A Comparison of Sufferings
Pain and #suffering are both unquantifiable commodities. Is the death of a child worse than the death of an old man; how about 2 old men vs. one child, or maybe three children vs. a pregnant mother? Obviously these are unanswerable questions, yet we do ask them; perhaps we don’t do it loudly, but everyone has to make determinations everyday about what would be less painful or traumatic. At times, parents make these choices for their young ones and sometimes governments make these determinations for their people.
Having recently read the transcript of the speech that Obama gave at the University of Cairo, and having followed some of the media coverage on the subject, it came to my attention that many (presumably pro-Israeli) commentators were raising the question of moral equivalency in regards to Obama mentioning the suffering of the Palestinians immediately after having mentioned the suffering of the Jews during the holocaust. It seems that these commentators and political analysts felt that his mentioning of the holocaust did not have the appropriate isolation from any other subject as to warrant a rebuke.
There are a few problems with this statement.
Firstly, there is an attempt to frame the issue as a Jewish/Arab problem as opposed to a Palestinian/Israeli problem. If we are talking about Arabs and Jews, then why don’t these Arabs just go to any one of the many Arab states that surround them; they’re all Arabs after all. Also, if we refer to Israelis as Jews, then any anti-Israeli sentiment is (intentionally or unintentionally) misrepresented as anti-Semitism.
A dip note requiring a mention, Arabs too are Semites. It’s just that, most political analysts do not study anthropology, neither do they study linguistics.
Secondly, a few hundred thousand dead would be a more accurate description of the death toll on the Palestinian side as well as a few million dislocated and currently living in refugee camps.
Lastly, and most importantly, the holocaust is over. There is nothing we can do about the suffering that had happened except continue to keep the memory of the tragedy alive in the hopes of avoiding it in the future. On the other hand the Palestinian problem is ongoing; thus, are we going to wait until a reasonable comparison can be made, until 6 million Palestinians are also killed, do we perhaps need a catchy name for it or do we perhaps need something a little stronger than ‘the Palestinian Problem’ or ‘Crisis’ or worst of all ‘Issue’. Maybe we need a word like holocaust, something able to isolate “it” from any other human suffering; something to make it unique.
It is undeniable that the holocaust is the single greatest crime and tragedy to have befallen any people anywhere on the globe in the 20th century. It is undoubtedly clear that the pro Israel lobby is extremely sensitive to the suggestion that the victims have now become the criminals, just like an abused child matures to become an abusive parent. Furthermore, part of the defense against this accusation is the complete separation of the suffering of the Palestinians from any discussion of the holocaust.
Perhaps a law should be passed? One that requires any mention of the holocaust to be preceded and followed by a mandatory 2 minute silence to ensure that nobody gets the impression that anything is being compared to it.
Mahir Sayar, 2010