Monday, August 30, 2010

Where are the Nakba museums?

There is a new Holocaust museum within easy bike riding distance of my home. In downtown Chicago there is the excellent Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies.

The State of Illinois, by law, requires study of the Holocaust before students reach high school and also in high school. Here is the motivation for the law:

In November 1987, an outbreak of vandalism directed against Jewish stores and synagogues, prompted Erna I. Gans, Holocaust survivor and President of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, to issue a call for action to combat such violence with education in the form of a state mandate.

Everyone should know about the Holocaust and the Spertus Museum and the Holocaust Museum are excellent places for learning.

But the fact that a catastrophe is going on as we speak, as we visit the Spertus Institute or the Holocaust Museum, and by the very folks who are descendents of those who suffered, who are so well represented in these places - that this current, ongoing, United States funded catastrophe has nothing but silence to represent it, is a hypocrisy that is stunning.

How many times do we hear that two wrongs do not make a right? Are Palestinians any less innocent than were the Jews of Europe? It's quite true that Israel is not executing Palestinians outright, but to push a people out of their own land, to subject them to military justice, to deprive them of water, to prevent them building on their own property, to keep them from using the roads in their own land, to arrest them without warrants, without any reason given, to take them to prisons where their families cannot visit, to demand they have permits to leave and enter their own land - is this any less a catastrophe?

Today I am writing to my state representative and state senator. Here's my letter -

Senator Schoenberg:

In November 1987, an outbreak of vandalism directed against Jewish stores and synagogues, prompted Erna I. Gans, Holocaust survivor and President of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois, to issue a call for action to combat such violence with education in the form of a state mandate.

The result was the Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Mandate.

I am writing to you today to ask if you would be willing to help me get started on a similar campaign to educate Illinois youth on the long-term, yet current dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied territories held by Israel. There is only silence on this subject and I am concerned that our children, and even our citizens in general, are not aware that the United States is sending $3 billion yearly to a country that is systematically evicting an entire people from their homeland.

This is far more damaging than the acts of vandalism that spurred Ms. Gans effort, because it is being done by our country as a whole and, though the Holocaust is history, the eviction of the Palestinians, their loss of their land, is ongoing and has been for several decades. Unlike the Holocaust which we shamefully did nothing about, the horrors visited on the Palestinians as the Israeli settlements push them aside can be stopped immediately, if only more people were aware of how the United States supports it by continued yearly funding of Israel. You, as my state senator, are in an excellent position to get the word out.

You may reach me by return email or by telephone. As all the Israeli human rights organizations would agree - there is no time to lose on this issue.

Clif Brown

UPDATE - as of July, 2012 (almost two years since this post) there has been no reply from Mr. Schoenberg.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Clif,
    I admire you for doing this and keep it up. There needs to be at least 2 or 3 more Nakba monuments or museums in addition to the sculpture in Geneva, New York.
    However, the 'occupied territories' are not the West Bank and Jerusalem (and until recently the Gaza strip), but the whole of historic (or 'Mandate') Palestine. The original Nakba was carried out by David Ben-Gurion through Plan Dalet in 1947-49. This is the ethnic cleansing - with many murders, just as today - that is still going on now in 2012.
    We need funds, a place and artistic or architectural ideas to build these 2 or 3 places.
    Thanks.

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