Dear Commons Community,
There is an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times by Eva Weisel, a sixty-nine year old retiree living in Los Angeles but who in 1942 managed to escape German soldiers along with her family. There have been tens of thousands of these heroic stories but the interesting twist in this one is that it occurred in Tunisia and the rescuer was an Arab. Ms. Weisel makes the case that her rescuer, Khaled Abdul Wahab, deserves recognition for his heroic deed but has been denied it by the Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial museum because he is an Arab Muslim. In her own words:
“During the horrors of the Holocaust, non-Jews saved many thousands of Jews from death and depravity at the hands of Germans and their allies. Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial museum, has recognized more than 23,000 of these brave men and women as “The Righteous Among the Nations.” Our family’s rescuer deserves to be among that number. And in his case, the impact of recognition would have powerful reverberations, striking a blow against Holocaust denial in a part of the world where such denial is widespread.
That is because my hometown is Mahdia, on the eastern shore of Tunisia, and our rescuer, Khaled Abdul Wahab, was an Arab Muslim. (He passed away in 1997.)
So far, however, Abdul Wahab has been denied the recognition he deserves. Nearly five years ago, in January 2007, the Department of the Righteous at Yad Vashem nominated him to be a “righteous,” the first Arab ever to be formally considered for this honor. This nomination was based on witness testimony from my late sister, Anny Boukris. In March of that year, however, the official Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, a body presided over by a retired Israeli judge and created by Israeli law to decide who merits recognition as a “righteous,” voted to reject the nomination…
Sixty-nine years after pinning a yellow star to my chest in my native land, I know that I was able to enjoy a long, full life because Abdul Wahab confronted evil and saved me, as he saved other fortunate members of my family. I hope that Yad Vashem reconsiders his case before no one is left to tell his story.”
Besides the deserved honor, Ms. Weisel is right to make the point that Abdul Wahab’s recognition would have “powerful reverberations” in the Middle East today.