The US Holocaust Memorial Museum
YASSER ARAFAT AT the US Holocaust Memorial Museum? That was the brainstorm of Dennis Ross and Aaron Miller, the State Department's top Middle East negotiators. They wanted Arafat to visit America's foremost memorial to the victims of the Nazis in the belief, The Washington Post reported, that it would help him "understand the fears of an adversary he has experienced primarily as a regional superpower."
Arafat agreed to go — if the museum rolled out the red carpet and welcomed him as a head of state. But the Palestinian Authority that Arafat rules is not a state, and the museum declined to treat him as more than a private visitor, albeit one who would be "received with the greatest courtesy." In a huff, Arafat said he wouldn't go. Whereupon the State Department started twisting arms — the museum's, not Arafat's — and on Tuesday the museum reversed itself. The VIP treatment will be laid on. Now, Arafat purrs, "I am keen to visit this museum."
At first glance, it seems grotesque — worse than grotesque — to invite this generation's most famous murderer of Jews to a place consecrated to the memory of 6 million murdered Jews.
To this day, after all, the Palestine National Covenant — the charter of Arafat's PLO — calls for a second Holocaust: the violent liquidation of Israel. To this day, Arafat has never repudiated the savage massacres of civilians he and his comrades perpetrated — the schoolchildren at Ma'alot, the Olympic athletes in Munich, the worshippers at the Istanbul synagogue, the commuter buses, the passenger planes, the crowded vegetable markets. To this day, Arafat praises terrorists who blow up Israeli kids as "martyrs to the revolution" and grants safe haven to those who escape to Palestinian territory.
Arafat at the Holocaust Museum? What could be more revolting, when his own spokesmen deny there even was a Holocaust? His aide Abu Mazen, chief Palestinian architect of the Oslo accords, wrote a book insisting that the Nazis killed not 6 million Jews but a small fraction of that number. Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the Palestinian Authority newspaper, calls the Holocaust "the forged claims of the Zionists regarding the alleged acts of slaughter perpetrated against the Jews." Even the Palestinian Red Cross decries "the lie of the gas chambers." Of all people, Arafat at the Holocaust Museum?
Let Arafat come. In all his barbarism and ugly Jew-hatred, let him come. If he wants a red carpet, give him one. If he wants a brass band, give him that, too.
There is a lesson for Arafat at the Holocaust Museum, and it isn't that there was a Holocaust. It isn't that the Nazis stuffed hundreds of thousands of children into gas chambers. It isn't that they rounded up Jews from Norway to Greece and shipped them to extermination camps. It isn't that in order to carry out the Final Solution, they mobilized the mightiest killing machinery Europe had ever seen.
It is that they failed.
Let Arafat see. Let him stare at the model of Auschwitz, at its ovens and lethal "showers," at the staggering pile of victims' shoes — and understand from what depths the Jews have climbed. Let him gaze at photos of the Einsatzgruppen, grinning as they machine-gunned Jews into pits. Let him hear about the ghettos in Kovno, Lodz, Warsaw, where disease was horrific and starvation ruthless. And let him think: If they couldn't wipe out the Jews, what chance do the PLO or Hamas have?
Day in, day out, Palestinian officials preach that "all of Palestine" must be "liberated." They tell their children that Jews are poisoning their food and infecting them with AIDS. They kill Arabs who sell land to Jews. They hold rallies to celebrate when Jews are killed. "We know only one word," cries Arafat. "Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!"
Well, let him walk through the Holocaust Museum and acquire some perspective. The mighty Nazis, with all the treasure and power at their command, with all their German efficiency and science, couldn't achieve the Final Solution. Does Arafat think he is going to destroy the Jewish state? Does he think the people who stumbled half-dead from the camps and now have a country of their own learned nothing from the experience?
How shrewd Arafat thinks he is. In English he talks peace, peace, but when he speaks in Arabic to Arab audiences, he affirms the PLO's "phased plan" of 1974. Phase 1: Establish a Palestinian state on any territory from which Israel is persuaded to withdraw. Phase 2: Use that state as a base from which to attack the rest of Israel.
Hitler was shrewd, too. He manipulated his way to power, manipulated the German public, manipulated France and England, manipulated Stalin. At the Holocaust Museum, Arafat can ponder just how far the Fuhrer's shrewd manipulations carried him. His "thousand-year Reich" lasted 12 years, and he committed suicide in his bunker. He murdered a million and a half Jewish children, yet the Jewish people live on, secure in their little state.
Arafat murdered Jewish children, too. He still cheers when others do so. He still hopes to drive, as he used to phrase it, the Jews into the sea.
Fine. Bring him to the Holocaust Museum. Let him see what became of the Nazis — and the Jews they tried to erase. The Jews he tries to erase. Let him learn the 11th Commandment, the one added after Auschwitz, the one neither he nor anyone else is going to repeal:
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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