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April 29, 2014 6:03 pm

Trip Organizer Says Palestinian Students Went to Auschwitz to Learn About ‘The Other’

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Muslim prayer at Auschwitz. WikiCommons.

Muslim prayer at Auschwitz. WikiCommons.

On Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, The Atlantic magazine published the back story to an unusual student trip to Auschwitz, in March, organized by al-Quds University Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, who was attacked by the Arab media and Palestinian Authority figures for teaching the Jewish Holocaust to the 27 students that went to see the Nazi concentration camp with their own eyes.

The Atlantic published an Op-Ed written by Zeina Barakat, a doctoral candidate at Friedrich Schiller University, in Jena, Germany, who was mentored in the American Studies department by Daoudi, with whom she co-authored a Holocaust curriculum created for Palestinian students. Barakat was also the coordinator for the trip that brought 27 Palestinian students to bear witness to the Jewish Holocaust at the camp.

Barakat credited Daoudi with teaching her “a line from To Kill a Mockingbird that I remember him showing us in American culture class years ago. In the film, Atticus Finch turns to his daughter Scout and says: ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ It is the same idea that the Japanese call oyakudachi, which means, ‘walking in the shoes of the other.'”

“Professor Dajani emphasized the importance of looking at the other person as if you are the other person. Only then can you truly understand how that person feels and why,” Barakat said. “Beyond this educational purpose, there was no political agenda to our trip.”

She said “Professor Dajani’s purpose in having his students learn about the Holocaust is to broaden their understanding of the psyche of ‘the other.'”

“Learning about the Holocaust—and its universal message about the threat of intolerance and genocide—has been a central theme of our work,” she said. “Together, we co-authored with Martin Rau a book in Arabic on the Holocaust to create awareness of this most tragic event among Palestinians.”

“We distributed the book both inside and outside the university, delivered lectures to civic groups, and showed films on the Holocaust in our workshops. More than once, we took our students to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Finally, the time came to travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

“As a doctoral student, it is impossible for me to make believe that there was no human tragedy perpetrated against millions of Jews and non-Jews during the Second World War. The Holocaust is a fact, and we all have a sacred responsibility to ensure that it never happens again to Jews or any other group,” Barakat said.

“I believe our trip made a big crack in the Palestinian wall of ignorance and indifference about the Holocaust. The recent statement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recognizing the Holocaust as the ‘most heinous crime’ against humanity in modern history made another crack. Perhaps one day soon this wall will collapse.”

The program, entitled ‘From Stone to Flesh,’ was a joint effort of three institutions, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena; Tel Aviv University; and Ben Gurion University of the Negev, along with a Palestinian civil-society group founded by Dajani called  “al-Wasatia,” which means “moderation” in Arabic.

Barakat said the week-long trip to Poland was funded by the German Research Foundation. Al-Quds University, Dajani’s home institution, played no role in the program, she said.

“When we Palestinians returned from the unprecedented visit, a voyage that broke historic barriers of ignorance and misunderstanding, we were welcomed not with thanks and congratulations but with an explosion of criticism,” Barakat said. “Professor Dajani was the target of especially vicious attack by extreme Palestinian nationalists, who accused him of ‘selling out’ to the Jews.”

Barakat said that “some of Professor Dajani’s colleagues believe this entire exercise has been a curse, given the attacks and criticism we have suffered since we returned home. Yet Professor Dajani, the eternal optimist, sees only a blessing in what we have done. We have opened a crack in the wall of ignorance. We have made Palestinians talk publicly about a topic that was once taboo.”

She recounted her own education and how she sought out books about the Holocaust because it was not taught at school.

“I was born in Jerusalem in an Arab culture that, to put it mildly, ignores the Holocaust and avoids discussing it,” Barakat said. “As a young girl, I had to overcome social and educational restrictions to learn more about these closed chapters of history. Not only were books on the subject unavailable, but we were told that our responsibility as Palestinians was to memorize only what teachers told us, so as to reinforce our collective memory of loss and grievance and support our national identity and quest for a homeland.”

“Many Palestinians link what happened to the Jews during World War II with the Nakba, the Arabic word for ‘disaster’ and the term Palestinians use to describe the events of 1948, which led to their dispossession and the flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees. But those who argue that we Palestinians should close our eyes to the reality of the Holocaust because it was the cause of our national tragedy are wrong.”

“They know nothing about Zionist history, from the First Zionist Conference in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, to Britain’s Balfour Declaration calling for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917, through the British mandate in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.”

“And those who argue, as student-critics of our trip wrote on Facebook, that the injustice Palestinians currently face is of the same magnitude as what happened to Jews in Nazi-controlled Europe are wrong, too,” Barakat said.

However degrading and unfair our situation in Palestine is today—and yes, it is degrading and unfair—it pales in comparison to the dehumanizing horror, depravity, and evil conceived and implemented by Nazis and their collaborators.”


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  • Russ Pettifer

    PATRICK DEMPSEY IS A COMPLETE MORON

  • As an Author on The Holocaust of The Jews of Europe, I have been declined a pre-existing invitation to speak at a University due to the presence of a strong Muslim student body. Not that the Student body was against My speaking, but the faculty believed they might?

    • Russ Pettiphile

      You were not invited because you are complete moron. You suck.

    • Russ Pettifer

      YOU ARE A COMPLETE MORON.

  • Ron Blower

    “The Holocaust is a fact, and we all have a sacred responsibility to ensure that it never happens again to Jews or any other group,” Barakat said.”

    Well, it WON’t happen but that’s not due to any lack in the Muslim attempts to follow their own Scriptures.

    This woman and her confederates are either brave beyond my capacity to articulate or ignorant of one of the primal lessons/demands on Muslims contained in the Quran.

    I pray that “criticism” is ALL they receive; if a Fatwa appears for their deaths, they better run to Israel.

  • Thank you Algemeiner for publishing this story.

    Here is the follow-up: On April 28, Holocaust Memorial Day, Professor Dajani was the invited speaker on Breaking Holocaust Taboos in Palestinian Society with some 100 students and faculty in the audience at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.

    The lecture was sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention, Combat Genocide Association and the Medical Students Association, which put out an announcement in Hebrew and Arabic.

    He described the story of how his feelings–and ideas– evolved from the day when a member of his family received treatment for a medical condition at Hadassah Hospital –simply as a patient and human being. His lecture –quiet and eloquent–conveyed all the points in the above story. He said that he spoke as an educator and not as a politician, advancing the values and feelings that are needed to move forward.

    The questions by the students were thoughtful and respectful. Prior to his lecture, he was hosted by the School of Public Health and Community Medicine’s International Program, where there was an impromptu seminar with the students–from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe and our region, where we discussed our responsibilities to prevent and protect against genocidal threats everywhere, the lessons of the Holocaust concerning Human Choice and Bystander Indifference and the role of public health in predicting and preventing genocide.

    Previously Professor Dajani, the Combat Genocide Association in Israel, and Christ Church in Jerusalem put out a joint condemnation of world inaction on the butchery in Syria.

    Professor Dajani’s leadership has been inspiring to all.

    Elihu D Richter MD MPH Assoc Professor (retired)
    Jerusalem Center for Genocide Prevention
    and Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine
    POB 12272 Jerusalem Israel

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud (goldie)

    Let us hope this is the beginning of enlightenment for those who have been indoctrinated wrongly by Islam. A wise and open minded gentleman of Islam. Teach world history widely let this be the start of an open mind. When one has learned from history the more freedom will be found.

  • shosh

    Who is this Julian Clovelley? Is he for real? He speaks
    big words, but they are meaningless because he is all wrong in his assumptions. Does he come to the same
    conclussions in regard to Christianity and Islam?

    • Julian Clovelley

      Absolutely the same conclusions are what I come to in relation to Christianity and Islam, Shosh. They are similar conclusions to those reached by a large section of progressive academics studying our religions. I am far from alone.

      The origins of all three religions are very hazy, and in the case of Judaism unsupported either by contemporary confiming documentation or by archaeology. Of the more recent two faiths, both also rely on material and stories collected or written long after the supposed deaths of the supposed founders. Religion IS literature, and has to be approached as such.

      Religion demands that we believe fiction and treat it as history, despite the fact that the evidence is overwhelmingly against such a claim of historical accuracy. We are expected to reach conclusions before we are furnished with evidence. An opinion not based on reason is called a “prejudice” – Isn’t that precisely what Jews have suffered from – with very clear evidence for such horrors – throughout European history? Shouldn’t they perhaps be the people most demanding clarity and evidence?

      In the case of Christianity I believe we are probably dealing with a religion perhaps better described as “Johannine-Paulism”. It seems likely that the originators of modern Christianity were in fact based in the area of Turkey, and fashioned it largely independently of the synagogue based religion of the Followers of the Way, the Judean Christians. “Paul’s” letters and the second volume of Luke’s gospel (Acts) point very clearly in the direction that, not only the Eucharist, but also the entire antisemitic (sic) Passion narrative are Pauline inventions – later used by John to exculpate the Romans and blame the Jews, for the murder of a man who may well not even have existed in his Biblical form. It’s literature, not history.

      Yes Josh I do apply the same standards to all religions. I share the view of another poster on this thread that the real tragedy of the Middle East and of the world is that all of this violence we are doing to ourselves. Ultimately there is no such thing as a Jew or an Arab or a European – there never was a Roman. We are – as religiously as I am prepared to put it – all children of the same G-d, probably with the blood of ancient Africa flowing through all of our veins, and divided only by cultures that are connected in the remote past, but divided over time with the growth of human consciousness. It is time we repaired those splits and became one humanity again, but that can only be achieved through free choice guided by accurate information

      The Chosen Race is all of us, the Promised Land is the world entire – ours to love, cherish, protect, and nurture, and above all to share. When we have grown up enough to recognise our religions as part of our history, rather than a description of it, we may even walk free into the light, guiding all of our children towards a better world.

      One day the religions of the world will be thrown where they belong, onto the garbage heaps of history, their best preserved in museums and as part of our developing understanding of Righteousness, as it relates to the social behaviour of a very small, but quite remarkable, animal

      Because most religions had vast stable areas of occupation in the areas in which they originated, over time they were able to, and indeed forced to, evolve. Dispersion in fact made it possible for Judaism to cling to a rather static theology of origins. History will look back and recognise that the foundation of Israel confronted Judaism with the need to catch up on two thousand years of religious evolution and on its own brilliant acadaemia. My expectation is that this evolution will take place at breathtaking speed. I look forward to a new and more open and advanced Judaism,, and believe that in it you will find peace, and help the rest of us in finding ours too. Israel is your call to confront and welcome a new Enlightenment. It is the world’s call to grow up and confront who we are, rather than who we were

      This thread began with a very beautiful story. That of a teacher who chose to lead his students in the direction of truth. He has shown them that the Holocaust is not only real but was an assault on the whole of humanity. It is everyone’s personal concern, as is the responsibility to ensure that as a human race we never go down such paths again – sadly, in the light of later and current events it appears we are very slow learners. But in confronting our governing religions and our ideologies I believe we are getting there one step at a time

      The good professor has demonstrated again the potency, integrity and beauty of genuine honest education, and that the core of compassion is understanding. Peace be with him and his lucky students

      • Roslyn green

        Jullian clovelley is brilliant. Unfortunately, we are all damaged and stuck in our tragic tribes. It occurred to me when the socialist kibbutzniks set up shop it was a threat to the ruling tribal elite and they fought back. I have been reading his posts and he nails it. The solution is pointing to a nuclear Middle East. Now, we will see who if anyone is coming. Reason never seems to prevail.

  • Cynthia

    I find it interesting how the comments here are far removed from the Biblical truths of how Man comes into being and how man evolves according to scripture. One person here actually states that there is no knowledge of how Judaism came into being or how the Hebrew came into being. I counter that with the Bible, the Torah and even the Koran talks about the beginning of mankind and his formation under the hand of God. Anyone who doesn’t know this must be taught the origin over again. We cannot separate ourselves any more, we need each other to survive and to grow as people are meant to under the one God of creation. I don’t think most people who are religious even understand that the one God who made them have a purpose for all of us. Reality in this life as we now know it is not what God intended. Read and understand people, there is a great and loving God that wants us all to be full members of his family. Read and understand!

    • Julian Clovelley

      Thankyou for confirming what I said Cynthia – Outside Biblical literature there is negligible evidence – on which basis we cannot apply the word “truths” as a noun to “Biblical” as an adjective.

      Scripture – all scripture – is literature not history. Which is fine so long as it is treated as such – allegory, poetry, and myth, used to illustrate spiritual concepts – what the East calls “the finger that points at the moon”

      Isn’t that enough – More isn’t on offer.

  • Efram

    Whoever lights a candle lights the world. If one Palestinian sees the truth, that is a very good thing. If that professor educates 27 students, that is 28 fewer mindless bigots. Every man is responsible. When someone does the right thing, it does not matter if he is one of millions, he is a candle having been lit.

  • Sunshine

    That’s what I do. I put myself in their shoes. I have no hate for muslims because they were born and indoctrinated into it. It’s what they truly believe and critical thinking is forbidden re their doctrine.

    In this story, critical thinking was approached in a very subtle manner through these youth seeing and feeling the horror of the camp.

    However, islam and its doctrine are another issue as well as new converts. So many new converts go from quiet and timid people to full-blown violence within a short time. Why? Islamic doctrine, of which the ritual of the daily prayers that seems to put them into some kind of trance through the ritual itself. They become part of a new family.

    With all the info available to us today, I have no compassion whatsoever for the new converts. They are the new generation of Nazis, if not worse.

  • wendy g

    Thank you Professor Dajani. You are brave and seek the truth. Only through education of the young can we acheive peace and living harmoniously together as neighbors. Please continue your important work and may g-d protect you from the hatred of your own kind.

  • Jacobite

    Rulierose you make valid point, also worth noting is Israel would be regathered by G-D back into the covenanted Holy land which is now a historical fact.
    Two positive effects from two bad world wars, First World War wittenissed the removal of the Turk dominated M East ( drying up of the river Upraties of Reverlations) cleared the land.
    World War Two unsettled and up rooted Jewish families and got them moving on mass back into G-D’s land.
    Now we await the peace and safety cry, the positive and outcome I believe will be the true and continual peace that Israel has sort now for over two thousand years.

    • Ron Blower

      Jacobite: ” I believe will be the true and continual peace that Israel has sort now for over two thousand years.”

      Did you mean “Sought”—to seek something— instead of “sort”?

      That “Peace”, ruled from Jerusalem, lasts only 1,000 years, remember.

  • Michael Garfinkel

    I would caution against waxing poetic about the appearence of a single Palestinian giving voice to a reasonable opinion.

    • Miriam Rubinoff

      We have witnessed all too many times the impact a single Palestinian with a heart filled with hatred can have on families, communities, and on the entire Jewish People. If just one Palestinian emerges from this experience immunized against the influence of terrorism, isn’t that a good thing?

  • Faith in humanity – slightly restored.

    The sooner people recognize that no matter who they are looking at, they are actually just looking at themselves, the sooner we can evolve as a species.

    We need to take care of each other and our planet. Our existence should be a harmonious experience, not a parasitic one.

    • Leslie Satenstein

      Dear Vice Gripp

      Thank you for your opinion which I share whole heartedly.

      There is too much anger (on both sides) that has to turn to unbiased understanding. We need more visits to occur.

  • harri

    now what did they actually say on Al Jazeera?

  • Grigori

    Omitted by those Arabs are: 1) the fact that Abbas had his PH.D. penned in KGB institution in Moscow in which he denied Holocaust, 2) Arafat’s uncle Al Husseini was one of Holocaust architects, 3) Arabs were Hitler’s allies and did unspeakable pogroms killing Jews. Only after admitting facts they will be on the road to recovery.

  • Milhouse

    No plaudits till she acknowledges that the “Palestinian” Arabs were allies of Germany, and active collaborators in the Holocaust. This is not a crime that someone else did to the Jews; this is their grandparents’ crime.

  • CONNIE

    To say I am shocked, would be putting it maildly. What this Proffessor has done, is beyond brave and intelligent and wonderful. Till Palestinians realize WHY Israel exists, there is little chance for peace. Reading this, it gives me HOPE. There will now be Arabs who believe the Holocaust and KNOW beyond a doubt it happened. Best news I have read today!

    • rulierose

      it is great news indeed, but I have to correct you on one thing: Israel doesn’t exist because of the Holocaust. Hashem gave the Jews the land 3,500 years ago.

      • Julian Clovelley

        Pure belief, “Rulierose”, only shapes itself, it does not shape reality. Belief is all too often bolstered by a religious distortion of “faith” that equates it with “evidence”, as assurance of things unseen. Evidence is of far sterner stuff, but its political weakness lies in its frequent inability to manufacture or justify an emotionally desired intellectual outcome

        Both belief and faith have been hijacked by the religious in a manner, to my mind, tragically echoed by their practical application in fascist Europe in the thirties, as “Triumph des Willens”, the triumph of the will. Nazism was the culmination of a superstitious belief that the “will” bolstered by “faith”, kept in place by “loyalty”, and combined with the “wish”, could shape not only the present and future, but also the past. This fantasy was satirised by George Orwell in his book “1984”, where Smith is employed to edit history as part of the action of “fullwise rewrite”

        There is nothing wrong in a person having a personal religious belief. There is everything wrong when they seek to enforce that belief on both society, and a region. At best it is the imposition of a likely falsehood – at worst it becomes an excuse for a two class society in the region concerned, and for conflict with equally sincerely held, but opposing, personal beliefs. This in turn all too easily leads to a desire on all sides for actions of ethnic cleansing and imperialism against “the other” in each belief system.

        The end result is that everyone becomes an “infidel” in someones world view – and as such everyone becomes a victim. The Apartheid state is a likely result of a manufactured history, and the enforcement of religious fiction.

        We do not really have any great knowledge of the origins of either Judaism, or of the people known variously under such titles as the “Hebrews”. What does seem scientifically unchallengeable is that in great part, or in total, we are dealing with myth. It is highly unlikely that any of the personalities in the Biblical accounts of the earliest times, apparently assembled several hundred years after the supposed events, had real existence similar to their Biblical character. It is also highly unlikely that the reported events actually occurred. We are dealing with myth not dissimilar to Homer, probably orally transmitted for centuries, and inspired from a variety of sources – all in the tradition of the bards.

        This matters because Israel is a modern State. It is impossible to build a properly functioning and internationally respected state on a combination of religion, historical fiction, and dubious genetic inheritance

        Ancient Judea is largely myth. The region undoubtedly had a very different character and history to the Biblical account. If Israel is to move forward as a modern state – indeed if it is to survive as a beacon of democracy – then it must confront this internal conflict between superstition and reason. The alternative may well be the hurtful scenario, which in a momentary lapse into straight talking, Kerry drew to your attention

        The belief that the Divinity gave land to you through inheritance from an original donation is cruel to those whom you consider, in your chosen fiction, to be descendants of those who were not amongst those original recipients. One can understand their despair and frustration. The Jewish people above all should understand the meaning of the word that haunts the lives of millions worldwide, and is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of archaic Feudalism, a class-based Capitalism, and of ethnic divisions -“dispossession”

        • zadimel

          I am unable at this time to go into the archeological findings that I am sure you would discredit, but you are,indeed, wrong in your assessment of biblical descriptions. I’ll be back.

          • Julian Clovelley

            Zamidel, lets start with a couple of easy ones. How about archaeological evidence for the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel, Noah’s Ark, the Exodus and the forty years of wandering by an enormous host? Start there

            How about clear evidence of the Divine donation of the “Promised Land” or of the direct transmission of the ten commandments? It doesn’t worry me that all these items cannot be taken beyond the level of myth – I’m used to it.

            It is after all a similar situation in my birth religion. I find the opening of graves during the crucifixion and the appearance of saints wandering around Jerusalem, people walking on water, speaking foreign languages without learning them, wise men following a star (which would of course have resulted in them gound round and round in circles) and a number of other items equally unevidenced and unlikely

            So really we are all rather in the same Ark.

  • Joel Keller

    She’s a mensch!!

  • Lucille Kaplan

    Thank you, Algemeiner, for publishing this incredibly important account. While helping to confirm that the Holocaust is deliberately trivialized in Palestinian culture and education, it also shows how powerful education, and the influence of a scholar inspired by truth and a desire for true peace, can be.

  • HaroldT

    When Palestinians realize that any “degrading and unfair” situation they experience is due to their own making and give up their dream of annihilating Israel, the sooner they will be able to live productive lives.

    • Ron

      When I read what you described as the collective belief of “Palestinians,” I can’t help but think that this conflict will never be ended if you are right, and I have a certainty that you are wrong.

      They can’t possibly have a collective belief, there are surely a few holdouts among the Palestinian population that sincerely want to live a productive life starting tomorrow morning, whether Israel still exists when the sun comes up tomorrow or not.

      But, I will admit that their numbers may be unfortunately few in number at the moment.

      Ascribing collective views and beliefs to “The Other” is the entire basis of the conflict.

  • Robert

    The biggest piece of propagandist shit I ever read!

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