Taken from the Daily Star here
The upcoming trip by an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset to Auschwitz is the latest chapter in the saga of seeing accusations of anti-Semitism used to smear the Arab and Muslim world. Mohammad Barakeh of the influential party Hadash will make the trek as part of an Israeli parliamentary delegation, which has predictably angered hardline Zionists who reject the idea of an Arab being allowed to participate in an official ceremony at a place with such symbolic meaning for Jews.
When the issue of the Holocaust arises in Arab and Muslim countries, there’s a pretty good chance that misunderstanding will follow. Defenders of Zionism are always quick to point to Palestinian-German contacts during World War II, even though the record shows that the contacts, such as they were, had a miniscule impact of the scheme of things, and were outweighed by the contacts between Zionists and Nazis. Back then, both Palestinians and Zionists had the same enemy – the British Mandate – and were willing to work with anyone to achieve their political goals.
If we leave aside the minority of active Holocaust deniers, we can say Arabs and Muslims view the massacres of Jews with revulsion and horror. But let’s not forget the real world: the organized annihilation of a religious group in Europe has been clouded by the fact that the Jewish victims of a European crime committed in Europe were “rewarded” with a state in a land where this genocide didn’t take place, and at the expense of people who had nothing to do with it.
There’s nothing wrong with actions by Barakeh and others who commemorate the tragedy of the Holocaust. Naturally, they’re criticized in their own communities, for political reasons: why help the Israelis and Jews with such an issue when Palestinians and Arabs are being displaced and oppressed on a daily basis by the Israeli state?
This invariably leads to the difficult-to-handle idea, for some, that there is a difference between Jews, on the one hand, and Zionism and Israel on the other.
In fact, it’s perfectly logical to condemn the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, while relentlessly criticizing the policies of the Israeli state.
Israeli leaders themselves are to blame for the growing difficultly to make the distinction. They occupy land and bomb people, under the aegis of the Star of David. They insist on the Jewishness of the Israeli state. They complain about anti-Semitism being on the rise, but forget salient facts.
The Jews of the 1930s were victims. The Israelis of this decade alone have launched wars against the Palestinian Authority (2002, 2004), Lebanon (2006) and Gaza (2008). And they’re popularly (and incorrectly) seen as being complicit in the 2003 war against Iraq.
People who are angered by this track record aren’t anti-Semites. They’re just reading the news.