Why should we, Palestinians, learn about the Holocaust?

I’m currently a law student at a Palestinian university, and still, the word “Holocaust” isn’t mentioned anywhere.

By AHMED MASWADEH
April 25, 2015 22:01
3 minute read.
Students Al-Quds Universit

Students at Al-Quds University demonstrate during student elections in 2011.. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

 
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I learned about Holocaust for the first time when I was about six years old. “Dad, I hear a siren! Is there a war?” I remember feeling terrified as I waited for an answer.

Fortunately, my father’s answer was “no,” but he went on to explain that “this siren is in memory of the Jews who died in the war. They stop their cars in the middle of the streets, expressing their sorrow. Everybody stops everything.”

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I remember having mixed feelings about that. For me, the Jews were the ones who arrested my grandfather.

But then, as my grandmother was always saying, “War has no winner.”

I hated war and loved my grandfather! For Jews I had mixed feelings; I hated the soldiers I saw at the checkpoints and loved my father’s Jewish friends and the Jewish people I met Jerusalem.

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AT SCHOOL I hadn’t read a single line about the Holocaust. In the 12th grade there were lessons about World War II, but still no mention of the Holocaust. In fact, there is no “Holocaust” in Palestinian history books.

I’m currently a law student at a Palestinian university, and still, the word “Holocaust” isn’t mentioned anywhere.



Yesterday, for the first time, I was privileged to meet a Holocaust survivor. She was standing with her daughter Suzi Nunes. An Israeli filmmaker called Yasmine Novak made a film about Suzi’s mother’s story called The Lost Love Diaries. It is the story of Suzi’s mother, Elise, and a man called Bernie. They were torn apart by WWII, and 65 years later Elise decided to read Bernie’s diaries and go on a journey to discover his fate. I don’t usually watch romance films, but this one wasn’t just a love story, or even just a movie. It documents the pain of the millions who suffered and died, and of those who survived.

Even though my schools and university didn’t teach me about the Holocaust, I read about it on the Internet, and checked some books.

But I must admit that what I read wasn’t good enough to give me a clear image.

Holocaust education isn’t only a Jewish issue, it is an issue for humanity.

It is being taught at most of the schools and universities in the world, but not in the place where it should be taught first. Holocaust education is the single best way to increase empathy between Palestinians and Israelis. I couldn’t prevent myself from shedding tears for the martyrs of all humanity, the Holocaust martyrs, and those tears reminded me of the ones I shed over the civilian martyrs in Palestine, Syria, Yemen, Vietnam, Japan, and all the rest of the world.

At the end of the film screening, by sending their questions via Facebook to an Israeli friend of mine Palestinians from Gaza had the chance to ask Elise some questions about her experience – and I had the chance to ask a question I had wanted to ask a long time ago: “Why do you think it is important for Palestinians to hear the stories of the Holocaust?” Elise answered: “You need to sit with us and talk! We don’t want to live [through] another war!” To solve this problem we need to create Holocaust storytelling and educational circles for Palestinians every year and work together in order to create online Holocaust education courses as a first step to give Palestinians a wider view of the Holocaust and help them spread that knowledge.

Knowledge is empathy!

The author is a Palestinian law student and a peace activist who lives in East Jerusalem

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