Palestine ghost haunts UN Commemoration of Camp Liberation
By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD*
Kofi Annan reminded the UN in a special session to commemorate the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps that this was why the UN was formed and documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) got adopted. He did not mention that a senior UN officer was removed from his office because he spoke for human rights of Palestinians (Peter Hansen). The Zionist speakers who followed Annan claimed that support of Zionism and Israel is the way to honor Nazi victims. Conflating Jewish historical suffering with interests of the Israeli governments and Zionism is analogous to conflating Native American suffering with US government interests and Capitalism.
But history is not kind to this narrative. Zionist influence was used to break the boycott on Nazi Germany in the 1930s (started by Socialist Jews) and to insist that the only door open for European Jews was the door to settlement in Palestine. David Ben Gurion, the father of the State of Israel and its first prime minister, once stated: ''If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half of them by transporting them to Eretz Yisrael, then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the accounting these children, but also the historical accounting of Am Yisrael'
Why were non-Zionist Jews excluded from this conference? There are many such folks who also wrote books on Zionism: 'Ben Gurion's Scandals' (by Naeim Giladi), 'The Holocaust Industry' (Finkelstein), 'The Myths of Zionism' (Rose), '51 documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis' (Brenner), among hundreds of others. I believe Zionists are a product of a different era and leave it to readers to evaluate these books. But as Palestinian-American, I lament how Zionist speakers failed to take the opportunity at the UN to recognize their victims and truly begin reconciliation. Jewish theologian Marc Ellis explains in his book 'Out of the Ashes' why healing is sorely needed after the Nazi atrocities. But he also explained why healing needs recognition of the atrocities committed over six decades against Palestinians.
Zionism in practice meant transforming Palestine from 94% Muslim and Christian to a self declared exclusivist 'Jewish state' now struggling with its identity and with a 'demographic threat'. The 20% of Palestinians who remained in the area that became Israel after the 1947-1949 era have grown from 220,000 to nearly 1.3 million (20% of Israel's population). 3.5 million Palestinians also live in the 22% of Palestine occupied in 1967. Israeli law says that any Jew (including converts) is a national of the state and can acquire automatic citizenship while Palestinians born there could not return because they are not Jewish. Nearly five million Palestinians are thus refugees or displaced people.
That is why many Zionists have come to promote a mini-state (reservation) for Palestinians. This is challenged by a growing Israeli, Jewish, and Palestinian movement for justice and equality. A durable and just peace that benefits all can materialize by replacing concepts of ethnocentric and/or religious nationalism with concepts of equality in citizenship. All issues including refugees can be dealt with based on equality and human rights.
Enabled by billions of US tax money and protection at the UN by the only remaining superpower, Zionist leaders reject International Law and continue to engage in gross violations of basic Human Rights (according to all Human Rights groups who looked into this). The UDHR mentioned by Annan should be the road map to peace instead of the US-touted 'road map'. In 2218 words the latter fails to mention either 'human rights' or 'International law' (or even the word 'rights').
A change in US foreign policy to really promote freedom and democracy is needed and we should start with our dependent allies Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. Courageous leaders are needed. Mandela needed a DeKlerk who recognized that apartheid in South Africa is incompatible with durable peace or security.
Making two thirds of the Palestinians refugees or displaced people is not the same as the horrors of WWII. But the meeting at the UN could have provided the best opportunity for a declaration that when we say never again, we mean never again should such suffering be inflicted on any people, including Palestinians.
*Author of Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli Palestinian Struggle'.