Holocaust legacy repeating itself in Arab-Israeli conflict?
An academic in the West Bank has set up an unusual project for the Palestinian territories. In his Holocaust museum, he draws a parallel from the tragedy with the present-day suffering of the Palestinians.
Na’alin village is an unusual location for such an unusual project. After his nephew was killed in a demonstration, Hassan Musa vowed to do everything he could to prevent more deaths. He built something almost unheard of in the Palestinian territories – a Holocaust museum. Its message, however, is as much for Israelis as it is for Palestinians.
“The Holocaust is now over and it has been done in Germany, but its consequences, the results are inflicted upon the Palestinians,” Musa said. “The Palestinians have no connection with that.”
The museum points the finger at the German government and accuses it of giving Israel guilt money that it in turn uses against the Palestinians – a charge Israel denies.
A lot of Israel's transport system was built with German money and in the 1950s and 60s German reparations were used to pave the country’s national roads and build the public transport system.
From 1952 and for the next fifteen years, Germany gave Israel two billion marks as compensation for the murder of Jews during the Holocaust. It was an agreement that benefited both sides.
Israel was a new state finding it difficult to get funding and Germany was looking for a way to reintegrate itself into a world community shocked by its actions during the Second World War, but it wasn’t an easy marriage.
“In the 1950s most Israelis rejected relations with Germany outright,” said Shlomo Shpiro from the Centre for International Communications and Policy. “The feeling was so strong against Germany that Israeli passports were stamped valid for all countries except Germany. People didn’t even want to go to Germany.”
Nearly a lifetime later, Noah Clug is still struggling with the same dilemma. He is a holocaust survivor who lost most of his family during the war. Each month he receives about €200 from the German government to help him make ends meet.
“It is a problem – a moral problem,” he said. “But Germans murdered six million Jews and robbed nine million Jews. I think it is moral that they should pay and that they made their horrible thing and they are responsible.”
It is a dilemma Chen Yurista understands all too well. He negotiates with the German government on behalf of Holocaust survivors, but his grandfather is among those who refuse to take the money it offers.
“He had the right to say no, and I definitely have the moral obligation to go ahead and try to help those people who need the help,” he said. “They are difficult negotiations, but we come back year after year for the last sixty years and we have great achievements.”
Today diplomatic ties between both countries are good. While Germany no longer gives Israel funding, there are close trade and scientific relations.
For as long as this continues, Palestinians in the West bank will continue to blame Germany for aiding a country they say has a lot to account for.