I was moved, when I saw the news about you and Yad Vashem in April this year. According to the press, you were fired because you told a group of Yeshiva students about Deir Yassin and suggested to them that there are parallels between the Nakba and the Holocaust.
You were right, but I think Yad Vashem was also right to fire you. Certainly, the Holocaust's lessons would derive from historical study, including comparison with other genocides and related events, but that is beyond the purpose of Yad Vashem.
As a visitor to a museum and as a participant in a guided tour one has a right to be presented only with facts and documentation. I remember being upset, when visiting Yad Vashem the first time, about 40 years ago by a guide, who kept on commenting and interpreting, just as I was once by a tourist guide in Rome, who kept on comparing the Roman empire with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Incidentally, I visited the new Yad Vashem in 2007 and was positively impressed by it (well, I had carefully avoided any guide).
Nonetheless, I feel strongly that you did the right thing. Being neither a Jew nor an Israeli, but with a strong affinity to your country, I believe that its future depends on people with your kind of courage. Israelis have to come to terms with what happened in 1948 and examine all that went wrong since then because of the blindness on both sides. Only on that basis would it be possible to discuss face to face with Palestinians the meaning of peace and justice.
For this, it would also be necessary to overcome the Israeli ambiguity about the Shoah. The history of Israel cannot be understood without knowing the Shoah. But that being said, Israel should make it clear that the nation is not built on the ashes of Auschwitz. Both because it isn't and because the insistence on remembrance of the Shoah as part of Israel's genesis is unhelpful to any peace process.
Itamar, it is of course intriguing that we have the same surname. I would not mind continuing correspondence with you, because I suspect, we share many ideas and would also disagree on some points.
Basle, Switzerland 16 August 2009