How long must Palestinians pay for the Holocaust? [op-ed]

A man leading an occupying state, a racist state in which mixed marriages are protested, doesn’t get to teach lessons to others. Mr. Netanyahu, stop exploiting the Holocaust at every political opportunity; pick up a book and learn that we weren’t there in those darkest days of European and Jewish history.

On the eve of a historical day for the Palestinian people, when the international community has finally figured out that there is no point in waiting for Israelis to recognize their neighbors’ right to independence, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to preach to the Europeans  – to teach them a lesson he himself has yet to learn.

And he is right. There really are people who have not learned a thing; not in Europe, but right here in Israel.

The time has come to put everything on the table and talk about the Palestinians and the Holocaust.

For years we have been keeping our heads down and avoided facing the issue. We were careful never to shout “Nazis” in protests against the occupation, against house demolitions, and on Land Day, when we speak up and resist the oppression and racism against Arabs in Israel. We are forbidden from even approaching that sensitive Jewish wound, the ultimate political trump card. We the Arabs were and still are vulnerable, weak, defeated, and yes – scared we would be blamed for taking part in or even for identifying with the horrors that took place in Europe.

But khalas. Enough. No more. I am no longer willing to carry the burden of the Great Sin on my shoulders. It is no longer possible to punish us in every way possible for nearly 70 years and then hide behind the black curtain of European Jewish history.

The prime minister of a state where rampant racism is raising its head in every corner —under the government’s patronage — has no right to preach to others. When in every city conquered in 1948 – Lydd, Acre, Jaffa – there is a neighborhood called “the ghetto,” meaning the old city where the Palestinian residents were kept and enclosed, you Mr. Prime Minister cannot speak of learning lessons.

In a state where every bill produced in your racist breeding ground reeks of hatred and fear mongering toward “the Arabs” – you don’t get to preach about learning lessons. When thousands of Palestinians begin their days at 2.30 a.m., turning into a single mass of human flesh pushed as one through a metallic sleeve at the end of which stands a soldier, only in order to earn a day’s wages and return home via the same route in the evening, don’t talk about learning lessons.

When in a single month you murdered thousands of innocent Palestinians, you must know that Umm-Muhammad from Gaza, whose four sons were murdered on the beach, does not believe you have learned your lesson. In a country where schools in which Arab and Jewish children study together are set ablaze, in a place where hooligans protest against the marriage of an Arab man and a Jewish woman, no lesson has been learned.

Stop taking every opportunity to wave the flag of Holocaust horrors at every turn of your political career. Go open up the history books and learn that we were not present in Europe at the time and took no part in any anti-Semitic plan. A million and a half Gazans imprisoned for nine years will not create another Holocaust against you or your people, even if Article 6 of the Hamas Charter calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state. Neither will Iran when your democratic state is the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

I expect nothing more of you, Mr. Prime Minister. I am relying on the people who will learn the lessons and choose to reroute the train heading full-speed toward oblivion. Such a shift may be bold and terrifying, but it is the only option left.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.

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Being a Mizrahi Jew, an Israeli and touching the Holocaust
In Israel, Holocaust obsession prevents real change