilty.
The last time I felt this guilt free Jewish connection, was during a long conversation I had with Stefanie Fox of Jewish Voice for Peace.
What was done in the Holocaust is much worse in scale than what’s being done to the Palestinians. It’s not the same.
But, comparing the Holocaust to Israeli treatment of Palestinians doesn’t take anything away from the Jewish suffering of the Holocaust. In fact, it does something better.
It de-Zionizes the Holocaust, and lets it stand on its own. Why can’t Holocaust curiculum be introduced into Palestinian schools? Why can’t Holocaust curiculum be introduced into American schools for God’s sake?
Why can’t the "Museum of Tolerance" on Mamilla cemetery be scrapped, and instead launch a Holocaust museum in the Old City of Jerusalem next to a Nakba Memorial with the ribbon cutting being done by Hedy Epstein and Ghada Karmi?
A shared monument of tragedy– I can’t think of a better way to launch a bi-national state for all its citizens.