Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good (Sort of) News From Morocco

The King of Morocco has issued a statement saying that the Holocaust was "one of the most tragic chapters of modern history." The statement was made at a meeting of the Aladdin project which promotes Holocaust education amongst Muslims.

This statement is both good and bad news. It's good, of course because it is an Arab Muslim leader recognizing a historical fact often denied or question by many of his coreligionists, notably, the president of Iran. Apparently, it is the first time any Arab leader has made such a clear statement about the historical truth of the Holocaust and recognized the suffering it caused the Jewish people.

It's bad, however, because it stops short of denying that Israel exists because of the Holocaust. Those who say that Palestinians are being punished for Europe's sins may only take comfort in the Moroccan King's statement arguing that, yes, one of the worst crimes in history is being compensated by permitting another.

The Aladdin project tries to dispel this with their Q&A. They write:

"Did Jews use the Holocaust to bring about the creation of Israel?

It would be a mistake to believe that the Jewish state owes its
existence to Hitler. Jewish nationalism, Zionism, was more than half a century
old when the Jews of Europe were exterminated. All the institutions of a Jewish
state were already in place in Palestine when Hitler rose to power in 1933, and
when the partition of Palestine was proposed in 1936. Israel, therefore, was not
a direct outcome of the Holocaust.Reading the deliberations of the United
Nations and its bodies in 1947-1948, it is difficult to find evidence that the
Holocaust played a decisive or even significant role. It is certainly the
case that the Holocaust hastened the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in the eyes
of the world. But there is no cause-and-effect relationship between the
Holocaust and Israel. "


"Why should the Palestinians, who had nothing to do with the Holocaust, pay the
price for it?

The question of the Holocaust, as a human catastrophe, must be
separated from the creation of the state of Israel and, more particularly,
Israeli policies.

The hearts and minds of Palestinians and Israelis are burdened
by sacred histories, by traditions of pain, by superstitions about the other, so
much so that it is difficult for one to see the suffering of the other, now and
in history.

The common Palestinian (and Arab) understanding of Jewish history,
like the common Jewish understanding of Palestinian (and Arab) history, is
riddled with malice and myth. It is the responsibility of intellectuals on both
sides of the divide to try to correct the malice and the myth in the two
communities. Muslim intellectuals must be courageous enough to declare that
equating the Jews with the Nazis and drawing the Star of David (as a Jewish
symbol) as the Nazi Swastika is not only absurd, but also the ultimate affront
to victims of the Holocaust and their families - likening the victims to their

Jewish intellectuals, too, have a duty to erase the myth and malice
that clutter their fellow Jews' view of the Palestinians and their legitimate

Most importantly, the question of the Holocaust must remain separate
from political disputes. Even if the Holocaust had played a decisive role in the
creation of Israel, and even though Arabs did not have any part in the tragedy
that visited the Jewish people, it would be morally unconscionable for Muslims
to deny the Holocaust, or to consider acknowledgement of its having taken place
to be a show of support for Israel or a betrayal of the Palestinians' rights."

The answer to the first question is excellent, but the second one falls a bit short. A better answer would note that Palestinians are not paying a price for the Holocaust, but rather for the rejection of the presence of Jews, or more precisely, a Jewish state in the ancestral homeland of the Jews. The legal creation of Israel was a legal recognition of facts--Jewish presence, Jewish institutions, Jewish History, Jewish ability to establish sovereignty--in what is today Israel. Circumstances that existed since before world war 2. The war that resulted from Israel's declaration of Independence in 1948 and it's fallout is the cause of Palestinian suffering,not the Holocaust.

This being said, sometimes it's best not to look a gift-horse in the mouth. The King of Morocco should be congratulated for a statement, that at least in the Arab world, is quite bold and is a step towards understanding and reconciliation.

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