Posts tagged ‘Belfast’

April 1, 2008

-Part III: Only fifteen minutes from Buchenwald –

Two summers ago, while visiting a gray place called Belfast I have managed to encounter an astounding array of antisemitic observations. As far as I could gather, the excuse for this maddening racism is Catholic Irish solidarity with the Palestinians as occupied people. Since those who chose to inflict their racism upon me were Catholic and not Protestant, I couldn’t help but wonder: Would the antisemitic stop if the government of Israel works to establish a free Palestinian state? The sad truth is that the answer is no. After all, throughout history Catholics were those who gave Jewish people trouble everywhere in Europe (and, in fact, also to Gypsies in Prussia, Muslims in medieval Spain and witches in Victorian Massachusetts). Solving the issues between Israel and Palestine will not have a great affect on the fundamental beliefs of religious extremists. It will not change the basic hate some have for those who do not follow the same messiah.

Taking the ferry back to Liverpool I have to admit feeling relieved to go back to ‘safety’. Maybe other Israeli tourists just come around, enjoy the greenery and the beer and disregard the insane amount of anti-Israeli graffiti. As a visitor to the West Bank and an appreciator of anti-occupation graffiti, it was quite moving to see how some are active for others on such a far corner of the world.
But there was one in particular, which read: “Palestine – the largest concentration camp in the world”. Since it is a direct comparison to the Nazi Concentration Camps I must protest: in Palestine there are no gas chambers and there are no medical experiences conducted on the inhabitants. I am willing to accept the ‘Ghetto’ comparison, taking into account that Ghettos existed long before WW2, even during the Middle Ages. I am also aware that it wasn’t the Germans who invented the term “concentration camps”, it was actually invented by the Brits. In any case, I am in awe when people use this term to describe Palestine and even more so, when these people are using Palestine as an excuse for antisemitism.

In Berlin, a city that at some dark time in history, allowed Jewish people entry only through the garbage gates, how could it be that in these dark times of today, it served as a safe place for them?
It does indeed seem that Germany has become Israel’s best friend (after the US, that is). Secretly selling us weapons and openly apologizing for Germany’s gruesome history: Only a week ago did Angela Merkel give a speech in the Knesset saying that Germans feel ashamed of their past.
But Germany’s past cannot protect me from the present. Back at the language school in Schöneberg, I sat in class with some Irish teenagers who were eagerly checking me out. But when my turn came to introduce myself and say where I was from, they all turned away and never spoke to me again.

During this last year in Berlin, the past haunts me as well, and when my dear man wants to take me around Germany, I am reluctant. I want to see Germany, for her mountains, cultured cities, rivers, lakes and beer gardens, but these names on the map bring up harsh associations. Weimar is where I wanted to go, the home of Goethe (even though he did send Heine away when the last came to visit his hero). Making trip plans I checked out http://www.weimar.de and was instantly given recommendations to come and visit Buchenwald. This reminded me of a good friend of my Mother’s, who was invited by a German man to participate in a theater festival he was managing. “Only fifteen minutes from Buchenwald!”, he promised repeatedly.

The town of Weimar we never got around to visit.

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