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Ben-Gurion University
[BGU] Making the Holocaust-Nakba Equivalency: Your Trauma is as Bad as My Trauma

(Left) Dr. Julia Chaitin, Conflict Management and

Social Work, BGU

Email: jchaitin@bgu.ac.il


Editorial Note

For years now, post-Zionist scholars have worked a unique project of producing the Holocaust-Nakba equivalence.
On its face, this is a truly daunting effort.  Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in what was the single, most comprehensive effort of genocide in modern history.  To this end, Nazi Germany built hundreds of concentration and extermination camps where killing was practiced on an industrial scale.  Those who were not murdered outright, were exploited in many ways - they were forced to work on a starvation diet until "selected" to the gas chambers and used in the most heinous medical experiments run by Dr. Joseph Mengele and his colleagues.  Even death did not end the rapacious reach of the Third Reich; gold teeth were extracted from the corpses, women's hair used for mattresses and skin for lamp shades. 

But in the equivalency project, scholars has found ingenious ways to present the expulsion and/or voluntary exist of some 700,000 Palestinians as another Holocaust. 
One of the more popular ways is to compare the memory of the Holocaust to that of Nakba as manifested in second generation survivors.   The article by Julia Chaitin and Shoshana Steinberg, "'I can Almost Remember it Now': Between Personal and Collective Memories of Massive Social Trauma" fits the mold.  The authors start with a long survey of literature to make the case that comparing traumatic memory in a "safe place" (that is academic research) can move Israelis and Palestinians closer to reconciliation.    It is hard to argue with such a laudable goal, but a careful perusal of the paper reveals the hidden agenda of equivalency.  
In writing up the accounts, Chaitin and Steinberg made sure that the evocative language used by the Palestinian students to describe how their families were expelled from the villages matches that recollection of the Jewish students.    The Israeli student seems to be moved to the point of making the same comparison.  "When I hear about the Holocaust … it’s very hard for me to compare it to any other historical event…I had great difficulty listening…but Amina helped me very much…I suddenly realized: the Holocaust is very emotional for us. It’s a personal event…suddenly your story sounds so horrible, that…I see the connection. I see your pain is even
greater than my pain. I don’t have a relative who went through such a terrible experience."
Along with the Holocaust equivalence, comes the reasonability equivalence, in view of the authors.  The authors comment that "Orit (a Jewish student) identified with the feelings of fear, helplessness, and pain conveyed by Amina (a Palestinian student).  Amina’s ‘‘memory’’ helped Orit understand what the collective memories of Palestinians and Jews have in common: the feeling of suffering inflicted by others."   In other words, the Israelis who inflicted the suffering on the Palestinians are responsible in the same way as the Nazis who inflicting suffering on the Jews.
This sleight of hands dressed up as psychological theory is particularly offensive because the Jews were innocent victims of a murderous ideology.  The Palestinians - led by Haj Amin Al-Husseini, a follower of Hitler who spent the war years in Berlin planning an "Auschwitz on the Mediterranean" - rejected the UN Partition Proposal and started a war that they had the misfortune to lose.   As losing belligerents, their Nakba is comparable to the fate of millions of Germans who either fled before the advancing Red Army or were later repatriated to Germany.  They were rehabilitated and absorbed into their new locations.
In contrast,  the Palestinians were never rehabilitated and, in a unique case in international law, they and their descendants were given status as permanent refugees, aided by the specially created United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA).  Some still carry keys to their former homes and are eager to display them when discussing the Right of Return. 

It is not clear to what extent Chaitin and her co-author understand the hard reality of international relations. If anything, fueled by the Nakba memory, has hindered the two state solution along the the lines suggested by the Clinton Parameters.   But again, many post-Zionists are ideology committed to a binational state where Jews and Palestinians will live in true camaraderie and peace.  Quite possibly, the new entity will serve as the "safe place" as envisaged by Chaitin and Steinberg, where the Jews and the Palestinians can pass their time in a therapeutic exchange of their memories.

(Forwarded to IAM by journalist Ishay Friedman)

“I can Almost Remember it Now”: Between Personal and Collective Memories of Massive Social Trauma


This article explores the psycho-social space between autobiographical and collective memory concerning massive social traumas. It is conceptualized that there is a third type of memory image, termed “my-their.” Individuals appear to “remember” autobiographical memories of elder family members, even though they could not, either because they were born after the trauma happened or because the autobiographers were extremely young at the time of the experience. These emotional “memories” furthermore connect to collective memories of social traumas of ethnic/national groups. Examples from memories of the Holocaust and al Naqba are examined. Furthermore, the roles that “my-their” memory images can play in peace building and reconciliation are discussed.

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    1.  Looks like an edifying project
     From Professor Nurit Peled-Elh, Sent in 26-12-2013
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