Afif Safieh: 'I never compare the Palestinian Nakba to the Holocaust'

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The Independent Online

From the early 1970s until 1986 the Palestinian diplomatic representation was part of the Arab League, and until 1988 the mission was called PLO Information Office. The first PLO representative was the late Said Hamami, from the early seventies until he was assassinated in 1978. I am the fourth Palestinian representative in London. I do not know if there were any assassination attempts. Any way, if there were, they passed totally unnoticed by me. Concerning my health, yes I suffer from diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure and I am overweight and a chain smoker. My doctor, every time she sees me, tells me: "Bravo Afif for still being with us."

What does a Palestinian representative do? We have all the responsibilities, burdens and expectations of an embassy. Yet we neither have all the privileges nor the immunities nor the financial capabilities of a normal embassy. We are still a national liberation movement, still struggling for independence and statehood. We the Palestinians, we have become the Jews of the Israelis and today, because of our geographic dispersal, we are "a global tribe". With the right approach, we could turn that into a source of empowerment.

Wherever I happen to work, I devote a lot of time interacting with the Jewish community and many of its institutions. Some years ago, the Jewish Chronicle published a long letter of mine where I said that I never compare the Palestinian Nakba / Catastrophe to the Holocaust. Each tragedy stands on its own.

I never indulge in comparative martyrology. If I were a Jew or a Gypsy, Nazi barbarity would be the most horrible event in history. If I were a Native American it would be the arrival of European settlers that resulted in almost total extermination. If I were a black African, it would be slavery in previous centuries and apartheid during last century. If I were an Armenian, it would the Ottoman/Turkish massacres. If I were a Palestinian - and I happen to be one - it would be the Nakba. Humanity should condemn all the above. I do not know of a way to measure suffering or how to quantity pain but what I do know is that we are not children of a lesser god.