One cannot comprehend the meaning of a genocide until they are aware of what happened during Germany’s Holocaust. I specify the country to avoid confusion that seems to surround the term’s meaning.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “holocaust” can be defined as “a mass slaughter of people,” which is applicable to many instances both in the past and present.
As most children, I was exposed to knowledge of these heinous atrocities from a young age. I read the diary of Anne Frank and proceeded to visit the home in Holland in which she hid from Nazis during World War II. When I went on a field trip to the Holocaust Museum, I looked at every piece of the exhibit. When I traveled on an interfaith delegation to the Holy Land and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust research center in Jerusalem, I listened to the audio recordings of eachindividual account of the Holocaust.
My point in mentioning such accounts is to demonstrate that I’ve always had a heart for that dark phase of history, and I hope my condolences are never questioned. It’s the same sensitivity which commands me to empathize with past victims of the Holocaust that also demands me to empathize with present victims of Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people.
Unfortunately, it’s a shame that when such individuals rise with a unified voice, they are silenced and slandered as “anti-Semitic.” For such a reason, it takes a degree of courage to speak against Israel in regards to its mistreatment of the Palestinians.
I recently met Paul Molnar, a Holocaust survivor who attended an on-campus memorial service. As we exchanged words, he reminded me that what happened in Germany and what continues to happen in Palestine are separate events, yet both deserve of attention and respect. He confirmed that compassion for the Jews does not negate caring about the Palestinians. It was with his ending command, “don’t be a bystander,” that I became active in exposing injustices and aiding the oppressed.
As the 65th anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Palestinian exile following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, approached, I worked with the rest of the executive board of the USF student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) to hold an event in which we remembered the catastrophic tragedy that befell the Palestinian people on May 15, 1948.
After offering stories of the 750,000 refugees who fled and of the 450 destroyed villages, it seemed a few attendees only remembered one word that had been displayed in the advertising: “holocaust.”
I apologized for any offense controversial words may have caused, and I am still sorry. Though now, I am sorry about the selected sympathy some choose to show toward the issue. Dismissal of the pain and suffering of the Palestinian people is most displeasing and the inability to relate is most frightening. As significant as word choice is, there are bigger things to consider.
As the Hebrew Talmud states, “He who saves a life saves all mankind.” Our struggles can be different, but the heart we understand them with should be the same.Malak Fakhoury is a sophomore majoring in psychology.