Translation of an article
in Ma'ariv 04-2001
Avnery] / 30.3.01
"Take Your Bag
Years ago a French anti-Semite
wanted to meet my friend Issam Sartawi, Yasser Arafat’s special emissary
in Paris. He offered him the help of the anti-Semites in the fight
against Israel. Sartawi interrupted him: "Sir," he said, "Take your
papers and get out!"
"The guy disgusted me," he said when he told me about this meeting the
I remembered this the other day,
when I read the statement by the Arab intellectuals, who convinced the
Lebanese government to cancel a meeting in Beirut of Holocaust deniers
from all over the world. Among the signatories were Mahmoud Darwish, the
Palestinian national poet, Edward Said, the well-known
Palestinian-American professor, Adonis, the great Lebanese poet, Elias
Sanbar, the Palestinian historian, and other esteemed figures from all
over the Arab world.
It was a resounding slap in the
face for the anti-Semites. They would like to adopt the Palestinian
cause, because since the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not longer
respectable, while the Palestinian struggle for freedom is respected by
decent people around the world.
On the Palestinian side, the
temptation to accept the offer is great. "The enemy of my enemy is my
friend," says the old adage. The anti-Semites fight against the Jews,
the Jews support Israel, Israel oppresses the Palestinians. The
conclusion seems obvious – but is manifestly false. Because, objectively
speaking, anti-Semitism is the worst enemy of the Palestinians.
The whole Zionist movement came
into being as a reaction to anti-Semitism. The notorious Dreyfus affair
drove Theodor Herzl into writing "Der Judenstaat", the founding document
of the movement. It was anti-Semitism, which had become the hallmark of
all national movements in Europe, that prevented the assimilation of the
Jews in the modern nations and convinced them to form their own,
separate, Jewish national movement. Without anti-Semitism, there would
have been none of the great waves of Jewish immigration to Palestine.
The Holocaust did not create the
Zionist enterprise, but it gave it an immense impetus. Without the
(belated) awakening of world’s conscience, the State of Israel would not
have come into being at the time and in the form it did.
During the last few years we have
witnessed another great wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union,
largely prompted by Russian anti-Semitism.
The historian Isaac Deutscher
compared our conflict to a man jumping from the window of a burning
apartment and landing on the head of a passerby. If the Jews had not
jumped from the burning European apartment, they would not have landed
on the head of the Palestinian people.
of the victims
In this respect, the Palestinian
struggle differs from any other fight for freedom. When the blacks were
fighting for their rights in South Africa, the whole world detested the
racist apartheid regime. All the peoples who revolted against colonial
oppression could rely on the sympathy of well-meaning people around the
world. But the Palestinians had to fight the victims of the Holocaust,
who enjoyed world sympathy. As they themselves like to say, they are
"the victims of the victims".
All Israeli governments have
exploited the memory of the Holocaust in order to gain sympathy in their
fight against the Palestinians. Begin called Arafat an "Arab Hitler".
Even today the Holocaust is being used to prevent any criticism of
Israel in Europe. Every foreign dignitary who comes to Israel in order
to preach against its treatment of the Palestinians is taken to "Yad
Vashem" and shuts up.
No wonder the Palestinians see
the Holocaust as an instrument directed against them, and many of them
view it solely in this light. That may be understandable, but it is not
Edward Said has said that the
Palestinians will never understand Israel’s actions if they do not study
the history of the Holocaust. That is very wise counsel. Without knowing
about anti-Semitism in general, and the Holocaust in particular, Israeli
behavior cannot be understood – much as without knowing about the
expulsion and ongoing occupation, Palestinian behavior cannot be
understood. Of course, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands cannot be
compared to the murder of millions, but disaster is disaster and pain is
It’s good that the Arab world has
told the Holocaust deniers, as Sartawi told his guest: "Take your bag
and get out!"