Page last updated at 20:11 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 21:11 UK

Yad Vashem removes 'rogue guide'

Display as Yad Vashem Holocaust museum
Museum officials say Yad Vashem is not for use in modern political arguments

Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem has fired one of its guides for making political statements about the plight of the Palestinians during his tours.

Visitors complained when Itamar Shapira likened the trauma of European Jews to the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) when Israel was founded in 1948.

Israeli media said it was the first such sacking at Yad Vashem.

Itamar Shapira accused the museum of having a "flawed approach" that ignored certain historical facts.

Yad Vashem's Estee Yaari told the BBC that Mr Shapira had violated clear prohibitions on employees pushing their own political viewpoints.

"Yad Vashem is an apolitical organisation and as such is careful to ensure that the professional work of Holocaust remembrance and commemoration will be separated from any political agenda," she told the BBC.

She said Itamar Shapira had been employed as a freelance guide by Yad Vashem's International School for Holocaust Studies for about two years.

"Recently, a complaint was lodged noting a number of problems with his guiding," she said. "After a discussion with school staff, he refused to change his guiding method and was let go."

Land and dignity

Mr Shapira, 29, who belongs to an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation group for ex-combatants, told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he had spoken to visitors about the massacre of villagers at Deir Yassin in Palestine by Jewish militants in April 1948.

"Yad Vashem talks about the Holocaust survivors' arrival in Israel and about creating a refuge here for the world's Jews," he told Haaretz.

"I said there were people who lived on this land and mentioned that there are other traumas that provide other nations with motivation.

"The Holocaust moved us to establish a Jewish state and the Palestinian nation's trauma is moving it to seek self-determination, identity, land and dignity, just as Zionism sought these things," he said.

Estee Yaari told the BBC by phone that Yad Vashem employed Israelis from across the political spectrum and the same restrictions apply to anyone introducing their personal political perspectives during their tours.

"Discussions of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are not appropriate during an educational guiding," she said.

Yad Vashem commemorates the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis during World War II, and includes a display about the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 where a majority of Holocaust survivors made new homes.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven out from their land when Israel was founded, and millions continue to live as refugees, a major grievance for Palestinians to this day.

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