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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Holocaust survivor speaks for Palestinian sovereignty

By Jonathan McJunkin

Dr. Hajo Meyer, a political activist associated with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), spoke to Macalester students and community members on Tuesday night about the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relation to his experience as a holocaust survivor. The speech was the Twin Cities stop on the international “Never Again for Anyone Tour,” begun in Europe last year.Lakota activist Coya White Hat-Artichoker and Osama Abu Irshaid, founder of Palestinian-American newspaper AL MEZA, joined Dr. Meyer. White Hat-Artichoker spoke of the relation between the United States’ treatment of its indigenous populations throughout its history and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while Irshaid spoke about Muslim ethics and prejudices against Muslims in America.

Macalester’s John B. Davis Lecture hall was chosen as the venue for the Twin Cities in large part because of IJAN’s connections at Macalester. “When IJAN activists began looking for an appropriate-large, accessible, welcoming-location for Dr. Meyer’s talk, they asked me to look into space at Macalester,” said History professor Peter Rachleff.

Rachleff worked with IJAN on several events last year that were critical of Israeli conduct in Palestine. Said Rachleff, “I met a number of the local activists in IJAN at that time, worked with them on particular projects, and have continued to work with them since, most recently on the MN Break the Bonds campaign.”

The well-attended talk filled JBD to capacity. As shown by a show of hands early in the evening, about a third of those in attendance were Macalester students, and around a third were members of the Twin Cities community.

The first to speak was White-Hat Artichoker. She spoke of the parallels she saw between indigenous experience in the United States and the Palestinian experience in Israel.

“I see what is happening in Palestine as an indigenous struggle for sovereignty,” said White Hat-Artichoker, “at times, even to exist.” She drew inspiration from a friendship with a Palestinian refugee, and said that we should “stand in solidarity whenever possible” with the Palestinians, and try to “frame the struggle for resistance in a more just context.”

Dr. Meyer took the podium next. He described his experiences in Nazi Germany, the history of Zionism and his views on it, and the parallels between the treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza and the treatment of Jews in Germany before the holocaust.

Much of his speech focused on dehumanization in the abstract. “The basic crime of mankind is making distinctions between me and them,” said Dr. Meyer. He asserted that dehumanization is against human nature, and that it could only occur when people are dehumanized and “brainwashed” by their societies.

One of his most crowd-pleasing lines came after relating his experience of being denied education to denial of education in Gaza: “Preventing young people who want to learn from getting access to education is slow motion genocide.”

In reviewing Israeli history and current actions, Dr. Meyer commented on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more specifically in the later part of his talk. He specifically drew attention to Israel’s deportations of Palestinians to Jordan, making a connection to the practices of Nazi Germany before the holocaust began. He made the same connection between anti-Jewish laws and anti-Palestinian laws.

Dr. Meyer was clear to draw the line between Israel-Palestine and the mass murders of Nazi Germany in magnitude, but did not qualify his comparisons. “The smoke from the chimneys of Auschwitz takes the view away from what happened before,” he said of looking back at the history of Nazi Germany.

He closed his remarks with the reply of young IJAN activists to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We do not delegitimize Israel, you delegitimize yourself.” He received a standing ovation.

Irshaid was the last to speak. He spoke first on his background as a Muslim, and how Muslim ethics do not allow for the dehumanization of others. He had this to say on the Israel-Palestine conflict: “As long as this is an issue of intellectual discussion that doesn’t translate into aggression or oppression.I’m ok with this debate. Unfortunately, it didn’t take that course.”

He also spoke on the importance of language-such as referring to Palestinians as “The Muslim Problem” or “The Palestinian Problem.” Irshaid drew parallels to Nazi use of “The Jewish Problem.” “When you say “The Problem,” you take away the human face: the men, women, and children who are affected,” said Irshaid.

The over two-hour long presentation concluded with a brief question and answer session. The question that drew the most contention from the panel asked about Palestinian responsibilities for the conflict in the region. Dr. Meyer emphatically stated his belief in the legitimacy of Hamas, the governing party of the Gaza Strip. “If Hamas are terrorists, the fighters in the ghettos of Warsaw were also terrorists,” said Dr. Meyer.

Student and faculty reactions to the talk were mostly positive. “It was great to be able to hear perspectives from passionate people on the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” said Leewana Thomas ’14, “since I knew less about it than I thought. I thought it was great that they had an Islamic man and an indigenous woman speak [in addition to Dr. Meyer] to show the many faces and victims of genocide.”

Rachleff appreciated the controversy of the event’s messages. “I am sure that most of us present, myself included, had differences with some of the ideas expressed and criticisms of some of the speakers,” said Rachleff. “But we also learned a lot.

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