Yet another Holocaust Memorial Day is upon us, and no surprise that it is competing in the media with yet another rumble concerned with the elusive peace process that some hope may establish Israel beyond the fear of another Holocaust.
Actual survivors are said to be dying at the rate of 1,000 a month, and there may only be a couple of hundred thousand left alive. Some of those entered the list of survivors not on account of actually suffering from Nazis and their collaborators, but on account of coming to Israel from parts of the former Soviet Union that was occupied by the German Army.
In the near 40 years that I have been here, Holocaust Memorial Day has changed from interviews with middle age survivors of the camps to the stories told by their children and grandchildren. Those concern not only the grandparents who suffered, but also the problems of growing up with them--living in homes affected by the Holocaust but where the topic was a forbidden topic of discussion, or homes in which virtually every conversation touched upon the issue.
Even more prominent this year is the emphasis on the economic plight of survivors, and bureaucratic snafus or budgetary constraints that lead some of them to the soup kitchens and food distribution points for the poor, with some of those institutions hard pressed to provide what was appropriate for the Passover Seder or subsequently.
As ever, it''s difficult to know how bad is the suffering, and how accurate the stories of welfare activists concerned to pressure the government and individual donors for more money, Also to be asked is why the special treatment for Holocaust survivors, as opposed to others of the aged poor or the poor who aren''t so old, but were not in Europe during the 1940''s? However, that is a question not often articulated in a society where the Holocaust is of the greatest sensitivity.
Yet here is a headline in Ma''ariv on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day
Feiglin: Israel Exploits the Holocaust for Political Reasons.The Deputy Chair of the Knesset, Moshe Feiglin, claims that Israel uses the Holocaust to advance its political agenda. "That lemon of surviving the Holocaust to justify our existence has been squeezed until it is dry."
Read that with the realization that Moshe Feiglin is an Orthodox Jew and arguably the most right-wing Member of Knesset, who has long pressed Benyamin Netanyahu from such extreme positions on settlements, the Palestinians, and the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount as to have been the target of Netanyahu''s (ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to keep him off Likud''s list of candidates.
The rumbles about Palestine feature Mahmoud Abbas'' latest condition for beginning negotiations, i.e., that Israel present the map showing the outline of Palestine it will accept. Which is to say, if you haven''t gotten the point, that the Palestinians demand to know the results of negotiations on the most principal point as a condition for starting talks.
There is also some noise about the United States asking Turkey to mediate Israel-Palestine negotiations, but that is made suspect by other indications that the White House is concerned that Turkey has reneged on its agreement to settle the issue about Israel''s attack on the ship that sought to break the Gaza blockade.
Asking Turkey to mediate Israel-Palestine is like asking one of the fighter''s uncle to referee a boxing match.
The Palestinians'' situation is being made more difficult by the decision of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East) to close distribution centers that provide money and food to some two-thirds of Gaza residents due to Palestinians'' attacks on its facilities, seemingly provoked by reductions in distributions due to a shortage of funds.
The Syrian civil war has also impacted on what UNRWA reports is over 400,000 "Palestinian refugees" needing help there, with close to 40,000 others having fled to Jordan or Lebanon.
While I do not doubt the problems of individual Palestinians in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, I remain perplexed by the popularity of the labels of "refugees" and "refugee camps" for people living where they are for more than six decades, along with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren who continue to get special attention and treatment under the heading of being refugees.
Less than five kilometers from these fingers is what is called the "Shuafat refugee camp," that has also been where it is for a long time. Why not "urban neighborhood," "poor urban neighborhood" or even (for some of them) "slum?"
They are places of permanent housing, roads and other infrastructure, and not the collection of tents implied by the term "refugee camps."
The new miserable locales brought about by what is happening in Syria do qualify for the label of refugee camps, but they have nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, unless you accept what we have heard and seen on TV, i.e., Syrians blaming the Zionists for their problems.
To call Palestinians and their neighborhoods "refugees" and "refugee camps" is to buy into the Palestinian narrative of having a monopoly of the suffering since the Jews began coming to "their land." Also relevant is how many "Palestinians" actually trace themselves to migrants who came from the surrounding countries since the 1920s.
Buy into their narrative if you will, but recognize what you are doing. Truth is not everything in politics, but it may contribute to a discussion.
And if so, why not call the poorer neighborhoods of the US and Western Europe "refugee camps." The term applies no less well than to Palestinian neighborhoods places largely inhabited with "refugees" from slavery or migration from misery in Mexico, and Central America, or the European neighborhoods filled with recent migrants from North Africa.
While Palestinians and their supporters are championing the idea of a boycott of everything Israeli, why not a counter boycott of the terms "refugees" and "refugee camps" for Palestinians who''ve been settled where they are for decades?