Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Rigtheous Muslim

The Jews have a phrase for those gentiles who helped out the Jews during the Holocaust. They call them Righteous Gentiles. Here's the story of a Righteous Muslim:

NAZARETH, Israel — No one talked to him at a recent family wedding, Khaled Mahameed says. Neighbors curse him at the supermarket. A relative accuses him of unwittingly playing into Israel’s hands.

The reason: this Israeli Muslim has embarked on a lonely mission to teach his fellow Arabs about the Holocaust, in which Nazi Germany put to death an estimated 6 million Jews.

Mr. Mahameed’s newly opened Holocaust institute in the biblical town of Nazareth is a modest operation, with occasional lectures. About 60 photos documenting the genocide mounted on the walls. But the effort is highly unusual if not unique in the Arab world, where the Holocaust often is played down or even denied.

One photo shows a Nazi officer pointing a gun to the head of a Jew who squats at the edge of a mass grave. “Men like this man settled our land,” Mr. Mahameed told five Arab visitors recently. “We have to understand the very deep trauma of this man.”

Mr. Mahameed, 43, thinks that learning about the Holocaust could help Arabs understand Israel better and ultimately resolve the Middle East conflict.

A few of his neighbors have expressed support for his museum, but it has provoked strong opposition among Palestinians who say Israel used Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s genocide as an excuse to take Arab land.

Underlying this dispute is competition over victimhood, said Tom Segev, an Israeli author on the Holocaust. “Arabs often feel that if they acknowledge the Holocaust, they give up their claim of being the real victim of this conflict,” Mr. Segev said.