Editorial: Remember, don’t repurpose, the Holocaust

Wednesday night marked the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, a period of mourning and reflection on the mass genocide of millions of Jews, Roma, Slavs, political dissidents, people with disabilities and gays victimized by the Nazis.

A student organization at Pitt, Students for Justice in Palestine, has planned an event in its commemoration.  

However, given the event’s potential for controversy, and out of concern for the University’s liability, we believe the University should remove the event’s OCC eligibility, which incentivizes students for their attendance.

SJP will co-host “Holocaust Remembrance Day: Edith Bell on Palestine,” with the Pittsburgh branch of Jewish Voice for Peace from 6 to 8 p.m. today in the William Pitt Union. Students can earn OCC credit by attending the event.

Bell, a holocaust survivor from Pittsburgh, plans to “share her experiences about her life under the Nazi regime, her later experiences in Israel and how her overall life experiences and witnesses have affected her stance on Palestine,” according to the group’s OCC event page. 

Israel’s relationship with Palestine has led to a variety of heated debates, but SJP’s position is clear. On the OCC’s website, the organization’s profile lists that it intends to “provide the community with a better understanding and to educate the media of the various issues concerning Palestine with efforts toward helping the region to reach a goal of peace and justice.”

Kenyon Bonner, vice provost and dean of students, said, “OCC designation does not imply University endorsement of an event’s stated and/or implied viewpoint.”

Though, by providing OCC credit for the event and rewarding students for attendance, the University is inadvertedly promoting SJP’s position. Given the controversial subject matter, we believe that the University should remain objective.

The OCC program is meant “to help students receive a well-rounded education,” according to Pitt’s website. One of the areas in which OCC promotes growth is “Global and Cultural Awareness.” 

Bonner also said “the event description for the Students for Justice in Palestine event fit into the global and cultural awareness goal area based on the description provided by SJP.”

However, we must respectfully disagree. Hosting an event that repurposes a symbolic occasion in the Jewish community as an advocation for conflicting interests does not promote “Global and Cultural Awareness.” It promotes a position.

We should remember and acknowledge the Holocaust without ulterior embellishment. As a University, we must not repurpose a historical abomination such as the Holocaust to fit modern tragedies and advocate personal stances.