Selected Term Paper No. 10 / Oktober 2005
Die Erinnerung an die Shoah und der Nahostkonflikt.
Über die Wirksamkeit der Vergangenheit und die Problematik ihrer Instrumentalisierung

Katharina Böttges


It is the object of this paper to throw a light on the structure of the link between the Shoah (Holocaust) and the Middle-East conflict, its major issue being to show how the past has been instrumentalized by comparing the current Middle-East situation to the Shoah. Comparisons of this kind seem to strengthen their owners’ position but really make finding a way to peace more difficult because clinging to the memory of old and painful hardship distorts the perception of current events.
The way a people remembers its past may explain the hazard of this past being instrumentalized. This is shown by an overview of the history and development of remembering the Shoah in Israeli society and its impact on Israeli identity. The memory of the Shoah has been instrumentalized, mainly by politicians, since the very beginning of the Middle-East conflict. There are three major objects of Shoah comparison: first, to delegitimize inner opponents in Israel, second, to justify abroad its present policy of security and occupation, and, third, by the opponents of Israeli policy, to offer a measure of comparison to the Palestinians’ suffering. Their implications and effects render all three of them equally problematic.
Finding a way to peace in the Middle East is difficult enough in itself but close to impossible under the present conditions. To reach it, it is inevitable to stop using the recollection of the past for a comparison of hardships undergone. This does not mean forgetting the Shoah victims but it may present a means of preventing their abuse. Terrorism alone is a big enough threat even without constant reference to the Shoah. So permanent security can be gained only by a lasting peace with the Palestinians in their own state and not by demonizing them, saying that the exodus from Gaza is the way back to the crematories.