Really awsome article on Palestinian children that played a violin concert at a Holocaust survivors center in Holon, Israel (city south of Tel Aviv).
Some good news of the day!

Stephanie :)
Palestinians Serenade Survivors in Israel

Published: March 25, 2009
HOLON, Israel — For just over an hour on Wednesday, a club for elderly Holocaust survivors on a side street in this suburban town south of Tel Aviv came alive with an encounter of an extraordinary kind.

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The New York Times
Many Israelis see Jenin as the capital of suicide bombers.
A youth orchestra came to play for the elderly Israelis, a good turn that might pass in other countries as routine. In this case, though, the entertainers were Palestinians, a group of musicians 12 to 17 years old from the Jenin refugee camp, once a notorious hotbed of militancy and violence in the northern reaches of the West Bank.

Holocaust survivors and descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war would make bizarre companions at the best of times, but the Jenin camp strikes a particular note of discord.

The capital of suicide bombers to the Israelis and a symbol of resistance to the Palestinians, it was the scene of a bloody battle between advancing Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen in 2002. Four years later, a young Israeli man from Holon was killed in one of the last suicide attacks in Israel, when a Palestinian from Jenin blew himself up in a restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Adding to the dissonance, one of Jenin’s militant leaders in the second intifada was commonly known as Hitler, a nickname he had answered to since his teens.

Yet for a while on Wednesday, the politics of the conflict were put aside. The youths scratched at their violins and the Holocaust survivors clapped along, trying to keep up with the changing rhythms of the darbouka drums.

“We are here to play,” Wafaa Younis, 51, the Israeli Arab orchestra director, told the rapt audience. “I do not believe in politicians, only musicians and these children.”

Any potential awkwardness may have been dulled by the language barrier — other than Ms. Younis, the Palestinians spoke only Arabic; the survivors only Hebrew and their native European tongues. Each also appeared to have only the sketchiest knowledge about the other side.

Zehava Zelevski, 73, was born in Poland and came to Israel via camps in Germany for displaced people in 1948. Her three brothers were killed during the Second World War. Ms. Zelevski said she knew about the Jenin camp from television and the newspapers, remembering that “all the terrorism came from there.”

One of the young musicians, Qusai Samur, 17, looked blank when asked about the Holocaust. He said he knew only what somebody here had told him — that these people lived alone as children because their parents had been killed.

The event, at the Amcha Center, was organized as part of Israel’s annual Good Deeds Day, an initiative of Shari Arison, a prominent Israeli-American businesswoman and immensely wealthy heiress.

Ms. Arison said in an interview before the concert that she came up with the idea for Good Deeds Day while taking a walk a few years ago. Anybody, whether rich or poor, can help a blind person cross a street, cheer someone up with a smile or help with someone’s shopping bags, she said.

Most of the day’s events are organized by Ruach Tova, an organization of the Arison Group that couples nonprofit groups with volunteers.

Ms. Younis, the orchestra director, had told Ruach Tova that she wanted to bring the Jenin camp youth orchestra, Strings of Freedom, to perform in Israel. Ruach Tova made the match with Amcha, an Israeli association that provides Holocaust survivors with emotional and social support.

The first item in the short concert was a specially composed Arabic song, “We Pray for Peace.” The youths performed it standing, with the seriousness of a funeral dirge. Things livened up a little once the darboukas came out. Ms. Arison, who attended the well-publicized event, was invited to dance.

By the end, it was hard to tell who had done the good deed for whom.

After the concert, Ms. Zelevski, the survivor, said she was “surprised” and “very excited,” seeing things were possible “not by war.” Debating the rights and wrongs of the conflict among themselves, some of the elderly Israelis commented that the Palestinian musicians were “only children” and were not to blame.

The young Palestinians, on a rare trip out of the West Bank, were all smiles. They had performed three times before in the Israeli port city of Haifa, but this was the closest they had come to the Israeli cultural metropolis of Tel Aviv.

Soon, a staff member from the Amcha Center politely asked the orchestra and attendant journalists to vacate the small hall. It was time for the survivors’ exercise class.

Outside, some of the elderly Israelis and the young Palestinians mingled, trying their best to interact.

Ms. Younis, a feisty retired music teacher, appealed for support. She said that an Israeli playwright, Dan Almagor, had donated violins for the Jenin youths, and that the Mormon University in Jerusalem had given other instruments and equipment, but that the orchestra needed more.

“Israel should give them violins,” she said. “We take the pain out of people’s hearts.”

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Yes Mazin, cooperation with Jews and Israelis may well be an issue for Palestinians on several levels and for several reasons. Like you Mazin, I am also not shy about speaking about that.

HOWEVER I am also not shy about speaking about why cooperation with Palestinians may well be an issue for Jews and Israelis on several levels and for several reasons, particularly based upon the senseless and genocidal and tribal violence from the Arab and Muslim world against Jews and Israelis, and also many other peoples (including other Arabs and Muslims), for more than just the 61 years Mazin cites.

Moreover, there are too many very recent examples of that senseless and genocidal and tribal violence which continues to kill people and create many refugees and displaced people.

Hi Basil

Simple and brief answers:

  1. Mazin essentially wrote that Palestinians have understandable reasons for being angry with Jews and Israelis. I agree.
  2. I wrote that Jews and Israelis have understandable reasons for being angry with Palestinians and Arabs.
  3. Using the word Shoah to name all the evil of the Nazi Holocaust is offensive to Jews because that seems to attempt to deny the unique targeting of and bigotry against the Jews by the Nazi's and other Europeans and some ARABS!.
  4. Defending the torpedoing of a reconciliation and bridge-building attempt simply on the basis that it is understandable is implicit acknowledgment that those being defended are simply NOT READY for a peace. See Mick's
Excuse me butting in, just a few hurried and points which might show that I have read the exchange between Paul and Basil too quickly:

The etymological origins of the word ‘Holocaust’ are Greek, the construct holocauston means ‘totally burnt’ it was used extensively in Medieval Europe, in this respect it is not new and the Hebrew word שואה (Shoah) is of course biblical but no language is static and today I think it is fair to accept that both are used with reference to the slaughter of Jews, the latter more specifically but the former has adopted this meaning aswell and even when it used in reference to other conflicts it is clear that it is done so in comparison to the Shoah for rhetorical effect or otherwise. On this point: be realistic, when people refer to the recent events in Gaza as a ‘Holocaust’ they are not presenting a historical thesis for judgment. Yes, some people do but only those who see history is simplistic linear terms void of relativism and individual experience. Such opinions fail to recognize the difference between collective and individual memory, both of which evolve as language does.

Today, the Holocaust has become the national myth of the Jewish people. I do not mean by ‘national myth’ that it is not true but that it has become a defining feature of their collective identity and memory and like all national myths it is sacred and when attacked or questioned it produces a strong emotional response. You can see this in a number of ways: firstly, a great many Jews do not want to deal with the more difficult parts of the myth, Primo Levi’s description of the Jewish people as ‘passive victims in their own slaughter’ is angrily ignored while the heroism of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is rightly celebrated, this is a common phenomena in all ethno-nationalist groupings. Secondly, the true horror of Auschwitz and other camps in glossed over in ceremonies commemorating their victims both here in Israel and in Europe, this is a universal phenomena: people can not bare too much reality. Serious historical questions about the Holocaust, where comparisons to other massacres are drawn up and considered, have nothing to do with this collective identity and memory. I would describe the Naqba in similar terms: there is the Naqba as a historical event, the details of which can be debated like the Shoah, and there is the collective memory of the Palestinian people and what that event means to them. This is their national myth. My country has one of these too: it is call King Arthur and plenty of people like to believe that somewhere in the Welsh hills our national hero, who saw off the English, is buried in splendor surrounded by his knights. This is an actual myth but even I like to believe in it to a certain extent, it is part and parcel of my national identity even if it is historical untrue. The problem with the Israeli and Palestinian equivalents is that they are not only grounded in real events and are even part of individual memories, they are intrinsically intertwined. Israel, and by consequence the Naqba, is more a product of the Ethno-nationalist nightmare that gripped Europe than the ideals of Zionism, which does not differ greatly to any other ethno-religious-nationalist movement, despite what its more fanatical adherents like to claim (or it’s enemies for that matter). The dichotomy of the two nationalist movements that is the Palestinian and Israeli conflict has a fundamental symmetry that both sides refuse to accept. If the subject of the Holocaust is a taboo in Palestinian society then the recognition that the Shoah and the Naqba are linked is Israel’s taboo. Simply arguing numbers or uniqueness will not break that link. The collective denial by both sides of this fundamental bond is symbolic of their joint refusal to accept that their future, like their past, is linked.
ciao - not the main point I know but is there any reason for downsizing the 6 milion to 5 million?
Basil, you are confusing what is ostensibly two terms. Look up pretty much any dictionary and you will indeed find an ancient term "holocaust", but right next to it you will find a separate definition for "Holocaust" with a capital "H" or sometimes "the Holocaust". This latter is currently defined as the "destruction of Jews and others" in WW2. The term "Shoah is uniquely Jewish, and, as Max points out, is unique to the Jewish experience.

I'm not sure that I agree with the rest which strikes me as a very mythical oversimplification. Contrary to the myth, Israel did not come out of the Holocaust, as the Jewish homeland was in place by 1924, with the complete mechanism for its realisation. As for the Nakba, it's possibly a moot question, but would it have happened had the Arabs accepted the Jewish state in 1948? Clearly the huge difference between these two events is that one sought the very deliberate genocide of an entire people, the other would probably be little more than a footnote in history if the refugees weren't used as politcal pawns, but absorbed into the societies they were hosted in, as one does with homeless refugees. That would indeed "have ended their suffering and brought people together". For me the real tragedy is that refugees were kept in camps in Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank, at gunpoint, and cynically denied citizenship or any possibility of being absorbed for over half a century.

As always, these Palestinians were neither asked what they wanted, nor would those wishes have been considered. There lies the real tragedy. They weren't stuck in those camps because of Israel, because of the Nakba, but because of the cruelty of their brethren.
Clearly Basil, you would have no problem with Israel calling the expulsion of Jews from the West Bank Gaza and East Jerusalem in 1948 "The Nakba", and perhaps that makes you a bigger person than so many Jews. Shoah is a Jewish term coined for an attempt to eradicate every Jew off the face of the earth. It is as unique to Jewish history as the Nakba is to Palestinian history. One can talk about the killing of Gypsies as part of a non-Aryan purge, or as a genocide, but Jews had a special place in the scheme of things. Nobody ever spoke of "the final solution" for Gypsies.

As you say, Basil, each genocide is a unique tragedy in that people's history. If, God forbid, you lost a member of your family, I think it would be very offensive for people to deny you the right to grieve for that relative, but insist that you grieve for all deaths.

THe bottom line, Basil, is that you really don't have to understand why anything causes somebody offence, only to accept that it does, because they have pointed out to you that it does, and Basil, having lost over 300 members of my extended family in the Shoah, and growing up with no grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins out of my parents 8 siblings, I find denying the Shoah as a Jewish event very offensive. You are focussed on raw numbers and which is bigger ... 6 million, 11million, but for Jews, 95% of the Jews of Eastern Europe were destroyed along with an entire branch of Jewish culture, Yiddish developement being stopped dead in its tracks and having now disappeared as a living language from the face of the earth. In that the nazis were very successful. You may not comprehend the tragedy, but please don't deny it.
Khalid Amayreh respons to critics (strong language but worth reading/discussing)- MQ
Khalid Amayreh- Zionists: We hate you because you are evil, not because you are Jewish

1 April, 2009
Israeli-occupied Jerusalem

I have been under fire of late from two diametrically opposite quarters. First, the fanatical, self-worshiping Zionists who think that non-Jewish suffering should never ever be compared with Jewish suffering.

Needless to say, this psychotic attitude stems from deep-seated convictions that a Jew is a special creature whose life is worth more than the rest of humanity. Haven’t we noticed, for example, how Israel has made “Gila’ad Shalit”, the Israeli soldier imprisoned by Hamas, a household name all over the world, while next to nothing is mentioned about the estimated 10,000 Palestinian political and resistance prisoners languishing in Israeli dungeons and concentration camps?

And, Second, some pro-Palestinian activists who believe that I should avoid invoking the holocaust in my writings lest this help legitimize the Zionist narrative and inadvertently justify Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.

To our pro-Palestinian activists, I, with all due respect, would like to say the following. I sincerely believe that we would be walking in the path of immorality if we denied or belittled other people’s suffering. Indeed, it is imperative that we retain our humanity and moral fabric in the course of this legitimate struggle against the evil state. We must never imitate or emulate their ways and tactics. This would be self-defeating, self-destructive and immensely demoralizing.

Moreover, we must refrain from saying or doing things that would make others portray us as inherent enemies of Jews, because we are not.

We also need to be constantly vigilant and cautious about what we say and how we say it, lest we inadvertently besmirch the legitimacy of our just cause.

Israel is so manifestly criminal and ugly that we don’t need to deny anyone’s suffering to prove this plain fact.

In short, we don’t have to shoot ourselves in the foot. It is wrong and it hurts us a lot.

Obviously, the Zionists’ “arguments” are motivated, as always, by ill-will and a malicious desire to silence critics of Israeli criminality whose phantasmagoric expressions we all witnessed recently in the Gaza Strip.

The subject of contention this time has been an article I published a few days ago, entitled “Shame on us,” in which I strongly criticized efforts by some dubious “peace activists” to bamboozle some innocent Palestinian children from some impoverished localities into playing music before “holocaust survivors.”

This is what happened last week when a dozen young musicians from the Jenin Refugee Camp, in the northern West Bank, were taken surreptitiously to Tel Aviv where they were made to play a serenade before some elderly Zionists , some of whom veterans from the many criminal wars Israel had waged on our people. And as I said in the article, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was not carried out by UFOs but by the very people our children are now being asked to cheer up.

Understandably, the not-so-innocent event left many Palestinians infuriated by the cheap exploitation of these kids for Israeli hasbara purposes. As one who lost three uncles in one day to Zionist murderers in 1954, I felt deeply wounded and humiliated by that event.

I am actually not against reconciliation between Palestinians and Jews. I don’t and never will view Jews as our inherent enemies. Some Jews are actually among the most effective supporters of our national cause. Those we salute for their honesty and morality.

However, it is obvious that true reconciliation in this part of the world requires that the slate be made thoroughly clean. Usurped rights must be returned to rightful owners, and wrongs must be rectified. This I say to honest and conscientious Jews who are genuinely interested in justice and peace.

But to the Zionists I would like to say that the following: the latest point of contention is not about music or even peace. This is first and foremost about human dignity of which the children of the holocaust and their children and grand children and great grandchildren have been trying to rob us.

And whether you like it or not, for us, at least, you represent the real Wehrmacht, the real SS and real Gestapo. You are the Nazis of our time. This is what we see from our vantage point. This is what much of the world sees. This is what many honest and conscientious Jews see.

You stole our country, you murdered our people, you destroyed our homes, and you expelled and dispersed the bulk of our people to the four corners of the world. And after all of this, you have audacity to dupe our children to sing and play music to you? This is simply beyond, far beyond, Chutzpah.

Some of you habitually babble the word “hatred” whenever a Palestinian asserts his people’s humanity and dignity.

Well, you are really sick to the bone if you think Palestinians must sacrifice their dignity in order to become a hate-free people according to the Zionist lexicon. We will not pay tribute to the killers of our children, we will show respect to our grave-diggers.

Besides, who do you think you are anyway to lecture us on hatred? After all, you represent and embody hatred in its ugliest form. The extirpation of a people from its ancestral homeland from time immemorial is a satanic act par excellence. The destruction and obliteration of hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages to fulfill Jewish nationalism is diabolical act of the highest order.

Your recent blitzkrieg in Gaza during which your Nazi-like army ganged up on a helpless, unprotected civilian population, exterminating them with bombs and missiles and incinerating their children with White Phosphorus proved once again that you are no better than the hateful Nazis you curse day and night for what they did to you sixty years ago.

Well, try to get yourselves out of this cocoon of self-denial. The Palestinian people don’t hate music nor do they teach their kids to hate Jews or non-Jews, it is your evil and murderous actions that generate hatred against you not only among Palestinians and Muslims but among many other people around the world.

Just look at your ugly faces in the mirror.

war is so stupid human behavior.
Basil, there have been many papers written about the many non-Jews who died in the camps. You feel that it is wrong for the world to have a fascination with the establishment of an industry of factories to kill people, not only for who they are, but because they may have had a Jewish grandparent ... that's yout perogative, and it's not for me to debate what you find important. It seems that many feel that there was something unique about it, and therefore pursue it and write about it. Certainly for Jews it's one of the most terrible things to happen in Jewish history, so I hope that you understand jews focussing on it. If not, then I can't help that either.

Your quite right about the manpower issue, but too many people feel that the Holocauststarted people thinking about a Jewish homeland, and that is what I object to ... a Jewish homeland in Palestine was an active international reality in 1924. That was the only issue I was addressing.
Basil, I'm not sure what motivates you. It's simple enough. "Jewish deaths" is a term that doesn't include Ukrainians, Russians or Eskimos. "Holocaust" is the term used for the deliberate genocide by the nazi war machine, whether directly or through proxies acting for them. For those two conditions the number widely accepted by the Red Cross, which has compiled lists of the victims and how they died, and by historians who note that the 12million Jews of Europe were down to 6 million after the war, that it it was a civilian population etc. ... put the number of Shoah dead at 6 million.

The bottom line is, do you have any evidence to dispute this number of Jewish deaths in the Holocaust ... which is the only claim being made? If you've read about the Holocaust, Basil, you would know that the bulk of Jews were killed outside Germany, with most of the Death Camps built in Eastern Europe, nevertheless it was the Germans who did the killing or organized willing proxies to do it for them. The dead Jews, though, are no less dead, and the reason for their death remains the Shoah.

Lots and lots of other people died and it's a great tragedy. Certainly the nazis have a lot to answer for. Basil, you seem driven by statistics, so let me throw this into the mix why so many people consider the Jewish loss great. The 6 million represent 95% of Eastern Europe's Jewry, 60% of Europes Jewry and a third of Jews worldwide. Perhaps if you consider the other deaths as a proportion of total populations, it may put a different slant on it. In those terms the Jews suffered the heaviest casualties, followed by the gypsies. There are few sources but Gypsy casualties are generally estimated at around 220,000-250,000 or around 25% of the European population. That's just under half the Jewish proportion killed.

One interesting difference is that while there were many exemptions for Gypsies, just having a Jewish grandparent was enough to condemn you to death.
FDR, Gruber and me: Zionists stymie WWII rescue plan, by Ronald Bleier

Fascinating especially Alfred Lilienthal's material
I agree with you Basil on the main points of your argument about need to recognize suffering of all people. The pont |I was raising here is important though and not tangential to the discussion of the holocaust against Jews, Gypsies etc. This is because many peopel who keep bringing the issues of Jewish suffering are using it to butress the Zionist POLITICAL ideology. You don't: you bring it because it is indeed a human tragedy. So my interdiction is to support your notion that we recognize all suffering and understand taht political ideologies like Zionism and Nazism are not good even for teh peopel tehy claim to serve (in these two cases Jews and Germans).



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