Last week my friend, Vincent Mespoulet, a history teacher in France and the founder of “Hors Les Murs” (School beyond Walls, an international online education community), posted a link to a Le Monde article on his wall. It was a news item dealing with the Jewish orthodox demonstration in Jerusalem, which used the yellow star of David as a tool to express their feelings: “A demonstration shocks Israel”, the title read.
Why did you post it, Vincent?
“To share information among my friends. I have many contacts who are interested in Israel and Palestine. Many are also interested in feminism and the status of women around the world. The topic of women has raised special interest during the current Arab revolutions. The French media publishes many articles about it. But while we are used to finding articles in European media about extremists in Islam, we are not used to hearing about such extreme behavior in Judaism. From here it sounds exactly like in Saudi Arabia.”
In what way?
“Oppression against women is an impact of religious extremist behavior. But we have to remember the fundamentalism around the world isn’t another word for “Islam”. This article shows that fundamentalism can happen everywhere and is not specific to a single religion. Intolerance can be found everywhere. Religious fanatics are trying to re-live religion as it was thousands or hundreds of years ago. They have to realize this is not possible. Take the Egyptian female blogger who published her own nude photos to defy fundamentalism in her own country.”
But you have another interest in this story.
“Yes, I am a history teacher. As a history teacher these images where especially shocking for me. The German where shocked, and the Jewish community in Germany was ashamed. It is a cheap use of the Shoa (the Holocaust) for propaganda. Commercializing the Shoa whether of propaganda or any other use is unacceptable anywhere in the world. I would think in Israel too. It is hurting the memory of the Shoa.
When you see these people in Israel protest this way you think they are not only mad, but they don’t know history. Don’t they learn history in schools? These people don’t really understand what had transpired then. To use the Shoa this way is shocking when used by anyone, more so when used by Jewish people in Israel.”
Could you work out the connection between the topic of the demonstration and the Holocaust visual?
“Not really. There is no connection between their rights to discriminate against women and the Shoa. There is just a fantastic connection in their minds. Unfortunately such small groups of extremists gather strength through this sort of propaganda. I would think your country needs a big debate on how history is taught throughout the country. I think people outside Israel wouldn’t dare instrumentalise the Shoa, especially in Europe. Sometimes you encounter a very small group of a few provocators that might attempt this. But to construct a full demonstration based on it… It’s all a matter of education.”