A Euro-Gulf Reflection on the Holocaust
by Piercamillo Falasca
Today, 27 January, marks the 76th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp but only the 16th anniversary of the UN-endorsed Holocaust Remembrance Day. Many parts of the world either do not have the Holocaust on their radars or tend to view it as a Jewish issue.
This is not accurate.
Instead, memorialising the Holocaust, as a common international heritage ,is a must. And, for the Middle East, even more so. At the Euro-Gulf Information Centre, we strongly believe that translating Holocaust Remembrance into collective soul-searching should become a clear and tangible cultural by-product, and long-term objective, of the Abraham Accords and the subsequent peaceful relations between Israel and the Gulf States. Instead of the Holocaust being a Jewish or Israeli issue, the suffering of one community by a ruthless regime, should be canonised.
The role of the Holocaust in the foundation of the State of Israel is disputed. Some people argue that the long process for the establishment of a Jewish ‘homeland’ began, in earnest, at the end of the 19th century—long before the Second World War, when anti-Semitism was rampant but disorganised. Others suggest that the Nazi crimes opened international (and, of course, Jewish) eyes to the urgent need to solve the so-called ‘Jewish question’ by moving Jews out of Europe. In other words, the slaughter of 6 million Jews in Europe was the crucial factor behind the creation of Israel. Whichever line of argumentation is most accurate, it is now important to contextualise the wide consensus in the Gulf that: 1. Israel is here to stay—both as a country and as a regional power and 2. that the Holocaust is not only a wound for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity.
As even the youngest survivors of the Nazi concentration camps are, sadly, ageing and dying, it is a collective responsibility to strengthen the memory and the awareness of the younger generations as dark corners of human nature often peer out and wreak havoc again and again. So, the Holocaust is not only what happened in the last century to the Jewish people living in Europe, it is what can happen in the future to every people around the world: Antisemitism can include rampant anti-Arab pogroms, Islamophobia can lead to violence and a form of Christianophobia can easily turn bloody in places where Christians are minorities.
And this is why we salute the new drive to preserve the memory of the survivors, and collectively condemn, the Holocaust taking place across the Gulf countries—with dedicated school activities, exhibitions, seminars and television programmes.
If the Arab world is able to fight attempts to hide, downplay or deny the Holocaust, it will also be more credible when it stands behind the aspirations of the Palestinian state to be recognised at any level, including by Israel. And, Israel has a new, important duty in its relations with the Gulf countries: working towards the stabilisation of the entire region, including Palestine, as peace is the most effective vaccine against any future Holocaust.
27 January 2021