Are Palestinians proud to be Arab?
"For the Arabs the Holocaust is a taboo subject"
The pictures are known in numerous countries around the world, in Israel actually anyway - but in the Arab-influenced city of Nazareth in northern Israel by no means everyone has seen them: A Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto raises his hands in front of German uniformed men. Emaciated concentration camp prisoners look impassively into the camera. Burning synagogues. The text notes in Arabic are new and unusual. Because in Nazareth is the first Arab Holocaust Museum. Its initiator and operator is the Palestinian Khaled Kasab Mahameed. For him, the exhibition is primarily about arousing understanding. Because if he does not understand what a Holocaust survivor experienced, he cannot understand "why he is confiscating my land and disadvantaging me as a citizen," says Mahameed.
Arabs do not want to recognize the Holocaust
It is above all the conflict in Palestine that led to the fact that the murder of six million European Jews during the Nazi era is often viewed differently in Arab countries than in Western countries. Quite a few Arabs are of the opinion that recognition of the mass murder of the Jews would strengthen the State of Israel and legitimize its policy of occupation.
Mahameed sees a direct connection between the Holocaust, the establishment of the State of Israel and the displacement of many Palestinians, including his own family. He does not accept that Zionism emerged long before Adolf Hitler and that the Arabs generally rejected the division of Palestine into two states.
Holocaust not an issue in school
When Mahameed was nine years old, he heard his father complain about the displacement of the Palestinian family from the village of Ladjun in Galilee in 1948. "Why did they do this to us," said the father at the time. "We're not Nazis." So the boy understood that the National Socialists represented the ultimate evil. In the Arab school, on the other hand, the Holocaust was hardly mentioned, although the curriculum was prescribed by the Israeli Ministry of Education. Mahameed does not understand this deficit: "Through Holocaust education, peace could come closer for the Israeli Jews." Mahameed believes that a deeper understanding of the Palestinians' past suffering of Jews could defuse the conflict situation in the Middle East.
Hardly any Arabs visit the museum voluntarily
In 2005 Mahameed, now a lawyer, began to educate the Arabs about the Holocaust. He founded an association, bought four dozen posters in the bookstore of the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, wrote a 20-page brochure on it in Arabic and Hebrew and opened the Holocaust Museum in his law firm in Nazareth. Mahameed's clients have to look at the pictures and listen to his explanations. Only then will you be given legal advice. But hardly any Palestinian or Arab visits the museum voluntarily. The Holocaust is a taboo subject for the Arabs. "An acquaintance really insulted me. And in a local newspaper they called me 'more papal than the Pope'," says Mahameed. Some even accused him of being a Zionist collaborator. To counter this call, he placed a large Palestinian flag in a corner of the exhibition as a precaution.
No connection between the Holocaust and the founding of Israel
Journalists from all over the world make a pilgrimage to the unique small museum. The reporters from the largest Arab newspaper in Israel, "Kul al-Arab", were not among them - although the editorial office is only a kilometer away. Editor-in-chief Zoher Andrawous sees no direct connection between the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. You have to be informed about the Holocaust, says Andrawous. "But as long as the Jewish people consider themselves the ultimate sacrifice, we will experience neither peace nor equality."
So far, Mahameed has only received support from the German Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which sponsored his three-day seminar for Palestinians on the Holocaust in 2005. After a year he is proud that - at least that is how he believes - his voluntary work has left the first cracks in the wall of Arab silence and has brought peace between Israelis and Palestinians one step closer. He hopes that his Holocaust Museum will eventually find greater acceptance among the Arab population in Nazareth and beyond.
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