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Auschwitz trip participant: We need to 're-evaluate normalization'
Published Sunday 20/04/2014 (updated) 22/04/2014 16:33
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Professor Mohammed Dajani at Auschwitz.
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- One of the participants of a recent Palestinian delegation to Auschwitz spoke out on Sunday about the ensuing controversy, denouncing "extremists" on both sides for "politicizing" the group's "academic" visit.

Salim Sweidan, a student at al-Quds University and a journalist, wrote in an opinion piece on Ma'an News' Arabic site that he was disappointed with the reactions of some of the Arabic-language media, who he accused of falsely giving the trip "political and ideological dimensions" and "describing the trip as normalization with Israel."

The comments come amid a recent storm in Arabic media regarding the trip of 27 students, which was led by al-Quds professor Mohammed Dajani.

The trip provoked a strong backlash in Palestinian media, as some said it was part of an effort to "brainwash Palestinian students to prepare them to cede Palestinian rights."

Because Israel often cites the Holocaust as a major reason underlying the need for a "Jewish state" in historic Palestine, many Palestinians are sensitive to potential suggestions that the genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany mandates or justifies their own dispossession by Israel.

Sweidan, however, highlighted that the trip worked both ways, stressing that a visit of 30 Jewish students from Israel's Ben Gurion University to Bethlehem's Duheisha refugee camp was organized parallel to their trip, but was hardly reported on in Arabic-language media.

"Is this considered 'normalization' as well?" Sweidan asked, referring to the accusation that the trip constituted engagement with Israel as a "normal state" and not an occupying power, a practice frowned upon by Palestinians living under Israeli occupation as well as many surrounding Arab states.

He highlighted that the Israeli trip to Duheisha was intended to teach the Jewish students about the Palestinian narrative of loss during the 1948 Nakba, which involved the forced displacement of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes.

He added that both trips were funded by the German university Friedrich Schiller in Jana, and not by Israeli or Jewish sources, as had been reported in some places.

Sweidan said that the reactions by the Arabic-language media empowered hardliners in Israel "to deny the humanistic and cultural nature of the Palestinian people" and to suggest that they would "be happy with a new Holocaust," using this erroneous assumption as a justification for denying the Palestinians' current political rights.

In response, Sweidan called for a "re-evaluation of the war against normalization" and the issue of cooperation with Israeli universities, stressing that by working with Israeli universities it was possible for Palestinians to influence their thinking and to "provoke a sense of guilt as a result of their failure to give Palestinians their rights."

"What about the weekly solidarity of dozens of Israelis in Nilin, Bilin, Nabi Saleh and in other sites of peaceful struggle against the occupation? Or those who refuse to serve in the Israeli army?" he asked in the article, referring to villages where Palestinians lead protests against the Israeli occupation and the separation wall.

"Will they ask Palestinians to boycott them, or to encourage more Israelis to support the Palestinian position?"

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1 ) Ray hanania / Usa
20/04/2014 18:37
Brilliant article that exposes the extremism that terrorizes and holds the majority of jews and Palestinians hostsge and prevents peace. More need to speak out against fanaticism. Ray Hanania

2 ) Mel / USA
20/04/2014 19:01
The priority for all to remember while visiting such death camps of the PAST,is that Jews chose to CONTINUE that abnormal,racist,bigotted GENOCIDE,in Palestine,after WW2,against MORE innocents i.e. the Palestinians,with walls,barbedwire,snipers,"diet"&colonial expansion i.e.Zionism's own PRESENT plan of genocide in Palestine(also
abnormal &also NOT 2B sympathised,empathized with,or justified!The NORMAL thing,is RESISTANCE by the victiims.Since WW2,that's Palestine!All else is smoke&mirrors!

3 ) Sarah / The Netherlands
20/04/2014 23:11
It's not the first time Palestinians visit the concentration camps. When are the "Israeli" schools visit the graveyards of Palestinians? (for once not to demolish them?) You know, our holocaust lasted 5 years and the "Israelis" only learned how to do the same to the Palestinians. The Palestinian holocaust is ongoing for 66 years. When is the world going to accept Israelis are zionists and not Jews? Jews don't kill, steal and lie. Shalom to Palestine!

4 ) Rob / USA
21/04/2014 11:30
Is this article seriously comparing what went on at Auschwitz with what's happening at the Duheisha camp? Believe me, there was no one doling out food and medical care at Auschwitz. An dthere aren't any gas chambers at Duheisha. Perhaps the Arab countries should do for the Arab refugees what the Jews did for the almost one million Jewish refugees the Arab countries caused in th e1948 war - take them in and make them full citizens. Then there wouldn't be any refugee camps.

5 ) Carlos / USA
21/04/2014 19:24
I believe it is useful to compare the two. What happened in Duheisha is unbearable for the people who lived through it and for the many who didn't. israels policies are inhumane. Just because Nazi's was inhumane doesnt mean israel should be inhumane. The israelis brutallized Palestinians and justified it with Nazi attrocities even though Palestine was one of the best places for Jews to live in the world over the century. The israelis brutalize the innocent.

6 ) Colin Wright / USA
21/04/2014 21:32
To Rob #5: 'Is this article seriously comparing what went on at Auschwitz with what's happening at the Duheisha camp?' Quite right. The Zionists had a great deal to do with the appearance of Duheisha. The Palestinians had nothing to do with the creation of Auschwitz. It's a completely false equivalency.

7 ) JoeFattal / USA
22/04/2014 02:11
Remembering the Holocaust it's a human thing to do. They were people like you and me caught in the middle of what Hitler wants to accomplish in Europe and what his Generals wanted him to do. When he listen to his Generals, he lost the war and exterminate million of Jews. Who took the blame, his Generals and they were tried and executed. Israel is using the Holocaust as a religious tool to justify their occupation. Netanyahu government need to go, that would be a good start for peace.
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