Reading about a conference on genocide held in Frankfurt, Germany in March 2011 which appeared in Second Generation Voices, a journal for and by the descendants of Holocaust survivors which is published in England, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. Admittedly, the title of the conference covered all genocides, the Armenians by the Turks, the Roma/gypsies, communists and homosexuals by the Nazis, for example. But for some unaccountable reason the plight of the Palestinians was also included under that rubric.
I’d be the first to admit that some Palestinians are in a bad way, living in refugee camps, deprived of the citizenship of the Arab countries in which they were born, living on miserable handouts provided by the UNWRA, but to call that genocide is a total misrepresentation of the truth. One must give the Palestinians credit for their public-relations acumen in hi-jacking every possible podium from which to present their cause, but claiming that they are the victims of genocide is going a bit too far.
Unlike the Jews, no Palestinian – refugee or not – was sent to be ‘exterminated’ like vermin in the framework of a mechanized industry of dehumanization and murder motivated by racial hatred. In 1948, as a result of a war instigated by their own leaders, Palestinians were herded into refugee camps by their own people, and are today being kept there, again by their own leaders, through a combination of the political heartlessness and Machiavellian machinations of those leaders, with the connivance of the UN through the workings of UNWRA, which perpetuates and even augments the problem, ensuring that the second, third and even the fourth generation of Palestinian retains a permanent status as refugees.
I think of the generation of my parents. Like many other Jews who managed to escape from Germany in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, they arrived in England as refugees, were not given any hand-outs or benefits or accorded any special status. They were glad to have escaped the inferno of Continental Europe and relieved simply to be alive. They were thrown in at the deep end of the struggle to survive and had to either sink or swim, and on the whole they seem to have swum pretty well, though not without being scarred or at least marked for life by their experiences. There are any number of refugee success stories that are almost beyond belief, but the main point is that they made lives for themselves, built homes and families and did what they could to contribute to the wider society.
Now just take a look at Israel. The State that was forged by force of arms in 1948, when a population of less than half a million managed to fend off the concerted attacks of half a dozen Arab armies. In the course of the subsequent decade it took in over a million penniless refugees who had been stripped of their possessions and kicked out of their homes by those self-same Arab countries. And let’s not forget the thousands of equally penniless Holocaust survivors who finally found a haven in Israel. In the sixty-three years of its existence Israel has fed, clothed and housed all those Jewish refugees, provided them with education and employment, and gone on to become a democracy with a stable and successful economy that is the envy of many much longer-established countries.
Where are the Palestinians in all this? One may well feel sorry for them, they are indeed victims, but they are the victims of their own corrupt, selfish, unfeeling and uncaring leaders. However, to allow them to take the floor at a conference on genocide and dominate a discussion on injustices that have been done in the name of race hatred is a travesty. It is an insult to the memory of our relatives who were beaten, robbed, dehumanized, shot, burned, gassed and pulverized in the most blatant display of evil ever witnessed on this planet.
I find it offensive in the extreme to include the narrative of the Palestinians in the same category as that of the second generation of Holocaust survivors. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any forum that gives equal consideration to the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinian refugees constitutes another step on the road to Holocaust denial.