On May 7, at a small gathering of (mostly elderly) Israelis concerned for the future of their nation, a woman recounted the harrowing story of her escape from the Nazis.
She had been 12 years old, she said, when together with her mother and others she was lined up naked next to a trench, in front of a German machine-gunner. On her mother's advice she had fallen into the trench the instant she heard the gun open fire, and lay silently among the dead and dying women until night fell. Then, climbing out of the trench, she had taken a coat from the piles of victims' clothing, and escaped. But not before an SS man's dog took a bite out of her leg, and she heard its handler shout at him not to eat her "Jewish" flesh.
Her eyes brimming with fury and fear, the woman asked: "Did I escape that, and come to this land just to face it all again? Those who hate the Jews will get us in the end, and it will make no difference if their name is Hitler or Arafat."
Two days earlier, in flaming torchlight at Yad Vashem, Israeli President Ezer Weizman addressed the nation as it observed Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes' Remembrance Day and vowed "never again." Six days later, the president spoke again, this time as Israel remembered the 18 538 citizens who have died in Israel's wars, and at the hands of terrorists, since 1949.
"Day by day, moment by moment, in the course of my entire life as a soldier, as a commander, as a public servant and as president of Israel," Weizman said, "I have encountered bereavement and loss time and again The map of bereavement overlays the map of Israel, and the pain traverses the country from one end to the other."
Astonishingly, Weizman chose during that very week of mourning, to meet Yasser Arafat, the man who more than any other embodies the same specific hatred of the Jews as that which fuelled the Holocaust, and who has dedicated his life to wreaking death and pain on the Jewish people, and to tearing from them their historical homeland and haven state.
One wonders what manner of deception has duped Israelis into believing that there is anything really different between Hitler and Arafat. To Hitler the Jews were vermin. He depicted them as such and swore to destroy them once and for all. And he went a long way towards achieving his goal.
To Arafat the Jews are "dogs, filth and dirt," with whom he has promised to "settle accounts in the future". Were he to have his way, the Palestinian state he is trying to negotiate out of Israel would be the springboard used to wipe the Middle East clean of the Jewish state.
A measure of the evil in Arafat's heart was evidenced by his accusing Israel of sending the suicide bombers who--thank God--narrowly missed blowing up two busloads of Israeli schoolchildren in Gaza on April 1.
The Israeli response: Just because the bombs detonated too soon does not make those who sent them any less murderers than if they had succeeded.
Likewise, Arafat's inability to wipe out the Jews does not make him any less a perpetrator of genocide than he would be were he able to succeed. And it remains in his heart to succeed.
What is undeniable--and this has been so clearly visible in Israel during the week which began with the memorial to the victims of Nazi hatred, and ended with the memorial to the victims of Arab hatred--is that the violence engineered and directed by Arafat against the Jews, and the pain and fear he has sowed in their hearts, has had as great an impact on the Israeli mind and experience as has the Holocaust.
In 1991 US President George Bush called Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was then threatening to gas Israel, "worse than Hitler".
Yasser Arafat is far more deserving of that title.