Opinion |

Forget Using the Word Holocaust. Just Free Palestinians From Israeli Tyranny

For years, the Palestinians have been trying to tell the story of their Nakba because, from their perspective, it is their holocaust.

חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli
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Palestinian families are being expelled from their village near Latrun during the Six-Day War, 1967.
Palestinian families are being expelled from their village near Latrun during the Six-Day War, 1967.Credit: Benaya Ben-Nun
חנין מג׳אדלי - צרובה
Hanin Majadli

The Jews are angry with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This irrelevant man who serves primarily as a contractor for the Israeli occupation in the West Bank said this week that Israel carried out “50 holocausts” against the Palestinians. He forgot for a moment that it is absolutely forbidden to take the word “Holocaust” from the Jews. It belongs only to them. They have a monopoly on it.

Okay, you got it, take it. But at the same time, find another word for what has been going on here right under your noses for the past 75 years. After all, the word “Nakba” [when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1947-49 Israeli War of Independence] isn’t acceptable to you and neither is “apartheid.” Most of you don’t even accept the word “occupation.”

So go on, give us a word that covers population swaps, killings, massacres, deportations, theft, expulsion, annexation, thousands of dead. A word that reflects a situation in which liberty and even the most basic right – the right to self-determination and to live as a people equal to all other peoples – has been violently taken away. Not a holocaust; something else.

It is no coincidence Israeli Jews jumped on Abbas’ words in his Berlin speech on Tuesday. For years, with impressive perseverance and persistence, Israel has nurtured a claim of antisemitism against any Palestinian criticism, or otherwise, of its behavior in the territories and in general. Part of the reason is to stain the just Palestinian struggle for freedom, liberty and for life with honor and respect, and to paint it as antisemitic. How easy and convenient it is to turn the battle against the occupation and apartheid into a battle for “Never Again” – as if the Palestinians are Nazis and those supporting them are “their helpers.”

Palestinian students visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.Credit: Maya Levin, Jini

For years, the Palestinians have been trying to tell the story of their Nakba because, from their perspective, it is their holocaust. But the issue here is not one of semantics, it is a fundamental one. So take the word “Holocaust” and free us from your occupation, from the crimes that have been committed against the Palestinians, from Israeli tyranny, from patronization, from shirking from responsibility, from denial and from your ability to live with yourselves despite all these sins.

We also heard this week that the army killed five children in an attack in Gaza during Operation Breaking Dawn. Not a holocaust, but how would you describe this disaster? And this is just one disaster out of hundreds and thousands that sometimes occur every day, every week and every month, and in every operation. How would you describe the fact that, despite all this, Israel doesn’t recognize its crimes, doesn’t apologize for them and doesn’t seek to strive for some historic restitution, not to mention a just and equitable solution?

One thing Israeli Jews are experts at is being shocked that their catastrophe, their trauma, their tragedy, is not recognized. Because only they exist, only they are victims. It is a little ironic that Abbas is now being crucified. After all, he has extended a hand to Israel for 13 years hoping somebody might shake it. Abbas is pragmatic, nonviolent and wants peace. In return, he is completely ignored by the smug and condescending occupier. Be our contractor, deal with security coordination, give us the names we need, suppress popular resistance, hand over our opponents, but give us a break and don’t talk to us about peace and things like that. Serve us and be quiet.

So now he finally found a way to get some attention from the Israelis.

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