Never say "Never Again" - if you know what's good for you
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, or at least it is in Britain. Elsewhere in the world the Holocaust is commemorated on the 27th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, which this year makes it April 8th. You might think it typical of the slapdash approach of Tony Blair's government to human rights (the UK anniversary was inaugurated in 2001, just in time for the massive campaign of religiously-targeted murder initiated by Tone and his Washington organ-grinder later that year) that they would get the day right and the month wrong, but in fact the international date wasn't agreed until 2005: up to then there were only national days in Germany, the UK, and elsewhere. Our date was picked as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, which is fair enough.
Ths Holocaust, of course, is all about the murder of Jews. That wasn't always the case, though: the term was once used to refer to all the targeted mass murder carried out by the Nazis (the term means "total burning", after all). Indeed, its use to describe general atrocities predates the rise of Nazism (see here). It wasn't until the late 1970s that the term "Holocaust" was (for most people) completely hijacked for the sole use of the six million Jewish victims of Nazi genocide, leaving the remaining five million looking around for another term. Of course, many people (and I am proud to count myself among them) refuse to narrow the Holocaust's scope and continue to include Roma, Slavs, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, blacks, socialists, Freemasons, trade unionists and all the rest in our commemorations. (I do wonder whether they may be a degree of ambiguity in the "five million" figure: how is a victim counted if he was a homosexual Jewish communist?) The international Holocaust Remembrance Day (the one in April) also calls on us to remember the victims of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, so maybe the tide of usage is turning away from Jewish specificity.
Bradford MP, David Ward, signed the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment in the House of Commons. Ward clearly believes that the spirit of remembrance encompasses all acts of ethnic cleansing, even if the word is officially applied only to the worst examples. In a speech he made after signing, he said
"Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."
Well, from the reaction you would think he had called for the re-opening of Auschwitz as an extermination plant, meanwhile demanding the declalation of Hitler's birthday as a national holiday.
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said she was "deeply saddened" that the MP had "deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust". She added: "These comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics."
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: "We are outraged and shocked at these offensive comments about Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the suggestion that Jews should have learned a lesson from the experience.
(Jon Benjamin's comment demonstrates in the most eloquent way possible that some Jews, such as himself, have indeed learned nothing whatsoever from the experience.)
Because of the readiness of the Israel lobby to shriek "anti-semitism!" the instant any aspect of Israeli government policy is criticised, even by Jews, Mr Ward might have predicted the reaction, but read his remark again. He is talking about the action of Jews in "the new state of Israel". Israel wasn't founded by Sikhs; it wasn't established as a permanent homeland for the Mongolian people; its flag does not contain a Yin-Yang symbol. It is a Jewish state, established for Jews (and to this day run primarily for their benefit), so it is no more than simple accuracy to describe those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Israel's Arab population as "Jews in Israel". Unless of course one believes that the Arabs were responsible for their own dispossession, exile and murder, in the same way that some people believe that the Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves. Israel, was, and is, a state where non-Jews are second-class citizens at best. These days non-Jews are allowed to sit in the Knesset, but as the recent election demonstrated, the system is designed to ensure the continuation in power of the current regime. (Of course, as the last Scottish parliamentary election showed, sometimes the will of the people can overcome a system with built-in bias, so there is some hope for Israeli democracy in the future.)
The fervour of the witch-hunt against David Ward for speaking out against the continuing ethnic cleansing of Arabs from the Jewish state, the theft of their property and the murder of their children, is vile. If the power-at-any-price mentality that saw the Liberal Democrat party jump at the chance to disavow the policies on which they were elected and join a Tory government had not been enough to disgust me with the LibDems, this shameful episode would have done so. When I was a student, the Liberal Party - which evolved into the Liberal Democrats - was the most principled party in British politics, a party that supported the weak against the strong, that wanted to work with our European neighbours to end isolationism, and believed a better world was worth fighting for. Now it is a party which stands up for vile human rights abusers against their critics, that eagerly backs the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and which now sits back smiling while the Prime Minister propses to ease Britain out of the EU altogether.
So today I shall be remembering the victims of the Holocaust - the Jews and all the rest. I shall also raise a glass tonight to David Ward MP, for having the courage to speak out against those, whether Jews or Liberal Democrats, who have forgotten the lessons of the Holocaust.
"I swore never to be silent whenever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." (Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and 1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner)