Barakeh storms out of Yad Vashem lecture
As part of delegation to travel to Poland on anniversary of Auschwitz liberation, Hadash chairman attends lecture on contemporary anti-Semitism at Holocaust remembrance museum, but storms out when lecturer points finger at communists, Arabs, says lecturer 'belittling Holocaust'
Hadash Chairman Mohammad Barakeh, who is slated to travel to Poland as part of an official Knesset delegation on the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, on Tuesday walked out of a lecture held for the members of the delegation at Yad Vashem.
Ynet has learned that Barakeh was angered by remarks made by the lecturer, who made accusations against communists and Arabs in the Muslim World. Barakeh said the lecturer called them anti-Semites due to claims they have raised against the Israeli government. Yad Vashem sources said Barakeh chose to distort the lecturer's words and they regret the MKs actions.
Barakeh accused the lecturer of belittling the Holocaust, said he would have no part in the farce, and stormed out of the auditorium. "I regret that there are people who try to use this terrible tragedy in order to push a political agenda," Barakeh said.
On Tuesday, the delegation scheduled to travel to Poland at the end of the month visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority Museum in preparation for their trip.
This was MK Barakeh's first visit to the site. "This was my first time there. It was a painful tour through the chronicles of Nazi crimes. It left a deep impression on me, and when they said that we are about to hear a lecture, I thought each word after such a tour would be redundant."
The delegation members were taken into a lecture hall by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who will not be taking part in the official delegation, and Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev.
The lecture was on contemporary anti-Semitism and was given by one of the site's employees.
'Belittling the Holocaust'
"The lecturer opened saying that today anti-Semitism does not just belong to the extreme right, but that anti-Semitism also belongs to streams in the Left, communism and Arabs. He started giving examples of television programs in Arab countries which portray images of the Elders of Zion. At that point I jumped out of my seat and said I would have no part in the farce," Barakeh recounted.
Shortly after leaving the room, Barakeh accused the lecturer of belittling the Holocaust, and reiterated that after such a tour, there was no need for words. The Yad Vashem chairman and the lecturer asked Barakeh to wait and hear the lecture through to the end, but Barakeh refused and stormed out.
"From the start I was weary of any approaches that commercialize the Holocaust and its survivors, and this is why, when I expressed my willingness to take part in the delegation, I said I had no plans of taking part in the symposiums to be held in Poland, and that I only wish to take part in the march, in order to connect with the silent outcry of the victims of this horrible tragedy," MK Barakeh told Ynet.
"We may not be able to change the past, but the lesson of the Holocaust and the Nazis' crimes is to try and build a different tomorrow, in a more humane way."
'We regret Barakeh chose to leave lecture'
Yad Vashem sources confirmed the incident, but said they did not understand Barakeh's actions, and that the comments he claims to have heard were never made.
Yad Vashem Spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said in response: "The Yad Vashem lecturer never said that anyone who criticizes the State of Israel is an anti-Semite, this is a distortion of his words by MK Barakeh. The MKs are traveling to the symposium in Poland and one of the subjects to be discussed with other parliament members from throughout Europe is the war on contemporary anti-Semitism.
"The Knesset has requested Yad Vashem help prepare the MKs in the delegation, and it was therefore decided that, alongside the guided tour, there should also be a lecture on this subject."
Of the incident, the spokeswoman said: "Ten minutes after the lecturer began reviewing expressions and waves of contemporary anti-Semitism, MK Barakeh chose to leave the room. The expressions of contemporary anti-Semitism also pertain to contemporary politics.
"I regret that MK Barakeh chose to leave to room at the start of the lecture and not listen or debate in the discussion. Yad Vashem is confident that MK Barakeh will continue in constructive dialogue with us regarding the teaching and studying of the Holocaust. We welcome his visit to the site."