Israeli Arab Teaches Palestinians About the Holocaust

Khaled Ksab Mahamid, founder of a private Holocaust museum in Nazareth, lectures at Balata refugee camp.

On the way to the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus, Khaled Ksab Mahamid says: "You remember that you are American, yes? How is your accent in English?"

Mahamid, whose family originates from a destroyed Arab village near what is now Megiddo, is the founder and director of a private Holocaust museum in Nazareth.

We are on our way to the Balata refugee camp, where he is scheduled to give a lecture. The tension at the checkpoint is rising.

In general, Palestinians and Arabs try not to talk about the Holocaust. The distance between solidarity with the Jewish people and solidarity with the Jewish state is short, and is not usually up for discussion, especially in a refugee camp.

Mahamid has a unique perspective on this issue. He argues that the Palestinian people paid the price for the Holocaust during their Nakba - Arabic for "catastrophe" or the day of Israel's independence.

Mahamid says that Palestinians are still paying for the Holocaust, and will continue to do so, if it does not learn what happened to the Jews.

He has lectured in the Nablus area in the past, but this is his first time in Balata. He does not know exactly what to expect. The organizers of the lecture welcome him at the entrance to the camp, shake his hand.

The first stop: memorial for the fallen. Mahamid mumbles the fataha, the opening chapter of the Koran, within the palms of his hands extended upward like an open book.

After the memorial, we go down to one of the alleyways in the camp. It is exactly like in the movies ? the narrow alleyways of a refugee camp.

A dozen or so residents gather next to a clubhouse - which also serves as the headquarters of Al-Alqsa Martyrs Brigade commander and Fatah parliament member, Jamal Tirawi, who was arrested by Israeli forces last year.

Mahamid begins his lecture with the claim that the Zionist movement has failed, in a big way.

"Most Jews did not come to Palestine. Also today, there are eight million [Jews] in the world that are not here. Where are they?"

The crowd listens quietly. One of the guests gets up to serve juice and cookies. When he stands, the gun in his belt is evident

Mahamid raises his hands and warns that the Palestinians must not be like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This, he says, plays into the hands of the Zionists. Palestinians must remember the Jews' weak points. "Know your enemy," he says.

He does not exactly tell what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust; he hints at it. He shows pictures of Jewish prisoners in the death camps and says Palestinians must use "understand what the other thinks, not deny it."

"The Israelis believe in this, the Germans and the French believe in this. We also need to adopt this," he says. Addressing the crowd, he continues: "You, who live in Balata, could you tell somebody this is a lie?"

Mahamid insists that the Palestinians have to end the violent struggle against Israel, as given that they have lost six million of their people, the deaths of 25 in a terrorist attack will not deter them.

Another person attending the lecture, of local origin, becomes angry. There is no logic in making the occupation a five-star occupation, he says. He is also against Mahamid's claim that the Zionist movement has failed.

"If one Jew comes, if they took my father's orchard in Jaffa, it has not failed. Have you not read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? They sit in a tent but want to control the entire world."

As we leave the refugee camp and head back toward Hawara checkpoint, the tension eases. The journalists are already chatting in Hebrew with the guests. At the checkpoint, Mahamid pulls out his ID for the woman soldier. With his ID, he always carries a picture of a Jewish child from the Holocaust - why not shame the soldiers a little? When the woman soldier expresses amazement, he produces more pictures of Jews from the Holocaust and tells her that he just gave a lecture on the subject at Balata.