40 countries at J'lem Shoah conference

Turkish delegation backs out following raid on Gaza flotilla.

By JONAH MANDEL
June 14, 2010 04:19
2 minute read.
PARTICIPANTS AT Yad Vashem’s conference on Holocau

Holocaust conference 311. (photo credit: Isaac Harari)

 
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Nearly 200 decision makers in the field of education, officially representing some 40 countries, took part in the Seventh International Conference on Holocaust Education and Remembrance, held Saturday and Sunday at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

The conference focused on new challenges facing educators who teach about the Holocaust.

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One such challenge is the growing tendency to link Holocaust commemoration with criticism of Israel – aptly illustrated when a Turkish delegation cancelled its participation following the IDF’s recent raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.

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Held by the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, the event was attended by philosophers, historians, human rights activists, educators, politicians, ambassadors and directors of government ministries. They attended lectures and participated in discussion groups focusing on questions such as how to grapple with Holocaust denial, how to avoid “competitions” between the suffering experienced under different totalitarian regimes, and how to keep from falling into a pattern of referring to the Jewish people as victims.

Among the speakers were Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Prof. Alain Finkielkraut, former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and former Croatian president Stjepan Mesic.

Recommendations that emerged from the discussions will be presented on Monday to representatives of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) at its four-day conference taking place in Jerusalem.



“The event marks an exceptional accomplishment of years of collaboration, to create a group of professionals dedicated to the theme from 40 states, who came despite pressures to partake in a journey of thought and finding solutions in the face of a changing reality,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, referring to the weekend gathering.

“Trends of Holocaust trivialization and building new narratives pose a new situation and new problems that educators must face,” he said, noting such issues as the tendency to fuse the Holocaust with other European tragedies, and problems teaching the Shoa to Muslims, some of whom object, due to their antagonism toward the State of Israel.

“It is important to open new questions and think systematically,” Shalev said.

Regarding the cancellation by the Turkish delegation, he expressed sorrow over enmeshing a political dispute with a broader educational issue that is important to the entire world, and called it “very saddening” that the Turkish delegation could not separate the two.

“You can criticize or even [defy] Israeli policies, but dealing with Holocaust education is not an Israeli or even Jewish issue, rather one for the entire world and part of the European discourse that Turkey is trying to become part of,” Shalev said.

“The great state of Turkey will have to show its intent to continue its dialogue with the entire world, and not just Islam. I hope they will reconsider and come to realize that these are universal questions we are dealing with. Maybe we’ll still see Turkish educational groups.”

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