The Legacy of the Nakba-Deniers
By Tariq Shadid
April 11, 2005

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The recent opening of the new Yad Vashem museum, which is a modern edifice near Jerusalem built to commemorate the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, again emphasized a crucial issue concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been, as usual, practically completely ignored by the media, despite its considerable significance.

For the Palestinians, the very place where Yad Vashem was erected, has a significance that goes beyond its being another chunk of expropriated Palestinian land. In 1948, at about 1400 meters distance from this memorial museum, the massacre of the villagers of Deir Yasin took place, in which 254 Palestinian civilians were brutally slaughtered by Zionist terror organizations. The explosion of fear resulting from this massacre, was part of the strategy of expulsion of the Palestinians by the Zionist ideologues, and helped them succeed in driving over 800,000 Palestinians from their homes, causing the biggest and longest-standing refugee problem in modern history. Deir Yasin therefore became symbolical for 'Al-Nakba', 'the Disaster', the term which Palestinians use to refer to the events of ethnic cleansing surrounding the 'founding' of the Zionist state.

One may only hope that the Israelis chose this site to build their Holocaust memorial by sheer coincidence, or because of their habit of showing little consideration for the victims of their colonization efforts. However, if it was done deliberately. In the latter case, one might ask oneself if this practice wasn't a form of ideological pathology, reminiscent of symbolical sick acts of mass psychological violence, perpetrated by some of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. I suppose some Israeli's have the answer to this question.

On the site, where once stood the village of Deir Yasin, no memorial exists now. Instead, the houses of the village were bulldozed to the ground, as well as the cemetery, and the place was renamed "GIvat Shaul Bet". Over 400 Palestinian villages in what is now known as Israel, met the same fate, in an attempt to wipe them out of the memory of mankind, and renaming the places with Hebrew names. Besides erasing them from history, it is also of great importance to Israel to make any return of their original inhabitants impossible.

For Palestinians, it is ever again unfathomable, how governments who claim to uphold the values of freedom and human rights of all peoples and races, not only consistently deny and belittle the Nakba, but even have the audacity to display their hypocrisy in continuing to attempt to either explain away, or even sanctify, a policy of ethnic cleansing which continues until today, albeit currently at a slower rate.

Commemmorating the Holocaust, while systematically ignoring the Nakba, is a very clear example of this attitude. It would be an illusion to assume, that this practice does not have far-reaching consequences towards the confidence of Palestinians in the involvement of Western nations in the conflict.

It is impossible to explain, that two crimes against humanity, that both took place in the same decennium of the previous century, namely the Holocaust and the Nakba, can be dealt with in two such diametrically opposing ways.

Those governments who sent their representatives to join in the commemmoration of the victims of the Holocaust owe the Palestinian people an apology, for showing their contempt for the Palestinians, by failing to commemorate or mention the Nakba, the symbol of which lies only 1400 meters away from where they were commemorating the Holocaust, together with other 'Nakba-deniers', with the appropriate sympathy and consideration.

As long as politicians and citizens keep viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from this crooked angle, progress is simply impossible, since this attitude reflects upon these governments' basic stance towards the parties involved in the conflict. While international law, and numerous UN resolutions strongly corroborate the Palestinian claim to having undergone systematic and brutal violations of their basic rights, the governments of Western governments fail to give these laws their due weight in dealing with Israel. The events surrounding the opening of the new Yad Vashem museum, can barely illustrate this more clearly.

Not only are the Israeli's given the prerogative of arranging the present to their whims, including the illegal confiscation of lands and the harsh military oppression of an entire people, but they are even granted the exclusive privilege of keeping their traumatic past alive. However, when Palestinians mention the trauma of their past, or even their present, they are often told to stop looking at the past, and look towards the future instead, in order to remain 'constructive'.

If past as well as present, according to the governments of the current Western powers, are to be the exclusive privilege of the Israeli's, then why should Palestinians expect, or trust, that these same governments see a place for their people in the future?