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Last Thursday Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day. My wife and I were in Israel in 2017 and remember the sirens that signal two minutes silence. The country pauses. Cars stop. Israelis stand silent in the streets and remember the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Memorials and ceremonies are held throughout the country. 174,500 survivors live in Israel.

The Day is not without controversy. A member of the Knesset walked out of the chamber during the ceremony and a LGBTIQ+ protestor disrupted the proceedings. Activists will use even the most sacrosanct occasion to capture media attention for their cause. Such blatant disrespect does little to further their objectives.

Society is best served when differences can be debated and managed with mutual respect. To convey to ‘the other’ your best attempts to understand and empathise with their situation, creates the possibility of dialogue and resolution. To use a catastrophe like the Holocaust to elevate a cause or weaponise it with words and actions, is to spit into the faces of the victims, incinerated - without a grave.

In our visit to the Holy Land in 2018 we met Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, a Muslim who lives in the West Bank. He told how he took 27 Palestinian students to the Nazi extermination camp in Auschwitz, Poland, in March 2014. When he saw the camp, the gas chambers, the ovens – he said ‘that was my moment of transformation. Here was the place of Hitler’s murderous ‘final solution’ to the "Jewish problem." I felt I should not be a bystander but take a stand. I lived in a culture where the Holocaust was not viewed in depth and was used artificially, linking it to the Nakba (invasion). We never learned about its impact, its lessons, why it happened, to whom it happened. It was always in the background as if it was a taboo topic.’

Here is a highly respected Muslim professor who had little understanding of the Holocaust. That’s part of Muslim and Palestinian culture.

Professor Daoudi’s efforts to encourage his Palestinian countrymen to understand the Holocaust were met with death threats to himself and his family from Palestinian extremists. His car was firebombed and he was forced to leave his position at Al Quds University.

The world needs to remember the Holocaust. The story needs to be retold for every generation.


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