In a chilling instance of timing, the Jewish World noted Holocaust (Shoah) memorial day this week (see photos of the moving commemorations in Israel here) – just as Holocaust denial and other Nazi-related themes featured prominently in Palestinian incitement against Israel in recent weeks.
A Nazi flag was ‘a star’ of the recent riots on the Gaza border (April 7). Palestinians put the flag for all to see next to the border during the riots. Presenting the Nazi swastika ‘sandwiched’ between two Palestinian flags, seems to be a clear statement about the state of current Palestinian hatred towards Israel and the Jews. Smoke from the thousands of smouldering tyres set alight by Hamas added to the disturbing sense of historical déjà vu (a video of the flag waving).
The Gaza Nazi flag did not emerge out of the blue. It was an expression of a tradition – an ongoing mix of Holocaust denial, antisemitic abuse and Islamism which has long characterised Hamas discourse. Take for example this piece, written by ‘Isam Shawar, and published in the Hamas journal, Filastin, early this year in response to a senior Saudi cleric publicly acknowledging the Holocaust and stressing that it would not be forgotten. The Hamas affiliated writer accused the Saudi scholar of the “crime” of orchestrating a campaign to normalise ties with Israel. As for the Holocaust – well, it simply did not happen: “All the scientific university studies have proven resolutely that the Holocaust in the dimensions that the Jews claim did not take place and could not have taken place. That is, it cannot be accepted as the truth”. After all, the Holocaust is “a tale that belongs only in museums, books, and Israeli stories, and also in the minds of the Arab normalization-seekers”.
But why stop there? Because the death of Jews is a normal phenomenon, nothing to get excited about, and anyway, Muslims have suffered worse: “Even if tens of thousands of Jews were murdered or burned, it is nothing out of the ordinary, in an era during which tens of millions of people, most of them Muslims, have died as a result of wars, disease, famine, and other causes”.
Unfortunately, Hamas does not hold a monopoly over Holocaust denial within the Palestinian camp. Official Palestinian Authority TV can be considered the voice of the “moderate” Palestinian ruling elite. During an interview aired recently (April 10), Palestinian writer Hani Abu Zeid claimed that Israelis “used to cry about the false Holocaust in the days of Hitler, the scope of which was not that large. I’d like to point out…”. the interviewer enthusiastically continued confirming this blood libel: “The [Holocaust] is a lie that they spread worldwide.” To sum up his case, Hani Abu Zeid seized the opportunity to agree with the moderator and to add another conspiracy theory to the mix: “Yes, it was a lie, and many Israelis, or many Jews, colluded with Hitler, so that he would facilitate the bringing of settlers to Palestine” (video of Abu Zeid is here).
Maybe this is what you get from the official PA TV when the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, also flirted with Holocaust denial in his doctoral thesis, written in 1982?
Finally, images manipulated by PA TV around the same time (April 9) appear to constitute yet a further step forward into the depths of abuse of the memory of the Shoah. Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported that PA TV “misappropriated a photo showing hundreds of dead bodies at the Nazi concentration camp at Nordhausen, originally a subcamp of Buchenwald, presenting them as Arabs killed by Jews on April 9, 1948 in the Arab village of Deir Yassin”. The image comparison, which appears on the PMW site, is damning.
Such direct visual tampering – planting pictures of bodies of Jews slain in the Holocaust into a different era, place and context – requires investing thought, time and resources. Most of all, it necessitates a desire to decontextualise the suffering of innocents and to reshape the memory of what truly transpired.
But there is a second message, which is even more repugnant, about a culture of untruthfulness. It is about the lowest moral standards of human demeanour, where tragedy and the horrifying circumstances of the death of innocents is being used for spreading and inculcating hatred.
This is consistent with the glorification of murderers and terrorists which remains a major theme of Palestinian incitement. A video posted online by Fatah, the party governing the PA, ‘celebrates’ the “greatest and most wonderful quality operation” of the Tel Aviv Savoy Hotel terrorist attack in 1975, which ended with 11 Israelis dead. According to the video, the terrorists who committed the vile killing of innocent people are heroic pure martyrs. The text in the video reads:
May Allah’s mercy be upon our pure Martyrs
Long live the memory – the revolution will continue!
Group picture of those who carried out the self-sacrificing Savoy operation”
[Facebook page of the Fatah Movement – Nablus District Branch, March 6, 2018]
Here it is in a poisoned nut shell. Killers are ‘pure’ ‘self-sacrificing’ martyrs – while their memory is hailed as a force to power ‘the revolution’. Murdering is the solution, maybe the final solution. It is no wonder the Nazi swastika flag was smack in the middle of two Palestinian flags.
Hope for everyone, Israelis and Palestinians alike, will only come when these toxic ideologies are abandoned and rejected. Genuine peace will only be possible when a real and frank discussion occurs within the Palestinian camp about their tactics, aims and goals, as well as the troubling origins of elements of their ideologies. As we remember the Holocaust and see the presence of both ignorance and even sympathy for the Nazi creed of death in the Middle East, it sadly seems that day still remains in the distant future.