by: Raanan Mallek
Dec. 31st, 2015
In March of 2014, Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi, a Palestinian professor from Al-Quds University, took a group of 27 Palestinian students to visit the Nazi concentration camps at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. The trip was part of a joint program between the German Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Tel-Aviv University, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The purpose of the program was to teach Israeli and Palestinian students about the “suffering that has helped shape the historical consciousness of the other side,” as well as to study the impact of empathy on reconciliation and peace. Professor Dajani experienced such a severe backlash from Palestinian society in general and Al-Quds University in particular, that he resigned from the institution where he had been successfully teaching for over thirteen years. Why did Palestinians react so strongly to the visit of these students to Auschwitz-Birkenau? What was it that they found threatening? This article seeks to understand why learning about the Holocaust can be seen as threatening to the Palestinian collective memory. It is necessary to first define what collective memory is and then understand it within its Palestinian context. Next, Professor Dajani’s trip to Auschwitz will be explored in depth along with the subsequent reaction all within the context of the Palestinian collective memory. This will be undertaken using the recent publication from Professor Dajani called, Teaching the Holocaust in Palestine: Reconciliation in the Midst of Conflict which is a comprehensive academic analysis of the trip. Finally, there will be an exploration of whether or not learning about the Holocaust can enrich Palestinian collective memory instead of being perceived as threatening while persisting to remain a taboo topic. Peace in the Holy Land is dependent upon both the Palestinians and the Israelis being able to truly see each other through the tragedies which shape the psychology of the Other.
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