Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An Arab MK visits Auschwitz

Call me naive, but I think it's a good thing.

Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab MK, is attending a commemoration at Aushwitz tomorrow as part of a delegation from Israel. (see here). He's received attacks for doing so from both Arabs and Jews.

The Lebanese Daily Star explains that some Arabs attack him, and those like him who commemerate the tragedy of the holocaust, for political reasons, along these lines:

why help the Israelis and Jews with such an issue when Palestinians and Arabs are being displaced and oppressed on a daily basis by the Israeli state?
Jewish attacks, meanwhile, have tended to focus on his intention to criticize Israel's policies towards the Palestinians while in Poland. To do so, they argue, is to exploit the memory of the suffering of the victims of the holocaust; and I would agree.

(This kind of exploitation, however, is nothing new; Israeli officials have done it too. Abba Eban, for example, spoke of Israel's borders as being 'auschwitz lines', while more recently Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, exploited the memory of the holocaust as a means to delegitimize the Goldstone report, as I discussed in the last paragraph of my post here.)

But the important question is whether the good of Barakeh's visit will outweigh the bad of his exploiting it by using the publicity it will generate to attack Israel. I'm going to go for a yes: by visiting Auschwitz he makes it easier for other Arabs to commemerate the holocaust without fearing vilification along the lines quoted above. Moreover, it should help to foster a climate of reducing the politicization of acknowledging the suffering experienced by 'the other side' in the Israel/Arab conflict, and that can only be a good thing for peace.

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