Palestinians and the Holocaust

We at the Holocaust History Project (THHP) are often asked questions similar to the following:

How can you Jews focus on the Holocaust while Israel commits atrocities against Palestinians?

Additionally, many people may have similar questions but find themselves to be afraid to ask them. Obviously, there is a lot of emotional content behind such a question. The purpose of this short essay is to strip aside the emotional content and examine the question carefully.

From a logical viewpoint there are many assumptions in the question that turn out to be fallacious assumptions. To look at the question logically, it is useful to examine these assumptions in turn.

The first assumption is that THHP is a Jewish organization. This assumption is not true. There are Jews within THHP, but THHP has members of many faiths and of no faith. The thread that binds us together is an interest in the history and historicity of the Holocaust.

The next unwritten assumption is that the members of THHP have a unified position presumably in favor of current Israeli policy, whatever that may be at the time that the question is asked. This assumption is also false. Opinions within THHP on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are diverse. They run the gamut of different opinions that are found in society as a whole. In fact, it would be impossible for THHP to take a position on the conflict because of that diversity of opinion. This fact should not be surprising as THHP is not an organization that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it is an organization that focuses on the history of the Holocaust.

THHP is not associated with the state of Israel, nor is it associated with the Palestinian Authority.

A similar assumption is that "the Jews" are responsible for Israeli foreign policy. Even among Jews the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is controversial. It is always dangerous to try to ascribe a viewpoint to a group of people. Do "the Buddhists" support the actions of the government of Sri Lanka with respect to Tamil separatists?

It is also a false assumption that all Israelis always support the policies of the Israeli government. It depends on the policy and it depend on the Israelis.

Stripped of its emotional content the question is no different from asking a college student why he or she is studying differential equations when there are Shakespeare plays to be read.

THHP is an organization about the Holocaust. Its existence does not preclude anyone, including its members from involvement on issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that is not the purpose of the organization.

The Holocaust was a major historical event that resulted in the murder of millions and the destruction of Jewish culture in Europe as it previously existed. It is a major and unique event in the world's history; it is a subject worthy of study and one that has innumerable lessons for humanity.

Those who ask such questions presumably have a strong emotional connection to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a viewpoint that the Israelis are the aggressors and the Palestinians are the victims.

Some members of THHP may also endorse such a viewpoint, whereas others may strongly oppose such a view. The same can be said for any other emotional topic not related to the purview of THHP. For example, members of THHP have diverse opinions on hot-button issues such as abortion and gun control.

Partisans on one side or the other of the abortion and gun control debates often try to relate their positions to the Holocaust. Such a fact does not mean that an organization dedicated to preserving the history of the Holocaust should take a stand on such a topic. In fact, we should not do so, and we do not. The Holocaust History Project focuses on the Holocaust because it is our purpose. We do not address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict except tangentially when it relates to our purpose.