Holocaust (Shoah) Day Meeting

On April 8, the eve of Holocaust Day, a discussion evening took place in which two lecturers – a Jew and a Palestinian – spoke on the subject: “Lessons learned from the Shoah and their contemporary significance.”

In these difficult days, in which the Israeli – Palestinian conflict has become more violent and hurtful than ever, we came together to hear different voices, both from the Jewish and the Palestinian sides, on the difficult and complex subject of the Shoah. The attendees were from NSWAS, the vicinity, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Rehovot. Both Jews and Arabs were present.

The speakers:

Dr. Yair Oron is a historian, educator and researcher, who deals with the influence of the Shoah on Jewish identity in Israel and the Diaspora, and with the subject of genocide. Oron lectures on these subjects at the University of Tel Aviv and the Kibbutz Seminary in Tel Aviv.

Salam Jubran originally comes from the village of Peki'in (Upper Galilee) and is a resident of Nazareth. Jubran has been in journalism since 1963, writing usually on culture, and he now edits the weekly newspaper “Al-Ahali.” Jubran lectures Jewish and Arab teachers at the Giva't Haviva Institute and the Ghetto Fighters' House, on issues of multi-culturalism, the Shoah, and racism in the 20th century.

Oron spoke about genocide as a phenomenon in the 20th century and amazed us with the research data about the number of people killed in what is defined as genocide. Between the years 1900 and 1987, that number is estimated to be 169,198,000. He outlined the elements that mark the Jewish Holocaust as a historical phenomenon and also the influences of this tragic event on Jews as a people. At the same time, he commented that we must find the balance between Jewish and the universal elements when we are dealing with the subject of the Shoah.

Oron claims that there is a chance for genuine reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews only if the Palestinians will understand the hard and distorting effect of the Shoah trauma, and only if the Jews will understand the significance of the Nakba and take responsibility for their role in its occurrence.

The educational system, according to Oron, has been mistaken in its approach to teaching the subject. It should place the Jewish Holocaust in the universal context and develop sensitivity towards the effects of racism on Israeli society – especially with regard to racism against the Palestinians, who live alongside us.

Salam Jubran explained his own connection with the Shoah and the phenomenon of Nazism, and the way these have been viewed by Palestinians. He mentioned the position of Palestinian circles and those of the neighboring Arab countries against the phenomenon of Nazism and hatred of Jews simply on account of their being Jews. He protested the tendency of the Israeli establishment to focus attention only to those Arabs in the region who supported Nazism. He said did so due to their opposition to Zionism, and never read the Nazi texts themselves.

Jubran criticised the approach of the Education Ministry in the teaching of the Shoah in Arab schools: teachers read obligatory texts and were not permitted to express their own thoughts and positions or open a discussion. The presentation of the subject in this fashion aroused an attitude of distrust and lack of sufficient understanding among the Arab population in Israel.

Jubran maintains that his understanding (as a Palestinian) of Jewish pain and suffering, gives him the legitimacy to demand that Jews will similarly understand the suffering of his own people under oppression and occupation. He points out with regret that despite the bitter experience of Jews under racist regimes, racism towards the Palestinian minority is growing stronger in Israel.