Founder of Holocaust Museum in Nazareth Invited to Tehran

Israeli Arab founder asked to address Holocaust conference in Iran, says he plans to criticize Iranian position.

The founder of a private Holocaust museum in Nazareth has been invited to address a Holocaust study conference to take place next month in Iran.

Nazareth resident Khaled Ksab Mahamid is waiting for permission from the Foreign Ministry and final authorization from Tehran to attend the conference.

Mahamid told Haaretz he intends to tell the conference that the Holocaust did happen and that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's position of Holocaust denial is wrong.

"Everything that happened must be internalized and the facts must not be denied," Mahamid says, adding, "It is the obligation of all Arabs and all Muslims to understand the significance of the Holocaust. If their goal is to understand their adversary, they must understand the Holocaust."

Mahamid, who is an attorney, has been dealing with the Holocaust for some years. The museum, which is located on the first floor of his modest home, displays photographs he received from Yad Vashem, whose captions he translated into Arabic.

The spokeswoman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes' Remembrance Authority said the institution believes Mahamid's intentions are good but that "more work should be done on the exhibit to make it more coherent. We have offered Mr. Mahamid assistance and advice as well as study material, books and maps that Yad Vashem has published in Arabic, but he has not approached us so far."

Mahamid has also written a book about the Holocaust in Arabic, entitled, "The Palestinians and the State of the Holocaust," which deals with the Holocaust from the perspective of Palestinians who, in 1948, became internal refugees in Israel.

According to Mahamid, the Palestinian people paid the price for the Holocaust in 1948, when the European countries gave the Palestinian homeland to the Jews out of guilt.

"The naqba [disaster] the Palestinians experienced in 1948 is small compared to the Holocaust, but the political implications of the Holocaust have made its terrors a burden on the Palestinian people alone," he wrote.

Mahamid's arguments are not widely supported in the Arab community, where many see dealing with the Holocaust as granting legitimacy to the establishment of Israel.

However, Mahamid says he feels strongly that understanding the Holocaust can bring about an end to bloodshed in the region.

"The Holocaust has all the reasons for the creation of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also has potential to bring peace," he says.

When Ahmadinejad began to issue his Holocaust-denial statements, Mahamid sent articles he had written to various Iranians to correct the matter, and sent his book to the Iranian Foreign Ministry's Institute for Strategic Studies.

He received a response, and then submitted an abstract of the lecture he wants to give in Tehran at the upcoming conference.

The conference, which is to take place on December 11 and 12, is entitled "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision."

Professor Dina Porat, head of Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism, said she knows of no well-known Holocaust scholar who will be attending the Tehran conference.

None of the prominent Holocaust deniers will be there either, she added, "either for the simple reason that they are in jail, or they are too old."

The conference Web site says its purpose is to "clarify the hidden and open corners of this issue" and to pay "full respect for the Jewish religion."