Elie Wiesel Must Respect Palestinian Memories

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“It may be necessary to recall the history of this Palestinian tragedy. In 1947 Israel accepted the plan for the division of Palestine; the Arabs rejected it.” With these words, Elie Wiesel, launched into a rant full of Zionist mythology on the editorial pages of The New York Times (NYT 1/ 24/2001).

I happen to agree with Elie Wiesel on the need to recall the history of the Palestinians. We simply differ on the historical record. His memories of the events that have tormented the Palestinians for over half a century are selective and inaccurate.

When Wiesel and other American Jews talk of the Palestinians, we Americans of Arab heritage must demand that they not corrupt the historic record with their faulty memories. Why has it taken Wiesel five decades to address the question of the civil rights of Israeli Arabs? He also needs to explain his role as an apologist for the continued Israeli military ocopention of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

To ask Wiesel to do less would only allow him to continue to insult the memories of Arab-Americans. Yes, Elie, we also walk around with the wounds inflicted by our memories. We bear in our hearts the burden of grief over the unbelievable injustices that have been inflicted on our people. Lest you be lulled into complacency after fifty years of doing successful public relations to honor the memory of your people, never assume that our memory of Palestinian history will be erased.

No amount of political or media muscle is going to pull the curtain on the historical record of how the Palestinians were forced out of their homeland. Indeed, many Israelis, including Hebrew University historians, have already reconciled themselves to the fact that Zionist mythological history will need to be abandoned. Wiesel would do the cause of peace a huge favor by refreshing his own memories of Palestinian/Israeli history. For a man who is enmeshed in memory, it is difficult to understand his amnesia of what transpired during the period of the British mandate and how the Palestinians were forced into exile.

Wiesel never passes up the opportunity to remind Europeans and Americans of what they need to remember about the Holocaust. They gave him a Nobel Prize for the constant reminders. He has spared no effort to let the world know what happened to his people when a cruel test of faith induced in Nazi Europeans the madness to slaughter European Jews and European Gypsies. Those of us who have absorbed the lessons of the Holocaust assumed that kind of irrational behavior had been forever banished from the heart and soul of Europe, until Milosovic re-ignited the demon with his policy of ethnic cleansing.

This time around, it was a test of Islamic faith that was reason enough to allow one group of Europeans to attempt the extermination of another group of Europeans. During that last episode of European carnage in the Balkans, Wiesel’s interest was confined to arguing why we should not compare Milosovic’s ethnic cleansing to Hitler’s Holocaust. Such a comparison was enough to insult his memories of the slaughter of his people. He appeared to be more concerned about the insults to his memory than in condemning the ongoing slaughter.

It has been two thousand years since the birth of our lord Jesus. It is unfortunate that over the centuries since this Jewish Palestinian prophet preached his message of universal love and tolerance, many Europeans and others have twisted his message into a license to commit mass hate crimes against the Gypsies, the Jews, the Muslims, the Heathens, the pagans and the wiccans, to mention a few.

To this day, many Europeans seem to harbor a deep disdain for Gypsies. The Gypsies of Europe, who in places like Slovakia and Rumania have actually been walled off from the rest of the population, continue to bear the trials and tribulations of being an unwanted and unloved cultural minority in Europe. Under the Nazis, the Gypsies were mercilessly slaughtered by the thousands. They suffered the same fate as the European Jews.

Now, Mr. Wiesel, I have a question for you and other Zionists. What if, in the year 2001, the Gypsy leaders of Europe, in despair at their current conditions and their past treatment, would propose the creation of a Gypsy homeland to shelter their people from European bigotry. Which little country in the world would Elie Wiesel recommend we vacate to accommodate their aspirations. Malta? Tunisia? Jamaica? Which people would volunteer to give up their country to these refugees from an oppressive Europe? Argentina? Guatemala? Israel?

It stands to reason that what we find morally repugnant today, we would consider morally repugnant a century ago. When we review the ghastly history of man on this planet, we are aghast because we judge it by today’s moral standards. In this day and age, the world community and the European states would not dare to solve their ‘Gypsy problems’ by vacating a little country like Jamaica or Tunisia to create a country as Gypsy as England is English. Indeed, such a ludicrous proposal would not see the light of day in the halls of the United Nations, in the American Congress or in the British Parliament. The reason is simple. The world would not tolerate the notion of administering such cruel collective punishment on Jamaicans or Tunisians for the European sins against the Gypsies.

A half a century ago, the Anglo-American allies who emerged as victors in World War II, the greatest generation, reacted with revulsion against the Holocaust, that most monstrous of modern European crimes.

They came up with a ‘solution’ that was an extension of the crime. They would finally agree to grant the Jews of Europe a ‘shelter country’ by creating a Jewish State in Palestine. Many European Jews had already found refuge in Palestine, either as immigrants motivated by Zionist ideology or as refugees from Nazi horror chambers. The British, who had conquered Palestine from the Turks during the course of the First World War, had a mandate from the League of Nations to prepare the Palestinians for eventual self government. Under the cover of that Mandate, they had allowed a creeping annexation of Palestine by Zionists. The Jewish community, mostly European immigrants, had grown to a third of the population during the Mandate years and the stage was set for the exile of the Palestinians.

One can understand how Zionism might have been acceptable to both the British public and to European and American Jews fifty years ago. After all, this was the same European public that had inflicted the Holocaust and it was the same European governments that were still very much involved in colonial enterprises. Europe might have been torn to pieces during the course of the war, but England and France emerged from the ashes with every intention of holding onto their imperial estates in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

It is perhaps one of the most absurd historic ironies that the Jews of Europe were consolidating their colonial hold on Palestine as other Europeans were being forced to dismantle their empires.

What is even more ironic is that the Jews of Europe were abandoning the land of their birth at the very moment that Western Europe was emerging into a democratic liberal political haven where Jews could live and prosper. They had witnessed the nightmare and they left before the dawn of a new infinitely more humane European epoch.

For Weisel to condone what happened to the Palestinians is beyond belief. I will allow that he is a man who appears to embody a constant state grief over the agony of his people. He is certainly entitled to immerse himself in the dark memories of the Holocaust. Having said that, he is not entitled to pedal the insidious and inciteful Zionist historic mythology. Because, it insults my memory and it insults the memory of every Palestinian.

I have always maintained that the Israelis are not afraid that a Palestinian State would have Palestinian guns, they are afraid of Palestinian history books and Palestinian museums. They are afraid of Palestinian science books that document DNA testing conclusively proving that the Palestinians were the “First People of Palestine” and that Elie Weisel is an American of European heritage who has as much claim to Jerusalem as a member of the Navajo tribe.

There is a raw intellectual dishonesty about Zionists. They are masters of contrived history and double speak, in a manner very similar to the communists. They are true believers who not only want to shape the future, but are willing to disfigure the past to accommodate their political agenda. If an American Zionist Jew and an American Zionist Christian can be so tolerant of Jewish supremacy in the Israeli state, I have to wonder why their intolerance does not stretch across the ocean to the shores of these United States. I have to reassess how far we really have to go as a nation before we achieve racial harmony and religious tolerance. While many American Jews and their allies profess a “liberal” agenda, I have to question the depth of their conviction about all matters regarding civil rights and religious and racial tolerance.

We need an immediate end to this constant Judo-Christian European-American guilt tripping at the expense of the Palestinians. It is perhaps the major reason that so many Americans still sympathize with the Israelis, who conveniently identify themselves as fellow-Europeans stranded in a ‘dangerous’ Middle East. Yet, when it suits their purposes, the Zionists will harp on their alleged roots as an ancient Middle Eastern people “returning” to their lands. One of the craziest things about the modern Israeli, the pseudo-European who has emerged from the Zionist experience, is that while he loves the real estate in the Middle East, he doesn’t understand a thing about the native people of the Middle East. In their chauvinism, the Israelis differ little from the Pied Noir French settlers in Algeria.

Weisel and other Zionists constantly hammer on is their “historic right of return” after 2000 years of absence. Yet they insist on denying the Palestinians the right of return after a 50 year forced exile. I am certain that Weisel is aware that the “right of return” of the Jews is based on a test of faith and not actual ancestry. On the other hand, the Palestinians make their claims with the deeds to the land in the villages and towns that were erased to make room for the creation of a Jewish country.

History has been cruel to the Palestinians whose whole existence as a people was disrupted so folks like Elie Weisel could set up an exclusively Jewish country to shelter them from the torments of Europe. Now, one can understand why Europeans and European-Americans might want to make up for the grotesque unfathomable sin of the Holocaust. But the Palestinians are as innocent of that crime as the Polynesians. If Europeans want to make up for the sins of their fathers, let them make a contribution from their father’s estate not from the flesh and blood of an innocent people like the Palestinians.

The Jews in Israel and America need to stop talking amongst themselves and start listening hard to Palestinians and Arab-Americans. It will be good for peace in the Middle East and social harmony in America. In the meantime, Elie Weisel will need to ponder his personal acts of cruelty against the memory of the Palestinian people..

Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)

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