By:Yoav Stern, Haaretz – 29 Apr 2009
Yad Vashem has fired an instructor who compared the trauma of Jewish Holocaust survivors with the trauma experienced by the Palestinian people in Israel’s War of Independence.
Itamar Shapira, 29, of Jerusalem, was fired before Passover from his job as a docent at the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, after a teacher with a group of yeshiva students from Efrat made a complaint. Shapira had worked at Yad Vashem for three and a half years.
This is the first time that Yad Vashem has fired a guide over political differences, an institution official said Wednesday. Shapira confirmed, in a telephone conversation with Haaretz, that he had spoken to visitors about the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin.
He said he did so because the ruins of the Arab village, today a part of Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul neighborhood, can be seen as one leaves Yad Vashem.
“Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors’ arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world’s Jews. I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation,” Shapira said.
“The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation’s trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things,” he said.
A Yad Vashem official said the institution objects to any political use of the Holocaust, especially by a docent working for it.
The institution’s position is that the Holocaust cannot be compared to any other event and that every visitor can draw his own political conclusions.
Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said that after holding a hearing for Shapira, at which he refused to accept his superiors’ instructions and change his teaching methods, it was decided to terminate his job as a guide in the institute’s school for Holocaust studies.
“Yad Vashem would have acted unprofessionally had Itamar Shapira continued his educational work for the institute,” Rosenberg said.
Yad Vashem employs workers and volunteers from the entire political and social spectrum, who know how to separate their personal position from their work, she said.
Shapira said Yad Vashem chooses to examine only some of the events that took place in the War of Indpendence. “It is being hypocritical. I only tried to expose the visitors to the facts, not to political conclusions. If Yad Vashem chooses to ignore the facts, for example the massacre at Dir Yassin, or the Nakba [“The Catastrophe,” the Palestinians’ term for what happened to them after 1948], it means that it’s afraid of something and that its historic approach is flawed,” Shapira said.