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Israel: Reflections on the Holocaust Memorial Day and Durban II

Yesterday was the national holocaust memorial day in Israel. Coincidentally, it was also the opening day of the highly contested UN Durban II conference on racism in Geneva. Dozens of delegates have walked out as Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave his talk, in which he described Israel as a “racist government”. His words: “The UN security council has stabilized this occupation regime and supported it in the last 60 years giving them a free hand to continue their crimes,” as dozens of diplomats from countries including Britain and France left the hall in protest.

Israeli ambassador to Switzerland was recalled and returned to Jerusalem following the Swiss presidents’ meeting with the Iranian leader. Shimon Peres said earlier in the day: “There is a limit to Switzerland's neutrality, and there is a border which must not be crossed. Everyone should realize that Iran is a country where people are lynched in the street for no good reason. It is the world center for terrorism and bloodshed.”

As the national holocaust memorial day unfolds, Israeli bloggers reflect and question the meaning of the day's events.

Bravejeworld describes the events at the conference:

Mahmoud Ahmedinajad proceeded to prove all the anti-Durban I protestors right this afternoon as he launched into a predictable tirade against Israel and the Jewish people. Contrary to the principles and claimed purpose of the UN backed conference, Iranian's president proved to the world how hypocritical he actually is as by standing directly opposed to everything the Western world holds dear. As a result, many world leaders walked out of the conference as he began his speech to the delight and pleasure of the many spectators and thus reducing the conference to the shambles many were hoping it would be.

Dr. Ori Amity affirms how the Palestinian problem is certainly not related to race, nor is genocide, as Ahmadinejad claims:

True, the Iranian president is a ridiculous character, but especially with this type of person, we cannot stay silent. And before everything, it is necessary to refer to his accusation of genocide. With the Israeli Laissez-faire mentality, and some failures found here and there, if there was a masterplan to kill all Palestinians, we all would have noticed it by now: gas chambers in the Erez checkpoint, firing squads and death marches from Hebron to Jenin – someone would have already noticed, no?

The claims (towards Israel) over racism are somewhat right, especially with regards to the 1970′s immigration law, which provides immediate citizenship even to the children and grandchildren of Jews, and not only to the Jews themselves. This is exactly the difference between discrimination on the basis of race versus religion. And still, the president is not worried about this law, but about the Palestinian problem. There are many different types of problems here, but certainly not based on race.

An important lesson learned from the holocaust is – never become indifferent to another person's suffering – especially if you are the cause. The Palestinian suffering is a fact, and the abstention from finding a solution for many years is unjust for both sides. This serves as a constant reminder that not everything is good, and if we will not act to fix the situation, we might lose that which today seems as most obvious.

Adi Shternberg brings up the example of Europe pre-WWII relating to the danger of non-action:

Hitler came into political rule in a legitimate manner. He made his way to the top against all odds, and proved he had political and strategical capabilities. All this would not have happened if the European countries would have stood strong and shown military might while it was still possible. Nazi Germany was far from powerful in its first years. France, England, Poland and Russia could have stopped the Nazi snowball in its first years… before it became too late; before history was written in blood.

The mere fact of organizing a conference such as Durban II during the formal holocaust memorial day, shows the historical and generational blindness that this ancient European continent has. Europe was totally destroyed during the world war, and could have prevented this. Europe lets this terrible conference take place – the type of gathering that supports the dark forces of the world. Europe can still stop this. It is not too late.

Navka writes:

Must it be on this day? When we remember the atrocities that happened in the world – the murder of millions of people because of hate, with no good reason.
Durban II conference opened, where the honorary guests Ahmadinejad gives a racist speech against Israel.
We must not provide these terrible people with a stage where they can open their mouths this way…

  • http://www.yehudemo.org Dr. Ory Amitay

    Not a Prof. yet, I’m afraid.
    Thanks for the quote and translation.

    • http://giladlotan.com Gilad Lotan

      sorry. will fix that :)

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  • Dörte

    “Racism” is not necessarily racial discrimination, it means ethnical discrimination too. Many people (including myself) use the word in an even wider sense, for instance I would include discrimination for reasons of religion too.

    Nobody in their senses can claim that Palestinians in Israel (even those who are Israeli citizens) are discriminated against by law (e.g. they have restricted rights to buy land) or by other acts of the state (there is no law saying that Arab schools must have less money than schools that teach in Hebrew, but that is exactly how Israeli schools are run). I could give far more examples.

    For these reasons I would certainly call Israel a racist state. So is Iran, by the way.

    • http://yahoo.com mike

      the problem between israeli and palestinian exists because each side sees it from thier point of view, but real problem is not recizem but competing national narratives, from jewish point of view is return to an ancient homeland, from arab point of view is occupation of thier land buy a forign force. anybody charging racizem is just ignoring real issue

  • Dörte

    A bad typo:
    I meant of course:
    Nobody in their senses can claim that Palestinians in Israel are NOT discriminated against …

  • http://www.yehudemo.org Dr. Ory Amitay

    Dörte -

    I am aware of the various uses made of the word “racist”, which is why I take care to use it in its correct sense.
    If you were a Jew in 19th century Germany, you would be discriminated against. Yet you would have a way out: convert to Christianity. This would take care of most of the problem (certainly for your children and grandchildren).
    On the other hand, if you were a Jew in Hitler’s Germany, converting wouldn’t help you at all, while your offspring would be classified as various types of mix-bloods.
    Thus, while conversion would make you an almost completely normative German in the face of religious discrimination, it would do nothing to save you from the death camps in the face of racism. Not a difference to be overlooked.

    The reason I’m insisting on this point is that for those of us who are working to solve the problems here, it is of the utmost importance to understand exactly what they are.

    As a politically aware citizen of Israel I can tell you that there are various cases of racism, but they are not usually directed against Arabs. Palestinians in Israel indeed suffer from discrimination, but on the whole it is based on nation, language and religion.

    • Dörte

      I am afraid, I still don’t see why your definition of racism is the “correct” one, for two reasons.

      Firstly, I don’t use the term “race”. It will always lead to to something either ridiculous or unsavioury.

      Secondly, the holocaust (and any other genocide) did not happen all of a sudden. It was only possible against the background of what you described as the anti-semitism of the 19th century. The Nazis started with minor discrimination and almost nobody spoke up against it. When it turned to grosser discrimination most people knew they were already guilty of not defending their fellow-citizens, so would not protest even then, and – in order to fight the sense of guilt – they preferred not to see Jews any longer as fellow-citizens. I’ve shortened it very much, I know, but my point is: otherwise the holocaust would not have happened. The only way to be on the safe side is to fight injustice – even the slightest – whenever you meet it.

      Of course I can see your point that discrimination that can be evaded by conversion is preferrable to discrimination on “racial” grounds turning murdurous, but you would probably not like enforced conversion either and you are right. After all, what do we need a definition of racism for? To fight racism, what else. Including what you call discrimination based on nation, religion, language or other grounds.

      • http://www.yehudemo.org Dr. Ory Amitay

        But “racism” is derived from “race” – no point in ignoring that.
        If you want to fight religious (or any other) discrimination – call it by its proper name and fight it. The fight will be easier once the enemy is correctly defined.

        Indeed, I would not want to have to convert to another faith in order not to be discriminated against. But I would be very glad for the opportunity if it meant a choice between conversion and gas chamber.

  • Pingback: The Durban circus continues | Antony Loewenstein

  • MERC

    Dorte, I’m afraid that Palestinian Israelis are discriminated against in law, which is what makes Israel an apartheid state. 93% of pre-67 Israel is designated in law through acts of the Knesset for cultivation, development and settlement by, of and for Jews only. The apartheid-style distinction between Jew and non-Jew is institutionalised in the Constitutions and Articles of Association of the key institutions of the Zionist movement – the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund. They use such expressions as ‘land acquired as Jewish property’; ‘the inalienable property of the Jewish people’; ‘Jewish labour’ etc This distinction is incorporated, along with the exclusivist constitutional stipulations of the WZO, the JA and the JNF, into the laws of the state of Israel, resulting in the denial of 93% of Israeli territory to non-Jews, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and the 1948 Palestinian refugees (still in exile, stateless and disenfranchised by Zionist terror, after 61 years) from whom that land was stolen in 1948. Israel is thus racist to the core. Could I just add too that for any Israeli commenter to point the finger at Ahmadinejad is sheer hypocrisy. No country that presides over a barbarous occupation, has apartheid laws, engages in periodic genocidal rampages, and elects Zionist ultras such as Netanyahu and Avigdor (Death to Arabs) Liebermann to power has the right to point the finger at anyone else.

    • Dörte

      Merc,
      you possibly didn’t see my correction of my typo. Yes, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens are badly discriminated against by law and beyond. The situation in the occupied territories has many parallels to apartheid, so far we are pretty much agreed.

      I am disagreeing strongly with your last bit: Although Liebermann’s wish to drown prisoners or to bomb the Aswan dam resembles very much Ahmadinajad’s attitude towards Israel, I would never say that ANY Israeli commenter is hypocritical in pointing his finger.

  • http://Truthalwayscomesout ben jon

    We should ask ourself why all Western leaders walked out the Conference?

    The US were responsible for ethnically clensing the Indian, The Brits in Australia were responsible for clensing the aboginiese and in New Zealand the moaries, etc. They are promoting and continue protecting the Zionist. (birds of a feather flock together)

    The UN was created to protect Isreal because of Veto power of US and UK.

    Every one knows that Zionist in Isreal are racist.

    Who is going to save Isreal from destroying itself? In the previous period during Prophet Moses time the question was ask you who was going to save Phraoh from destroying himself? Phroah taught by killing all man he would be save but God is Great.

    Prophet Moses was created and was brought up in Phroah house and eventually after many year Phroah was destroyed by God.

    Do the Zionist beleived that God is sleeping, the Zionist should understand God is planning and God happens.

    What is most sad is that Jews were victims of the Holocusts that took place?

    Those victims who have now join the Zionist have become aggressors and are now doing the same what Hitler did in Germany.

    Do the Zionist beleived God protects oppressors? God hates oppressor, that why God advocated by saying “help the oppressor by highlighting to their wrong”.

    Ask same questions to the Jewish Rabbis about Prophet Moses and Phroah and oppression.

    Even it takes 1000 years God is very just.

    People around are no more so symphathetic to Jews because of Zionists actions in Palestine and because of photos coming out of Gaza.

    The Zionist should understand the US are no more Global power they have already falling.

  • http://www.yehudemo.org Dr. Ory Amitay

    Funny to see that despite barbarous occupation, apartheid laws, and periodic genocidal rampages, some Arabs (the mayor of Umm-el-Fahm for example), still prefer to belong to the Zionist terrorist state, rather than to a free and proud Palestine.

    http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/650/376.html

  • http://www.dubai-jazz.blogspot.com dubaijazz

    here are few reflections on both subjects from an Arab’s perspective:

    http://dubai-jazz.blogspot.com/2009/04/dubai-jazz-marks-holocaust-remembrance.html

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