Is burning the Israeli flag antisemitic? In Germany, it is the recurring statement of officials in interviews as if it were common knowledge and no one would interrogate it. People, likewise, reiterate what the media pump into minds as stative facts: non-fallible, non-thinkable, starting by the most accessible ways like the social media and not ending by the most sophisticated ones like of the published headlines. And although this is the art of making up cliches, political cliches in this respect, “burning the Israeli flag is antisemitic” as an epitome manifests at its utmost a blindfold policy against what is going on in this world. A slackened mind would not ask what basically has led to this action, whereas it is more urgent to know how this ‘reduction’ could aggravate the problem, and thus, entrench the problem?
Squarely and to make it clearer, burning the flag has nothing to do with resentment to Jews, collectively dubbed ‘antisemitism’, but it is an act of rejection of the Israeli policy. It has nothing to do with religion, but with politics. This, nonetheless, should not be understood as leniency towards violent attacks on synagogues. Indeed, such transgressions of populists on Jewish symbols are the direct outcome of the Western negligence to solve the ongoing and mushroomed crisis in the Middle East. Germany, particularly, a non-theocratic country needs to differentiate between Israel and the Jews if the country would ever step away from the post-war apologist policy and, consequently, get out of the purgatory it crammed itself in.
Today, while the breaking news is flashing on televisions and phone screens about the Palestinian-Israeli escalated violence on different frontlines, leastways in Jerusalem and Gaza, cliches are floating over a pile of victims from both sides. In the German media, the general tendency is to report only on those who are in the Israeli settlements, civilians and soldiers.
Like most people in this world, I had googled the issue about Sheikh Jarrah a couple of days ago. Like most physically distant people in the world to this hotspot in the Middle East, I had checked the Israeli and Arab websites alike. But soon later, I shut them all down and thought of the memorial days on the German calendar of WWII I used to recognise around the year. The latest was the 8th of May: the end of the war and the commemoration of Sophia Scholl whose birthday is on the 9th of May. Indeed, in a panoptic view, while such a seismic event, the war, is a catastrophe, and its remembrance is a milestone in human history, individual stories (like Sophie’s, or individuals’ photos), would vignette detailed personal misery. Micro-histories, in this context, are easier to be identified, compared or contrasted. If the holocaust is unique, is it? morals and emotions of fear, anger, repulsion, yearnings, fragility, nostalgia and amnesia among others are common universal traits that define us all as humans.
In relevance to what is going on today in Palestine-Israel, and since I am highly taken by what this country, Germany, had once witnessed, I pondered over two photos that turned up on my screen mostly due to social media algorithms. Almost 70 years fall in between and a fine thread of history.
The first photo is one of the thousands that were archived for at least two reasons: to unveil the Nazi exclusion policy in assuming race supremacy; second, to bring justice to victims. Though it shows Nazi brutality at its lowest level, it was used as evidence in Nuremberg’s courtroom –the famous trials that led to change the modern international law– to convict the Nazi regime of committing systemic racial discrimination and genocides against the Jews. Today in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood families are evicted from their homes for new settlers.
Well, it is either that: the soldiers in the second photo do not have any blood-kinship to ‘their Volk/people’ in the above-photo? Or they, like all of us humans, are afflicted by the primitive fish memory. So we perpetually play the roles of victim/victimiser, and the same gallows’ rope that once strangled us we use it to strangle the others !?
On the 09.05.2021, Times of Israel reported: “In all, over 70 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are set to be evicted in the coming weeks, to be replaced by right-wing Jewish Israelis. The Palestinians live in houses built on land that courts have ruled were owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel 1948.”
Well, back to the first photo. Long after the end of the war and the courts, and in a moment of an awakening to that human tragedy, displaced and murdered victims were commemorated by placing bronze stones (Stolpersteine) at the entrance to their original homes. They were engraved with their names, birth dates, places and estimated dates of death. The ownership of these houses was shifted after the war. These houses were owned by Germans due to the absence of their original owners and heirs. At our house’s, for example, there are three stones, I used to step beside them whenever I come-by. I wonder what would the Germans do today if any of the inheritors, inside or overseas, shows up and claims the ancestors’ homes?!
All of these questions are legitimate in light of the absence of an international role in resolving this crisis. There is a dire necessity to address them all as a serious step towards human justice and definitely to provoke more. Because I’m afraid we should admit that a double-scale policy would only generate double human misery, and that history will obviously not stop repeating itself.
© Background Photo: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheich_Dscharrah#/media/Datei:Jarrah22.jpg
© A German photograph of evacuation of Jews, used in the Nuremberg Trials: https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/photograph-records/72-892
© Forced evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/442061/european-powers-tell-israel-to-stop-settlement-expansion-amid-tension-in-jerusalem