On Holocaust Memorial Day on Monday, The Atlantic magazine published the back story to an unusual student trip to Auschwitz, in March, organized by al-Quds University Professor Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi, who was attacked by the Arab media and Palestinian Authority figures for teaching the Jewish Holocaust to the 27 students that went to see the Nazi concentration camp with their own eyes.
The Atlantic published an Op-Ed written by Zeina Barakat, a doctoral candidate at Friedrich Schiller University, in Jena, Germany, who was mentored in the American Studies department by Daoudi, with whom she co-authored a Holocaust curriculum created for Palestinian students. Barakat was also the coordinator for the trip that brought 27 Palestinian students to bear witness to the Jewish Holocaust at the camp.
Barakat credited Daoudi with teaching her “a line from To Kill a Mockingbird that I remember him showing us in American culture class years ago. In the film, Atticus Finch turns to his daughter Scout and says: ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ It is the same idea that the Japanese call oyakudachi, which means, ‘walking in the shoes of the other.’”
“Professor Dajani emphasized the importance of looking at the other person as if you are the other person. Only then can you truly understand how that person feels and why,” Barakat said. “Beyond this educational purpose, there was no political agenda to our trip.”
She said “Professor Dajani’s purpose in having his students learn about the Holocaust is to broaden their understanding of the psyche of ‘the other.’”
“Learning about the Holocaust—and its universal message about the threat of intolerance and genocide—has been a central theme of our work,” she said. “Together, we co-authored with Martin Rau a book in Arabic on the Holocaust to create awareness of this most tragic event among Palestinians.”
“We distributed the book both inside and outside the university, delivered lectures to civic groups, and showed films on the Holocaust in our workshops. More than once, we took our students to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Finally, the time came to travel to Auschwitz-Birkenau.”
“As a doctoral student, it is impossible for me to make believe that there was no human tragedy perpetrated against millions of Jews and non-Jews during the Second World War. The Holocaust is a fact, and we all have a sacred responsibility to ensure that it never happens again to Jews or any other group,” Barakat said.
“I believe our trip made a big crack in the Palestinian wall of ignorance and indifference about the Holocaust. The recent statement by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recognizing the Holocaust as the ‘most heinous crime’ against humanity in modern history made another crack. Perhaps one day soon this wall will collapse.”