In this moving account by a Palestinian of his observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I was struck by the following thought: Maybe one of the reasons Arabs are so quick to compare Israelis to Nazis is that they, like the author of this piece in Ha’aretz, don’t really know what the Holocaust was.
Although it may seem strange for a Palestinian to take time out to remember the Holocaust, I felt it was an important step for me. I needed to connect with the pain of those who suffered, and I needed to go beyond nationality to acknowledge the loss of human life.
I must admit that growing up I did not know much about the Holocaust. As Palestinians, we simply did not learn about it.
There was a stigma attached to it, an understanding that Israel would use the Holocaust to lobby for sympathy, then turn and use the sympathy as a terrible weapon against the Palestinian people.
So when I was asked about the Holocaust, I always felt that defensive urge to say "It was not my fault! I suffered for it too." Deep down, I think I felt that by acknowledging their pain, I would betray or marginalize my own suffering.
Also, some part of me feared that if I sympathized with "the enemy," my right to struggle for justice might be taken away. Now I know this is nonsense: you are stronger when you let humanity overcome enmity. However, it took me time to learn this lesson.
Many years ago, I decided there is no way I can understand and communicate with my Jewish friends if I don’t learn their history, their narrative, and their story.