In April 2014 I received an invitation from a member of my extended family to join a pilgrimage to Auschwitz. Hitherto this facet of family history had been to me unknown, unexplored. It was a journey I could not take physically, but certainly it became an emotional journey of further research and illumination.

April 2014 was the 70th anniversary of the escalation of the Catastrophe, or Shoa, for the Jews of Hungary which would rapidly deteriorate into genocide. On 2 April 1944 it was demanded that Jews wear the yellow star; on 5 April a law was passed for Jews to be moved into ghettos, this was implemented on 7 April and from thence deportation. By August 437,402 Jews had been deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of this number only 15,000 survived.

Palestinian refugees leaving the Galilee in October–November 1948.

The situation in Europe
Years of anti-Semitism had led to bigotry and apartheid, overt hatred and cruelty, with Jews being regarded as less than animals. Religiously Jews in Europe were targeted, just as we see today with the targeting of Islam, Judaism was tarnished by manufactured tales. Persecution and massacres led to the forced exodus of Jews with many becoming refugees seeking shelter and places to exist humanely; to work and worship freely as is every human being’s right under Heaven.

As dreadful as this had been, it reached its zenith with the rise of Nazi Germany under Hitler. As his armies entered country after country, so too began the displacement and continued persecution, ultimately claiming the lives of so many Jews and others who fell foul of the Reich. The Shoa had arrived! The Holocaust was now here!

Questions to be answered
Up to this point I can understand most of this historical outrage – but there are questions which must be answered:

(i) what was the world doing while thousands were being degraded, persecuted, oppressed, fearing for their lives, ultimately being driven off and taken to death camps?

(ii) What of those who had managed to escape, only to be turned away from entry into other countries as noted in US and UK? They were returned to their countries of origin and certain death.

(iii) Why were the citizens in their countries of origin so bereft of humanity? Was it because the Jews had been so dehumanised that their lives were no longer of any value?

An even greater tragedy
Post-war much occurred. Political wheeling and dealing, including a hefty Christian Zionist influence, brought about the decision to bring the Jewish refugees to Palestine. Many thus entered Palestine to start a new life in the land that had been home to both Jews and Arabs for centuries. It is important to note that prior to 1948 there had been peace and respect between these children of Abraham, and that is how one would have hoped it to continue. However a new era had come into play.

Reading even documented events by Israeli historians brings to light the ruthlessness of the new arrivals. Palestinian Arabs were tricked, persecuted, massacred or forced to flee their houses and lands.

The saddest part is that, as in the writings of a Christian Palestinian peace activist of that era, Elias Chacour, the arrival of the Jewish refugees was greeted by the Arabs of Palestine with sympathy for their “Jewish brothers who had gone through so much.” His villagers, like so many others, even prepared a special welcome for them. [1]

It is hard to comprehend how and why the saga of Israel/Palestine could possibly have come about considering the circumstances. How could those from the European Catastrophe now reflect the actions of the Reich upon those wishing no harm?

There is now neither time nor space to write of the downward spiral which took place over the years of injustice and retaliation. However a breathtaking pattern has emerged in the mirror-image of events which we now see as the Israeli/Palestinian Catastrophe.

Leading up to the Nakba
It is now 70 years since the Palestinian Catastrophe. These seventy years have been filled by an occupation which encouraged anti-Arab sentiment leading to bigotry, overt hatred and apartheid. Palestinians, just as their Jewish counterparts in earlier years, have been regarded as less than animals.

Persecution and massacres led to the forced exodus of Palestinians, with many thousands becoming refugees seeking shelter and places to exist, humanely, in which to work and worship freely. As we again note, this is every human being’s right under Heaven.

Death has come to them often, delivered quite nonchalantly. There are no qualms about killing them as seen this past week– just as it was for the Jews throughout the Shoa, we are now seeing it revisited upon their neighbours.

Nevertheless, as bad as the past has been, we are noting an escalation in State-run violence. This appears to be due to the liaison between the President of the US and the Prime Minister of Israel, which may be noted in the shifting of the US embassy to Jerusalem and subsequent killings this month.

The questions
There are questions which must be answered here also:

(i) what was the world doing while thousands were degraded, persecuted, murdered or, fearing for their lives ultimately fled or were pushed into ever-decreasing areas under Occupation?

(ii) How is it that so-called religious people can be comfortable with the situation as it is now?

(iii) Has it been because the Palestinians have been so dehumanised that their lives are no longer of any value? Has the Sermon on the Mount been forgotten by the Zionist Christian lobby, or is it the fact that even the suffering of Christian Palestinians is negligible?

Tragedy and Joy
To me, personally, the great tragedy is that those who understand the suffering of pogroms and death camps, who have been victims or children of victims of the Shoa have now become the perpetrators of the Nakba.

However, the great joy for me personally is the number of Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and worldwide who cannot tolerate the injustice of the regime or the killing of the innocent; who stand beside the Palestinians and lift their voices against the outrage being perpetrated against them.

Throughout the world there are people of conscience now raising their voices, who are not blind to truth. They who stand for justice stand tall. May they forever remain blessed and a blessing.. Ameen.

[1] “Blood Brothers” p.20 by Elias Chacour with David Hazard, Kingsway Publications Ltd, 1987.