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Holocaust survivor Irene Shashar calls for ‘united Middle East’ during Brussels visit

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Holocaust survivor and author Irene Shashar told Euronews during a visit to Brussels to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day that she “dreams of a peaceful Middle East” modelled on the European Union.

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“If I have a neighbour, like in Europe, a united Europe, next to me, I can live with that neighbour in peace, it could be two, three, five, seven or 10 (neighbours). Exactly like in Europe, like a Europe united. Why can’t we have a United Middle East?” she said.

Asked whether she supports the two-state solution, one for Israel where she lives and the other for Palestine, the 86-year-old said it is possible as long as Israel’s neighbours recognise the country’s right to existence.

“For peace to come, we have to be able to live on our land, which was given to us by the UN. The land is ours, we want it to flourish, we want to enjoy freedom, equality, understanding, life as such,” she said.

Born Ruth Lewkowicz in 1937, in Poland, she recounts in her book ‘I won against Hitler’ her experience as a “hidden child” in the Warsaw Ghetto established by the Nazis and which she moved into when she was five.

Shashar’s father was killed by the Nazis in the ghetto, and her mother and her managed to escape soon after through the sewer. They then moved to Paris after the war but Shahar was orphaned as a teenager and moved to live with extended family in Peru.

She studied in the US and, at the age of 25, moved to Israel where she became the youngest professor at the Hebrew University.

“Survivors go to a better place, slowly but surely, we are not going to live forever. I think we have to leave a testimony for the next generations,” Shashar said to Euronews to explain her reason for writing the memoir, released last year. She also said of genocide that “we are not to allow for it to happen ever again”. 

Shashar described the October 7 attack by Hamas, which is designated a terror group by the EU and US, as “a great tragedy” and strongly rejected accusations of genocide perpetrated by Israel and brought in front of the International Court of Justice by South Africa earlier this month. 

Israel’s retaliatory operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip has already caused more than 25,000 Palestinian deaths, according to the local authorities.

“After what we experienced on October 7th, are they coming to accuse us? We are defending ourselves, trying to prevent this from happening again. Accusing us of something like that… it’s just not understandable.” Shashar told Euronews.

The UN court however issued provisional measures on Friday calling on Israel to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide, prevent any destruction of evidence and ensure humanitarian access. But it did not order a ceasefire.

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