Yad Vashem launches Arabic Web site

Poll finds nearly 60% of Arab Israelis believe it's necessary to learn about the Holocaust in school.

Yad Vashem Arabic 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Yad Vashem Arabic 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an attempt to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world, Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial on Thursday inaugurated an Arabic-language Web site, seeking to provide an educational tool for Arabic speakers as well as Arab countries where the murder of six million Jews during the Holocaust is not taught in schools. "From now on, Arabic speakers will also be able to learn the truth about the the Holocaust without intermediaries that act from hate," said Science, Culture, and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadle, Israel's first Muslim cabinet minister, at the official ceremony launching of the Web site. "The Holocaust was not just against Jews, but an unparalleled horrible crime against all of humanity," he said. The Web site was launched ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which will be commemorated on Sunday. "This educational Web site on the Holocaust in Arabic presents a unique opportunity to learn about and understand the issues which are not only of historical import, but are also vital to our lives today," said Jordan's Prince Hassan in a recorded video address shown at the event. The site, which is accessible from Yad Vashem's main Web site at www.yadvashem.org, includes material explaining the history of the Holocaust, vivid pictures of Nazi atrocities, maps, photos, archival documents and an online video testimony resource center - all translated into Arabic. The site also tells the stories of Righteous Among the Nations, including Muslims from Turkey and Albania who saved Jews during the Holocaust, and a movie that documents a joint visit to Auschwitz by Arabs and Jews. "Holocaust denial is an established fact, so it's important that people see and hear us, the Holocaust survivors, in their own languages, as well," said Holocaust survivor Dina Beitler, 74, whose videotaped testimony of escaping from a pit of corpses after being lined up and shot by the Nazis in a killing field in Vilna in 1941 appears on the site, translated into Arabic. Last year, nearly 7 million people from more than 200 countries around the world visited Yad Vashem's Web site, including 56,000 people from Muslim countries. "We are seeing a tremendous growth in the number of Web visitors from Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Emirates," said Yad Vashem Web site content manager Dana Porath. "This reflects the growing interest in the Holocaust in the Arab-Muslim world," she said. A small Farsi-language Web site was inaugurated last year. Iraninan President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called the Holocaust a "myth," and said Israel should be "wiped off the map." The Islamic Republic has also hosted an international conference of Holocaust deniers. Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by Yad Vashem ahead of the Arabic site's launch indicated that nearly 60 percent of Israeli Arabs feel it is necessary to study the Holocaust in school, while another 40% said they would visit an Arabic-language Web site that provided information about the Holocaust. The survey found that 70% of the country's 1.4 million Israeli Arabs knew about the Holocaust, of whom 60% said they had heard about it for the first time at school, 27% from the media and 7% from family. The survey also revealed that willingness to learn more about the Holocaust is higher among Israeli Arab young adults than among their elders. The Smith Poll, carried out this week, had a margin of error of 4.5%. "These findings only reinforce the need to provide information about the Holocaust in Arabic as well as teaching about the Holocaust in schools," said Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev. "In light of the Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism that we are witness to in Arabic countries, we want to offer an alternative source of information to moderates in these countries, to provide them with reliable information about the Shoah," he said, calling the launching of the Web site "an historic day."