How I could have believed such an invitation would head any way but south is beyond me. Yes, the museum was a living memorial to combating racism, hatred and genocide. But did I fully grasp that I was using hallowed memory and narrative for purposes that could affront the very people I was trying to persuade? For millions, the museum was a positive and powerful symbol of not forgetting -- just as, for so many, Arafat was a symbol of anti-Semitism, violence and insensitivity. The potential conflict and misunderstanding overwhelmed any opportunity for dialogue and understanding.At the time he saw none of these obstacles. Full of best intentions, he and his bosses ran headlong into a fiasco. Not because they were stupid, but because the world is a complicated place. Making predictions is always hard, but especially about the future.
And even if the visit had taken place, what would Arafat have said afterward? That he better understood the Israeli and Jewish sensibility but that they would have to understood Palestinian dispossession and suffering, too? That Israelis were perpetuating a genocide against Palestinians and demand equal time and space? The possibilities for disaster were too numerous to identify.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Arafat at the Holocaust Museum
Aaron Miller revisits the idea of inviting Arafat to visit the USHMM, the Holocaust museum in Washington: