Members of the Im Tirzu organization protested on Monday night outside the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, as the organization prepares to launch a controversial new book published by the United Kibbutz Movement.
The book conflates the Holocaust with what Arabs term the "Nakba” - the decision by hundreds of thousands of Arabs to leave their homes during the War of Independence to make way for the Arab armies who promised to “throw the Jews into the sea.”
Instead of victoriously returning to a province occupied by seven Arab armies to divide the booty of 600,000 dead Jews, the “1948 Arabs," were resettled by Arab countries in refugee camps, prevented from becoming citizens or progressing economically or socially.
The book - The Holocaust and the Nakba: Memory, National Identity and Jewish-Arab Partnership - the Van Leer Institute says, “grew out of the meetings of a group of educators - Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel - who came together in 2008 at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute to consider jointly the Holocaust and the Nakba."
"Both the Nakba and the Holocaust shaped the fate and the identity of two peoples, albeit each in a totally different way,” the Van Leer Institute said, with Jewish and Arab writers and philosophers “seeking to grapple with this issue.”
Im Tirzu protestors don't quite see it that way, with demonstrators on Monday holding up signs showing images of the infamous meeting between the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, with Adolf Hitler.
The proceedings of that meeting are unknown, but many suspect that Husseini expressed his support for Hitler's persecution of Jews, offering the help of Arabs in implementing the Final Solution.
The protest began with a moment of silence in honor of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust.
Holocaust survivor Yosef Kleinman, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau during the war and later testified at the trial against Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, was among the protestors.
"Two weeks ago I heard this symposium was taking place the Van Leer Institute. I was shocked," Kleinman recalled. "How can we even make a claim like that. More people were murdered in one day at Auschwitz then all of their 'Nakba.'"
"I was there and I was here in 1948 too and I know what was there [in Auschwitz]. Four chimneys emitting black smoke day and night. When that wasn't enough, they dug pits and buried and burned corpses in those pits. There were days when the smoke didn't reach the sky, but dispersed and covered all of Auschwitz-Birkenau."
"Based on this, they say the so-called 'Nakba' was similar to our Holocaust? The Arabs wanted to destroy us," Kleinman asserted. "They fled from here because their leaders told them it would be easier that way to destroy us."
"Now they come...just to denigrate the people of Israel. It's an illness," he blasted.
In an earlier letter the group sent to to Uzi Shavit, the head of the United Kibbutz Movement, Im Tirzu demanded the organization remove its name as a publisher.
“As the official publishing house of the kibbutz movement, I wish to remind you that your movement is the home of those who fought bravely in the Warsaw Ghetto and established kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot in memory of those who fell in that battle."
"How can you place the Holocaust on the same level as the losses of the Arabs in our War of Independence?" Im Tirtzu posed. "This is a shame you will never live down. More people were killed in one day of the Holocaust than in the entire so-called Nakba."