Monday, March 24, 2014

  • Monday, March 24, 2014
  • Elder of Ziyon
Elisheva Goldberg at The Forward says "Harvard Group Was Right To Visit Arafat's Grave."

After dismissing critics of the trip, including me, as "far right blogs," she misses the point completely:

The point is that allowing students to engage in conversation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Palestinians themselves is still taboo among the American Jewish establishment. And it’s high time that changed.

First, let’s establish the obvious: These Harvard students were well within their rights — on purely touristic grounds — to visit even the tomb of a man as reprehensible as Arafat. Imagine going on an educational tour of Berlin and not stopping at Hitler’s bunker. Or trying to see the sites of a conflict like the American Civil War without taking a look at the Confederate Memorial Carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Hitler killed 6 million Jews and 5 million others, but no one would argue that your visit to his bunker was meant to “honor” him. Davis, Lee and Jackson were considered war criminals in the North in their time, but no one is going to argue that you’re embracing their side of the Civil War at their monument. These students were not “paying homage” to Arafat. They were visiting a crucial site in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Goldberg's analogies are obviously bogus. The analogy to Arafat's grave is not Hitler's bunker; it would be a shrine to Hitler maintained by neo-Nazis. Contrariwise, the analogy to Hitler's bunker would be the room in the Muqata where Arafat made his decisions, which would be a quite appropriate place to visit.

Beyond that, her dishonesty is transparent. The smiling photo at Arafat's grave can in no way be compared to visiting a historic site. There is nothing historic about that gravesite; it is propaganda to make Arafat look like a leader of a nation and not the murderer of thousands. Even worse, thousands of Israelis  today have lost friends and loved ones because of the policy of this monster, still barely cold in the grave. It is not merely tasteless to pose at his grave, it is offensive. (Oh, I forgot. Arabs and Muslims are allowed to be offended in today's world, Jews are supposed to be better than that.)

This photo (detail below) of students smiling, clearly without having been told ahead of time how heinous Arafat was, is the problem. If they would have known, and known how much it hurts Jews to honor such a monster, they would never, ever have smiled. The students clearly were not told ahead of time how posing in front of his grave is hugely inappropriate. The Israeli-born Zionist student leaders of the trip should have refused to enter the building, and explained exactly why they refused, while allowing the students to make their own decisions.

That would have been educational. A mindless selfie-type image is not. And from what I can tell, the leaders of the trip are smiling right along with the students, despite their later claims that they "discussed how difficult it was for them to stand by the grave of a man so evil in their eyes." Sorry, I'm not buying it.

I never said that the students shouldn't hear the Palestinian Arab side of the story. On the contrary, from the mainstream media that often is all they hear; a trip like this is meant to show the Zionist side of the story. Even so, for this audience it would be entirely appropriate to hear a lecture from a Fatah leader in Ramallah.

Goldberg's embrace of open dialogue also rings hollow. Would she encourage the same students to visit and listen to the right-wing Jews in Hebron? Is she that liberal? Or does her embrace of seeing all sides of the story have some limits, where Jews who want to live in their ancestral homes are shunned but Arabs who want to ethnically cleanse them are to be embraced?

Moreover, for her to be consistent, she shouldn't only say she wants to see the undergraduates visit Hebron, but to also visit the grave of Baruch Goldstein. No doubt she is  more offended at that idea than visiting the grave of a far worse mass murderer. I would say that such a visit is inappropriate, but Goldberg can't do so easily without exposing her hypocrisy.

Perhaps this "far right blog" is more accepting of people hearing all sides of the story than progressive, liberal Forward columnists are.

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