KHALED KASAB Mahameed, founder of an Arab Holocaust museum in Nazareth, stands beside one of its exhibits.
(photo credit: BRENDA GAZZAR/JTA)
Khaled Kasab Mahameed, the Arab Israeli lawyer who founded an Arab Holocaust museum, said that for there to be a chance for peace, his compatriots need to learn about the terrible history.
“This is the first thing that is needed – to teach the Holocaust to Arabs. All the other things are less important, this is stronger than anything else that can be done, including actions by the army,” he said.
Mahameed is a Muslim lawyer from Umm el-Fahm.
He runs a Holocaust museum called the Arab Institute for Holocaust Research and Education out of his office in Nazareth.
Mahameed told The Jerusalem Post in an interview for Holocaust Remembrance Day that he lectures in the Israeli Arab sector as well as in the West Bank.
But, he adds, “nobody wants to come.”
The institute has raised the ire of fellow Arabs who ask him why he does not create an institute in the memory of Palestinian victims.
It is necessary for Palestinians to understand how people in the West and Jewish Israelis view the Holocaust and how it affects their opinions about the peace process. However, the Palestinian side denies it, he said.
Asked if the Israeli government is interested in cooperating with him to teach Arabs about the Holocaust, Mahameed reacted dismissively, saying it had no interest in such an endeavor.
Regarding the remarks by Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas on Sunday, in which he called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime” against humanity in modern times, Mahameed said it is because of his work that Palestinian politicians have begun to speak out in such a way about the Holocaust.
United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi, gave a speech in 2010 in the Knesset on Holocaust Remembrance Day where he criticized those who deny the Holocaust and showed empathy for its victims. Then Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin had said it was one of the best speeches ever in the Knesset.
Tibi told the Post that he participates in the Holocaust ceremony in the Knesset every year. “I definitely support and agree with what Abbas said and I scorn some of the reactions in Israel, including the unfair words of [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu.”
Asked if Palestinian denial is rooted in the political conflict, Mahameed responded that it is not only politics, and that people are unable to digest the tragedy so they deny it – “they deny their ability to understand it.”
Mahameed said he has spent a lot of his own money funding the institute and is not looking for funding.
Some Jewish groups visit as well as some groups from Germany, but he is not looking to expand as he also needs time for his day job as a lawyer.
Moreover, he said, it is emotionally draining to talk about the Holocaust and thus it is good to have breaks. “I don’t want to make it big or for people to say I am doing it for the money. I am doing it for a humane reason, to increase knowledge of the event.”