Nesreen Hajjaj, a 24-year-old German woman of Palestinian background, is one of 25 volunteer guides who introduce visitors to the exhibition at the Anne Frank Center in Berlin.
She has suffered criticism from fellow Palestinians, she has said, for undertaking that role, but maintains that “We must be open-minded toward different people, especially if you live within their societies.”
A laudable stance. But it does not qualify her for presenting the Holocaust to tourists and history buffs. In fact, her seeming reasonability only heightens the danger of her incredibly warped sense of reality.
Because, in an interview in the English version of the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, Ms. Hajjaj asserted that “many things that happened to the Jews during the Nazi rule are happening to the Palestinians now. Jewish people were kicked out of their homes and denied an education. Today Palestinian lands and houses are being conquered.”
Ms. Hajjaj didn’t indicate which Palestinians have been turned out of their homes because of their ethnicity or religion (and not because they were built illegally or harbored terrorists). There are none, of course. Nor does Israel prevent Arabs from attending schools.
What the misguided tour guide did do, though, and was her overarching goal, was to imply some comparison, ludicrous as it might be, between a mad, genocidal, evil regime and its victims. And, in the right mind, fertilized by the right sort of hatred, that image, despite its illogic, can grow. As Ms. Hajjaj clearly wants it to.
It is easy to just dismiss such insanity as unworthy of attention. But it is worthy of our attention, and more. Because even deranged notions have a way of finding, and resonating in, hearts primed for hatred.
And it isn’t just Palestinian fabulists who peddle such perversity. Thomas Lopez-Pierre is running a primary campaign against New York Democratic City Council member Mark Levine, who since 2014 has represented a district covering much of West Harlem in Upper Manhattan. Mr. Lopez-Pierre has repeatedly declared war against “greedy Jewish landlords,” his means of rousing the rabble, and accused Jewish landlords of the “ethnic cleansing” of blacks and Latinos.
He has since toned down his characterization of his boogieman. Now his social media postings refer to “(((Greedy landlords))).” Triple parentheses, or “echoes,” are a social media convention used by white supremacists to refer to Jews.
Not content, though, with borrowing a hate symbol from people who hate him as much as they do Jews, the City Council hopeful added a creative comparison last week.
“New York Jews,” he said, “look the other way as Jewish landlords engage in racial economic cleansing in New York City.” Just like “Good Germans looked the other way as German Jews were carted off by the Nazis.”
Gentrification and real estate development, in his demented mind, exists on some continuum with the Holocaust.
It is futile trying to make some sense of statements like those of Ms. Hajjaj and Mr. Lopez-Pierre. They defy any attempt to bring them into line with rational thought.
The reason is that they are born not of error or ignorance but of something darker, the same shadow that brings people to deface headstones in Jewish cemeteries. Are the graves of any other group routinely desecrated? There is something unique about the hatred for Jews that festers in evil hearts.
Of course, we are in galus, and such hatred should remind us of that fact. But to just dismiss it as something to be expected and something that won’t disappear until the goel tzedek arrives — both of which facts are true, to be sure — is not wise.
Not when there are fewer and fewer Jews, as the years proceed, who can bear personal witness to the horrors of what took place seven decades ago.
Not when history is routinely falsified and its established, documented facts denied by entire portions of the contemporary world.
Not when others refuse to perceive the malevolence in comparisons like those of the Palestinian guide and the Harlem politician.
When confronted with Ms. Hajjaj’s comments in her interview, Patrick Siegele, director of the Anne Frank Center, explained that her words were “incorrect and painful,” and would be discussed with Ms. Hajjaj. Moreover, he added, the comments do not “reflect the official position of the Anne Frank Center,” which even “distances itself from this position.”
For the director of an exhibit in central Berlin aimed at educating people about the history of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, there shouldn’t be sufficient space in the universe to provide the “distance” needed here.