I deliberately echoed the Passover haggadah in the title to this post in order to ironize Yad Vashem’s recent preposterous firing of an Israeli docent who, in speaking to a settler school group at the museum, compared the Holocaust to the Palestinian Nakba:
Itamar Shapira, 29, of Jerusalem, was fired before Passover from his job as a docent at the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, after a teacher with a group of yeshiva students from Efrat made a complaint. Shapira had worked at Yad Vashem for three and a half years.
This is the first time that Yad Vashem has fired a guide over political differences, an institution official said Wednesday.
Shapira confirmed, in a telephone conversation with Haaretz, that he had spoken to visitors about the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin.
He said he did so because the ruins of the Arab village, today a part of Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, can be seen as one leaves Yad Vashem.
“Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors’ arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world’s Jews. I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation,” Shapira said.
“The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things,” he said.
Has V’halilah, Jewish suffering is sacred and must not be compared to any other people’s suffering (and ESPECIALLY Palestinian suffering) because behold our blood is redder than their’s.
Note this hypocrisy as well:
A Yad Vashem official said the institution objects to any political use of the Holocaust, especially by a docent working for it.
The institution’s position is that the Holocaust cannot be compared to any other event and that every visitor can draw his own political conclusions.
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said that after holding a hearing for Shapira, at which he refused to accept his superiors’ instructions and change his teaching methods, it was decided to terminate his job as a guide in the institute’s school for Holocaust studies.
“Yad Vashem would have acted unprofessionally had Itamar Shapira continued his educational work for the institute,” Rosenberg said.
The idea that the Holocaust may not be used for political purposes is preposterous because the very existence of the State of Israel is inextricably intertwined with the Holocaust. There might not even BE a State were it not for the Holocaust. Considering that every major foreign leader who visits Israel MUST visit Yad Vashem puts the lie to this notion. If the museum truly refused to mingle its work with politics then it would tell political leaders NOT to visit it. The fact that it welcomes them indicates that it embraces the notion that the museum’s mission and the traumatic event are part and parcel of the nation’s political patrimony.
After reading this I’m convinced not only that Shapira’s firing was wrongful, but that HE should be the museum’s director:
Shapira said Yad Vashem chooses to examine only some of the events that took place in the War of Indpendence. “It is being hypocritical. I only tried to expose the visitors to the facts, not to political conclusions. If Yad Vashem chooses to ignore the facts, for example the massacre at Dir Yassin, or the Nakba…it means that it’s afraid of something and that its historic approach is flawed,” Shapira said.
Instead of firing him, Yad Vashem should dialogue with his perspective. It is critical that Israel understand the ways in which it uses the Holocaust in political discourse and it needs to understand legitimate comparisons between it and other national historical catastrophes (i.e. Nakba, Armenian genocide, Pol Pot’s genocide, etc.) To attempt to live in a tower and say that there can’t possibly be any human suffering like Jewish suffering runs counter to reason and reality.
It’s not surprising that the museum would fire Shapira, who is a member of Combatants for Peace and Shovrim Shtika, anti-Occupation groups whose members are former IDF soldiers.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.