Israeli Arab Lawmaker Refuses Holocaust Day Invite: Israel Today Is Like Germany in 1930s

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Hanin Zoabi, a lawmaker from the Joint Arab List, participates in a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the northern Israeli town of Sakhnin October 13, 2015.Credit: Reuters

MK Haneen Zoabi (Joint Arab List) has turned down an invitation to participate in a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, citing her inability to speak out against what she called the “frightening similarity” between Nazi Germany’s behavior and Israel’s policies in the occupied territories, or about Israel’s “cynical exploitation” of the Holocaust.

The ceremony at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai is the first Holocaust Remembrance Day event to which Zoabi has ever been invited in her capacity as a Knesset member.

Zoabi said she respects the memory of those killed in the Holocaust, but objects to the way Israel teaches the Holocaust to future generations.

“How can you teach the lessons of the Holocaust when you don’t discern the frightening similarity between what is happening today all around us and what happened in Germany in the 1930s?” she wrote the organizers.

“The Holocaust obligates us not to be silent when racist laws are legislated, not to be silent when natives are exiled, not to be silent when their land and property is stolen, not to be silent when entire neighborhoods and entire families are bombed and wiped off the face of the earth, and not to be silent when political activists are put in administrative detention. It obligates us to raise a loud outcry. But from the Jewish side of our reality, all that is heard is a weak voice, along with the silenced Palestinian voice.”

Zoabi also charged that the Holocaust is taught in Israel “in a selective and even manipulative fashion. You shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust to increase motivation to defend yourself by humiliating and oppressing the other; you shouldn’t teach the lessons of the Holocaust by adopting a policy of closure, exploitation, theft and murder. This would be cynical exploitation – selective, misleading and, in the end, antagonistic to the meaning of the Holocaust.”

Therefore, she continued, she cannot take part in the ceremony “because I’m obligated to raise a loud outcry, and it’s clear to me that this can’t be done during the planned ceremony.”

“Out of respect for the Holocaust, its victims and its lessons, I appeal to you and beg you to deal critically with the Israeli usage, which exploits and minimizes the Holocaust; to educate Israelis to critical thinking and moral awareness; and to open their eyes to the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,” she concluded.

Zoabi, from the Balad party, has drawn widespread criticism in Israel for her firebrand political views and her participation in the Mavi Marmara flotilla. She recently reached a plea deal with Israeli legal authorities for an incident in which she insulted a police officer and incited a Nazareth crowd against him. She was also barred from participating in the last election, but Israel's Supreme Court overturned the election board's decision.

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