Saturday, December 16, 2006

Khaled Kasab Mahameed

From The Forward: Iran Denies Visa to an Arab Shoah Scholar
Khaled Kasab Mahameed waited until the very last moment, hoping that his visa would come through. A Muslim lawyer from the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, he had reserved a seat on an afternoon flight December 10 from Amman to Tehran, expecting to address Iran’s international conference on the Holocaust. His bag was packed. His wife and two children were ready to take him at 9:00 a.m. to the Jordanian border crossing.

But at 9:00 a.m., his hopes were dashed. In a phone call to the Iranian Embassy in Amman, a clerk informed him that there was no visa waiting for him. “I was so disappointed,” he said. “I sat depressed, and I waited an hour and called again. Then another hour and called again. In the end, they said Israelis don’t get visas.”
[***]
Unlike Western leaders who spoke out against dignifying the conference by attending, Mahameed saw an opportunity. He believes that if Arabs and Muslims don’t study the Holocaust, if they continue to deny it, then they will not be able to deal with the conflicts they face.

“It’s very important that they begin to study the significance of the Holocaust,” Mahameed said. “It affects relations between East and West, and it dictates policy regarding the Palestinians in particular.”
[***]
The secret to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, according to Mahameed, depends on the Arabs and Muslims learning about the Holocaust — the subject of his lecture — and the Jews, in turn, getting over their fear.

“When you don’t understand the Holocaust, it hinders the peace process,” he said. “I wanted to go tell the Iranians that when you play down the Holocaust or deny it, you are directly hurting the Palestinian refugees who are in camps. By denying it, they are making the Jewish people feel persecuted — which doesn’t allow options for peace to develop.”
[***]
Like all messengers, Mahameed has not had an easy time. He stood at Kalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem on Auschwitz Remembrance Day last January, and at a conference held by controversial Arab Israeli lawmaker Azmi Bishara at which he distributed pamphlets about the Holocaust that he printed with his own money.

“People get angry and say, ‘No, I don’t want it,’” he said. He sometimes gets ugly comments on his Arabic-language Holocaust Web site. Once, he said, a Hamas activist threatened his life. Mahameed managed to convince him to give up firing Qassam rockets.

Mahameed remains optimistic. “Just give me two months, and I can make peace here,” he said. “You laugh. I’m serious.”

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