During the time I was away, among other things, I took a little trip to Holland. While I was there I paid a visit to Anne Frank’s house. Anne was a German Jewish teenager at the time of the Holocaust. Her family left Germany and hid in the upper levels of a house in Amsterdam for two years. Her family was betrayed and she died at the age of fifteen in a concentration camp after witnessing her only sister die.
Anne wrote a diary during the time she was in hiding with her family in Amsterdam, originally for herself but later to document what it was like for a Jewish person during World War Two. I have always felt for people who suffered in the Holocaust and it’s not difficult to understand the motivation behind the creation of the State of Israel, coming from such a terrible and tragic history. Anne Frank however humanized it even more for me. But how I feel doesn’t really matter in this equation. What matters today is how the Holocaust is used to persecute Palestinians. No matter how terrible the Holocaust was, it remains a “was” while Palestinian suffering is an “is”. What Anne Frank did by wanting her diary published is give a face to history, if only there was a way to give a face to what’s going on right now.
Ground Zero is not where the World Trade Center stood in New York, the real Ground Zero, the place where West and East clash and the origin and motivation of all misunderstandings between us is the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. This is why Arabs radicalize, it is why they hate not only Israelis but also Americans. One of the world’s strongest armies occupying an Arab country since 1948 and backed by the world’s strongest nation both financially and politically. Their only argument for their atrocities is that God promised us this land. What would you do if someone came and kicked you out of your home, off your land and even denied your very existence because “God told him to”? What Arab people have done is to radicalize in return. It is very likely that I could be sitting here today in a much more free and open Saudi Arabia, if the West had not dehumized Arabs and given away their lands as compensation to Holocaust survivors. See, it’s difficult to convince a muttawa that the infidels don’t hate us and aren’t out to get us when they show you in return photos of Palestinian refugee camps, exterminated villages and towns, going from black and white photos up to the latest photos from Gaza.
I digress but it’s hard not to when you’re writing about something you feel so passionately about. Anne Frank touched me deeply and I wanted to get an Arabic translation of her diary so that I could share it with other Saudis. I was discouraged when I went into the museum and found that even Japanese was included as a translation option but not Arabic, a language spoken in over 26 countries. When I got to the gift shop, the only Arabic version of Anne’s diary had poor quality print and no photos. It’s important that we see where both of us are coming from so that we can move forward. Right now to young Arabs, Israelis are not descendents of Holocaust survivors but a genocidal, racist and occupying army. And I bet to young Israelis, Palestinians are not the natives of the lands they’ve taken but irrational fundamentalist terrorists. Khaled Mahameed, a Palestinian from Nazareth is trying to change that by educating Palestinians about the Holocaust and educating Israelis about Palestinian suffering. Here you can watch him at work.
Although the difficulties of being a Saudi woman seem like heaven compared to being a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany, I couldn’t help but understand a little bit about how it must have been like when I saw the star that they had to wear to mark them as Jews and this quote from Anne’s diary that was highlighted by the museum:
“Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees. Jews were required to wear a yellow star. Jews were required to turn in their bicycles. Jews were forbidden to use trams. Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields. Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes. Jews were required to attend Jewish schools. You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that.” June 20, 1942
Social media has been credited (and blamed) for many things. However the best thing that social media has done is enable us to realize our common humanity. Instead of being some silent burqa clad woman on your TV screen, I’m now talking to you directly. And from the heart of the most conservative Islamic region in the world, I’m telling you that we can’t move forward towards global peace until the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is resolved.
Anne’s father and the only surviving member of her family:
“We cannot change what happened anymore. The only thing we can do is to learn from the past and to realize what discrimination and persecution of innocent people means. I believe that it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight prejudice.” Otto Frank, 1970
Recommended reading and viewing:
BBC Documentary: Louis Theroux: The Ultra Zionists
NYT news report: Israel Clashes With Protesters on Four Borders By Ethan Bronner Published: May 15, 2011
and a reply to it: The New York Times‘s shameless Nakba distortion by Matthew Taylor on MAY 15, 2011
Opinion piece by Roger Cohen: The Post-Bin Laden World