A tale of two museums: (1) Arafat’s belongings (2) Arabs respecting the Holocaust

June 16, 2005

This is an update to previous dispatches, including Fans flock to Harry Potter’s grave in Israel & Coming soon: Arafat-Park (Feb. 2, 2005) and Irresponsible journalism costs lives: Newsweek and America (May 16, 2005)

(This dispatch was prepared a few days ago, but I was unable to send it until now.)

 

CONTENTS

1. “Museum planned for late PA leader Arafat’s personal belongings” (By DPA, German Press Agency, June 6, 2005)
2. “Arab lawyer pays tribute to Jewish trauma” (Toronto Star, June 4, 2005)
3. “‘Guantanamo 2’ angers Israeli-Arabs” (Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2005)
4. “Who’s Really Abusing the Koran?” (By Max Boot, LA Times, June 9, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

TWO CONTRASTING MUSEUMS

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mohammed Abbas has announced that he will create a museum for the personal belongings of Yasser Arafat (without, no doubt, the many luxurious items that are in his widow’s apartment in the Champs Elysees).

In sharp contrast, Khaled Kasab Mahameed, a Moslem from Nazareth, has launched the first ever Arab museum dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.

Effectively the Palestinian Authority is creating a shrine to the greatest murderer of Jews of the last half-century, whilst Mahameed, an Israeli-Arab, is demonstrating the importance of understanding the history of his Jewish neighbors. The day the Palestinian Authority incorporates accurate and truthful Holocaust education into its school curriculum is the day when peace may just be in sight.

GUANTANAMO 2

I also attach a piece from the Jerusalem Post regarding the claims by Palestinian detainees at Megiddo prison (north-east of Tel Aviv) alleging “Koran abuse.” The timing of these sudden accusations is unlikely to be a coincidence, and may reflect Palestinian jealously that recently their cause has not monopolized international media attention, and has been supplanted by stories – especially in the Muslim media – about alleged mishandling of the Koran at American-run detention facilities. By holding mass demonstrations last week in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were not only bringing to the attention of the foreign media their (almost certainly unfounded) claims about Israeli prison abuse of the Koran, but hoping to influence opinion within the Muslim world and to ensure that the Palestinian agenda remains at the heart of it.

HOW MANY KORANS HAVE BEEN DESTROYED IN SHIITE BOMBINGS IN IRAQ?

Finally I attach an article by Max Boot from the LA Times titled “Who’s really abusing the Koran?” Although it is primarily focused on the US and its role in “Guantanamo 1” it is fair to say many of his arguments also apply to Israel and the scandal regarding its supposed mistreatment of Korans.

I attach four articles – from Berlin, Toronto, Jerusalem and Los Angeles – with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

MUSEUM PLANNED FOR ARAFAT’S PERSONAL BELONGINGS

“Museum planned for late PA leader Arafat’s personal belongings” (By DPA, the German Press Agency, as carried in Ha’aretz, June 6, 2005)

The Palestinian Authority is intending to collect late leader Yasser Arafat’s personal possessions for a museum, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday. According to his decree, a special committee will be formed to gather Arafat’s personal belongings and objects from his daily life, prior to his death in November. The decree said that relevant artifacts would be housed and displayed in a special museum dedicated to the man who led the Palestinian Liberation Organization for more than 30 years...

 

ARAB LAWYER PAYS TRIBUTE TO JEWISH TRAUMA

“Arab lawyer pays tribute to Jewish trauma” (By Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, June 4, 2005)

Most Palestinians think Khaled Kasab Mahameed has lost his mind. Two months ago, the Muslim lawyer from the biblical town of Nazareth took it upon himself to do what no Arab has ever before dared — he launched a museum dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust…

But as symbols go, Mahameed’s efforts have been hailed as a watershed moment in Israeli-Arab relations. In a conflict that trades on mutual exclusion, perceptions of hatred and the denial of pain other than one’s own, he appears to have risen above it all…

“What I say to Arabs is that the Jewish people are carrying the pain of 60 nuclear bombs. That is what they feel,” Mahameed told the Toronto Star.

“The Palestinian people just don’t understand this. For them, the Holocaust is a taboo... What I’m trying to do is change the mentality. We need to study it, to understand it, to accept it. Because our conflict is not about land... If not for the Holocaust, we could live together in peace.”

Not surprisingly, Mahameed has been shunned for his efforts by the Palestinian press, which remains so deeply suspicious it has given him no ink whatsoever. At best, he is viewed as a misguided soul; at worst, as a paid Israeli quisling determined to trample his own people’s claim to international sympathy.

... As an Arab student leader at Hebrew University in the early 1980s, he shocked his Israeli tutors by asking to study the Holocaust.

... Earlier this year he produced a pamphlet in Arabic about the Holocaust, intended for Palestinian eyes. “And when my 10-year-old son Jawdat read it, he said ‘Father, you must make something with this,’” Mahameed said.

“For me, that was the motivation. I don’t want my children to suffer another 50 years.” He began planning his museum... “It is so horrible. We can’t compare our nakba to this. When Palestinians describe the nakba as a Holocaust, I say to them, ‘Okay, if that is a Holocaust, then what do you call what Hitler did to the Jews in World War II?’ There is no comparison.”

Conversely, Mahameed contends Israel’s early leaders made a tragic mistake in maintaining silence on issues relating to the Holocaust. With more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors and their direct descendants in the country, he argues, Israeli society remains so traumatized it reflexively exaggerates the barriers to peace with its Arab neighbours as a defence mechanism...

 

“GUANTANAMO 2” ANGERS ISRAELI-ARABS

“‘Guantanamo 2’ angers Israeli-Arabs” (Yaakov Katz, The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2005)

Incensed Palestinian security detainees from Megiddo prison announced plans to begin a hunger strike Wednesday morning, Israel Radio reported. The detainees had accused Prisons Service guards of ripping up and defiling three Korans during a routine search of their cells.

Calling the incident “Guantanamo 2” in reference to the recent US Defense Department acknowledgment that guards at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba defiled several Korans, Sheikh Kamel Hatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, told The Jerusalem Post the Muslim world would react harshly to the desecration...

 

WHO’S REALLY ABUSING THE KORAN?

“Who’s Really Abusing the Koran?” (By Max Boot, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2005)

All the headlines about “Abuse of the Koran at Gitmo” are absolutely accurate. Brig. Gen. Jay Hood’s internal investigation has uncovered some shocking incidents. On at least six occasions, Korans were ripped up. They were urinated on three times, and attempts were made to flush them down the toilet at least three other times.

Why aren’t millions of Muslims rioting in response to these defilements? Because the perpetrators were prisoners, not guards...

Too bad Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, far from handing out Bibles at government expense, make it a crime to possess that holy book. Too bad Islamic fanatics have no compunction about blowing up churches and synagogues and slaughtering Christians and Jews. Too bad the murderous intolerance of Sunni terrorists extends to Shiite “idolaters” as well.

All the bombings of Shiites in Iraq have resulted not only in the deaths of thousands of Muslims but also, I imagine, the destruction of quite a few Korans.

It would be nice if the global Islamic community, the news media and assorted human rights agitators could display the same level of outrage about the real atrocities perpetrated by our enemies as they do about the imaginary horrors of the American Gulag...

 



FULL ARTICLES

MUSEUM PLANNED FOR ARAFAT’S PERSONAL BELONGINGS

Museum planned for late PA leader Arafat’s personal belongings
By DPA (German Press Agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
As carried in Ha’aretz
June 6, 2005

The Palestinian Authority is intending to collect late leader Yasser Arafat’s personal possessions for a museum, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday.

According to his decree, a special committee will be formed to gather Arafat’s personal belongings and objects from his daily life, prior to his death in November.

The decree said that relevant artifacts would be housed and displayed in a special museum dedicated to the man who led the Palestinian Liberation Organization for more than 30 years.

Arafat was born in August 1929 and died on November 11, 2004 in Paris.

The decree, published by the Palestinian news agency Wafa, said that the collections committee has been already formed and is to be headed by Palestinian presidency chief of staff Tayeb Abdel Rahim.

The decree named Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qedwa, a nephew of Arafat, as well as Ramzi Khouri, Arafat’s personal secretary, as members of the committee, along with Palestinian officials Rafiq al-Husseini and Sami Musalam.

All the members of the committee were among Arafat’s closest confidants.

 

ARAB LAWYER PAYS TRIBUTE TO JEWISH TRAUMA

Arab lawyer pays tribute to Jewish trauma
Jews bear ‘pain of 60 nuclear bombs’

Sets up Holocaust museum in office
By Mitch Potter
Toronto Star
June 4, 2005

www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&
cid=1117836614349&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724&DPL=Ivs
NDS%2f7ChAX&tacodalogin=yes

Most Palestinians think Khaled Kasab Mahameed has lost his mind. Two months ago, the Muslim lawyer from the biblical town of Nazareth took it upon himself to do what no Arab has ever before dared — he launched a museum dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust.

As museums go, it isn’t much. Working with a little help from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Mahameed transformed the waiting room of his law office into an abbreviated yet highly disturbing and historically accurate gallery of Jewish suffering at the hands of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

But as symbols go, Mahameed’s efforts have been hailed as a watershed moment in Israeli-Arab relations. In a conflict that trades on mutual exclusion, perceptions of hatred and the denial of pain other than one’s own, he appears to have risen above it all.

Mahameed wants the Arab world to take a sober, second look at Jewish trauma — and to understand that, however much they might think otherwise, it is a trauma that far outweighs their own.

“What I say to Arabs is that the Jewish people are carrying the pain of 60 nuclear bombs. That is what they feel,” Mahameed told the Toronto Star.

“The Palestinian people just don’t understand this. For them, the Holocaust is a taboo. ... What I’m trying to do is change the mentality. We need to study it, to understand it, to accept it. Because our conflict is not about land... If not for the Holocaust, we could live together in peace.”

Not surprisingly, Mahameed has been shunned for his efforts by the Palestinian press, which remains so deeply suspicious it has given him no ink whatsoever. At best, he is viewed as a misguided soul; at worst, as a paid Israeli quisling determined to trample his own people’s claim to international sympathy.

But even among Israelis, the tonic of such a welcome message is tempered by Mahameed’s insistence on linking the greater tragedy of the Holocaust to the lesser tragedy of the Palestinian struggle. Because in his mind, both sides have Hitler to blame for their troubles.

Mahameed readily admits neither Palestinians nor Israelis know quite what to make of him.

“Everybody is still a victim right now. The Arabs curse me. ... The Anti-Defamation League doesn’t want me to connect the Holocaust to Palestine. And the Zionist movement denies it,” said Mahameed.

“But there is no question for me, the Holocaust is central to this conflict. It affects everything that happens. They paid the price, and the Palestinians paid for it as well.”

Mahameed’s life story reveals a man who comes by his convictions honestly. His family is originally from a Palestinian village near what is now the Israeli area of Megiddo, or Armageddon. But unlike most of the estimated 600,000 Palestinians displaced by the war of 1948 that followed the creation of Israel, the Mahameed family emerged as internally displaced refugees. They stayed inside Israel’s borders, resettling in Nazareth. Hence, they are part of the now more than one million so-called Israeli Arabs — Palestinians, essentially — whose families remain to this day as citizens of the Jewish state.

The declaration of Israeli independence and the outcome of the war — an event Palestinians refer to as the nakba, or “catastrophe” — left Mahameed’s father Mahmoud raging not at the newly formed Israel, but rather, at vestigial remains of Nazi injustice.

“When I was 5 or 6 years old, I remember my father telling me, ‘I am not Adolf Hitler, we are not Nazis.’ He used to tell us, ‘Look what the Nazis did to the Jewish people, and we have to pay the price.’”

The younger Mahameed has been thinking about what his father said ever since. As an Arab student leader at Hebrew University in the early 1980s, he shocked his Israeli tutors by asking to study the Holocaust. Later, he found himself with an opportunity to study law in Sweden. He credits his six years in Scandinavia as a profound lesson in “tolerance and compromise.”

Now 43, Mahameed has spent most of his adult years on two main pursuits, building a family and building his law practice in Nazareth. But he never put away his ideas about the Holocaust, and like his father before him, he is sharing those thoughts with his own children.

Earlier this year he produced a pamphlet in Arabic about the Holocaust, intended for Palestinian eyes. “And when my 10-year-old son Jawdat read it, he said ‘Father, you must make something with this,’” Mahameed said.

“For me, that was the motivation. I don’t want my children to suffer another 50 years.” He began planning his museum.

During a tour of the gallery this week, Mahameed paused at a photograph of a Jewish survivor standing over a mass grave of victims, an image he describes as the most moving among everything in his gallery.

“What is that person feeling? Maybe those are the bodies of his family in that grave. We will never know,” he said.

“It is so horrible. We can’t compare our nakba to this. When Palestinians describe the nakba as a Holocaust, I say to them, ‘Okay, if that is a Holocaust, then what do you call what Hitler did to the Jews in World War II? ’ There is no comparison.”

Conversely, Mahameed contends Israel’s early leaders made a tragic mistake in maintaining silence on issues relating to the Holocaust. With more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors and their direct descendants in the country, he argues, Israeli society remains so traumatized it reflexively exaggerates the barriers to peace with its Arab neighbours as a defence mechanism.

“I’m not saying that (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon uses the Holocaust, I’m saying the Holocaust uses him. It is in control of the Jewish mentality and the attitudes of the leaders of the Western countries,” said Mahameed.

“Even the smallest (Palestinian) claim is seen as a threat to Jewish existence.

“My argument is that the Palestinians are in a position to heal the Jewish people, so that we can restore this conflict to a normal basis. I’m saying we have to stop blaming each other. Both of you are victims, you’ve both been knocked in the head.”

Mahameed’s ideas, however controversial, are unlikely to go anywhere without a far wider circulation through the Arab world. The museum receives an average of 10 visitors a day.

One of those recent visitors, on the day the Star attended, embarked on his own anti-Semitic rant upon seeing the images inside.

“Yes, the Jewish people had the Holocaust, but the number killed is exaggerated to get the sympathy of the world for supporting Israel,” said Adel Znabi, 46, a Nazareth insurance agent.

“Sharon is doing the same as the Nazis, burning the Palestinian people in their own homeland.”

Mahameed shakes his head sadly at the visitor’s outburst. “His statements do the opposite of what he wants to achieve. He might as well be asking the United States to give 20 more F-16 fighter jets to Israel,” he said.

The visitor leaves, and Mahameed shrugs off the episode, undeterred. Soon, he is planning to take his family to the newly relaunched Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, so that his entire family can pray for the souls of the Jewish dead.

“I am taking a risk, but there is really no risk at all. I believe it is just a question of understanding, of reaching out to people and teaching them one-by-one the reality of what happened.

“If Palestinians really understood the Holocaust, they would respond like Americans. They would treat Israelis with hands of cotton.”

 

‘GUANTANAMO 2’ ANGERS ISRAELI-ARABS

‘Guantanamo 2’ angers Israeli-Arabs
By Yaakov Katz
The Jerusalem Post
June 7, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1118110994337

Incensed Palestinian security detainees from Megiddo prison announced plans to begin a hunger strike Wednesday morning, Israel Radio reported.

The detainees had accused Prisons Service guards of ripping up and defiling three Korans during a routine search of their cells.

Calling the incident “Guantanamo 2” in reference to the recent US Defense Department acknowledgment that guards at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba defiled several Korans, Sheikh Kamel Hatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, told The Jerusalem Post the Muslim world would react harshly to the desecration.

“Someone will have to pay the price for this,” Hatib said. “They have harmed all Muslim women, children and men by desecrating the word of god.”

MK Ahmed Tibi claimed he had received complaints from prisoners that guards tore and stepped on three copies of the Koran while searching their cells.

“This is vulgar, primitive behavior that cannot be allowed to happen,” he said, calling for a special Knesset session to discuss the affair. He said he also called Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra to complain, and that prisoners would go on a hunger strike on Wednesday to protest.

Ezra and Prisons Service Commissioner Ya’acov Ganot visited Megiddo Tuesday night and said that there had been no faults in the functioning of the prison staff during the searches. They called the entire event was a provocation.

MK Muhammad Barakei also arrived at the prison to study the situation and speak with prisoners.

Prisoners said that following a routine morning roll call, guards raided their cells and tents, brutally turning over their belongings. While the guards found 81 cellphones and 40 knives and other sharp objects during the raid, the prisoners claimed they ripped up several Korans.

Prisons Service officials dismissed the accusations, claiming the guards flipped through one Koran while searching for illegal objects frequently hidden inside. While the guards were searching the book, several pages which were not part of it, but had been placed inside, fell out.

“We are very sensitive when searching through the prisoners’ belongings, especially Korans and other holy objects,” one Prisons Service officer said. “It is important to remember that we have found dozens of dangerous objects hidden inside the prisoners’ holy artifacts and we will continue to search them.”

Ganot instructed the prison’s warden to investigate the matter.

A recent report of US soldiers desecrating the Koran at the lockup in Guantanamo set off deadly riots in the Muslim world.

“This is just like Guantanamo, and the Prisons Service will be like the Americans who in the beginning claimed it didn’t happen and in the end admitted it did,” Hatib said.

“The Prisons Service thinks it can curse the Koran and our prophet Muhammad, but it will now begin to hear from people who will express their anger over this desecration.”

 

WHO’S REALLY ABUSING THE KORAN?

Who’s Really Abusing the Koran?
At Gitmo, the prisoners, not the guards, were the worst offenders.
By Max Boot
Los Angeles Times
June 9, 2005

www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boot9jun09,0,226875.column

All the headlines about “Abuse of the Koran at Gitmo” are absolutely accurate. Brig. Gen. Jay Hood’s internal investigation has uncovered some shocking incidents. On at least six occasions, Korans were ripped up. They were urinated on three times, and attempts were made to flush them down the toilet at least three other times.

Why aren’t millions of Muslims rioting in response to these defilements? Because the perpetrators were prisoners, not guards. As John Hinderaker notes on weeklystandard.com, the most serious desecrations of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility were committed by the Muslim inmates themselves.

You’d never know this from the news coverage, which pounced on Hood’s finding of five confirmed incidents of Koran abuse as proof that Newsweek was on to something with its phony-baloney report about guards flushing a Koran down the toilet.

Far from confirming accusations of American depravity, what the report actually shows is that Guantanamo is the first gulag in history run on the principle that no sensibility of the inmates should be offended, no matter how inadvertently.

All inmates are furnished a Koran at U.S. government expense. Since they’re imprisoned because they are suspected of being violent religious extremists, some might object that this adds fuel to the fire. But that’s not the view of the “Stalinists” who run the Defense Department. For some nefarious reason, they have issued guidelines that call for the utmost respect for the sacred scripture of their enemies.

At Gitmo, personnel receive instructions: “Do not disrespect the Koran (let it touch the floor, kick it, step on it).” They must “handle the Koran as if it were a fragile piece of delicate art.” This means ensuring “that the Koran is not placed in offensive areas such as the floor, near the toilet or sink, near the feet, or dirty/wet area.” Only Muslim chaplains and interpreters are actually supposed to touch a Koran, and then only if wearing clean latex gloves. Moreover: “Two hands will be used at all times when handling the Koran in a manner signaling respect and reverence.”

The Hood report suggests that, for the most part, this elaborate etiquette is obeyed. The worst lapse, splashed (so to speak) across front pages around the world, occurred March 25, when a guard urinated outside an air vent and some of his urine blew into a cell and onto an inmate and his Koran. Human rights absolutists should be relieved (sorry, can’t help myself) to know that the detainee received a fresh uniform and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded and reassigned.

That’s the most heinous case of Koran abuse by Gitmo personnel. The four other verified incidents involved an interrogator kicking a Koran, guards accidentally getting a Koran wet with water, an interrogator (subsequently fired) stepping on a Koran and a “two-word obscenity” mysteriously appearing on the inside cover of a Koran.

Some of the most inflammatory allegations, such as guards flushing a Koran, appear to be the result of unsubstantiated rumors spread by inmates who may havebeen following Al Qaeda instructions to falsely claim mistreatment. Or maybe they were simply trying to deflect blame for all the Korans they were mutilating on their own.

More serious incidents of Koran abuse by Americans conceivably could come to light, but it is clear that anyone who did so would be acting against orders. Reading the Hood report — which is by one count the 189th (no kidding) Defense Department investigation of how prisoners in the war on terrorism are treated — I couldn’t help but think: Too bad Muslims don’t show the same exquisite concern for the sensibilities of others.

Too bad Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, far from handing out Bibles at government expense, make it a crime to possess that holy book. Too bad Islamic fanatics have no compunction about blowing up churches and synagogues and slaughtering Christians and Jews. Too bad the murderous intolerance of Sunni terrorists extends to Shiite “idolaters” as well.

All the bombings of Shiites in Iraq have resulted not only in the deaths of thousands of Muslims but also, I imagine, the destruction of quite a few Korans.

It would be nice if the global Islamic community, the news media and assorted human rights agitators could display the same level of outrage about the real atrocities perpetrated by our enemies as they do about the imaginary horrors of the American Gulag.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.