The phrase on everyone’s lips about the Holocaust is ‘never again.’ Never again should we allow antisemitism to be propagated by journalists and politicians. However, over the past 60 years under the guise of attacking Israel, antisemitism has returned to be more potent then ever, encouraged by those who should know better. Two recent incidents in question that make this clear today, were a statement made by David Ward, the MP for Bradford East, and the publication of a cartoon by Gerald Scarfe, a leading cartoonist for The Sunday Times.
In a statement released on Friday 25th January, the MP for Bradford East, David Ward MP, compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis in the Holocaust. Upon signing the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, he stated “having visited Auschwitz twice – one with my family and one 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.”
Ward’s comments are antisemitic, as he compares Israel’s defense of itself and its own citizens against those seeking to destroy it, with the persecution and terrible mass slaughter of the Jews of Europe during World War 2. To compare the two is crass, wrong and trivializes the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Moreover, in truth it is groups like Hamas who are committed to the destruction of the Jewish nation, who in their genocidal actions are like Nazi like. Therefore, to compare Israel to Nazis is an insult to all those who suffered at the Nazis’ hands, as well as being completely false.
However, Ward did not stop there. When asked about these comments he then went on to say, “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.” Here, Mr. Ward appears to be blaming the entire Jewish race for the actions of Israel. According, to the universally accepted EUMC definition of antisemitism, this is clearly antisemitic. This would not be so worrying if it was coming from the lunatic fringes of British society, but this is coming from a senior Liberal Democrat MP, who seems to have been using the vehicle of Holocaust Memorial Day to criticize Jews. One would hope, despite his mealy mouthed apology saying that he intended no offense, that he has the Liberal Democrat whip withdrawn, just like Jenny Tonge had before him.
Unfortunately, this orgy of antisemitism in the run up to HMD did not stop before the day itself, The Sunday Times, one of the best read newspapers in the UK, which normally provides respected coverage on Israel and the Middle East, used antisemitic imagery, through the well known cartoonist Gerald Scarfe.
The cartoon in question depicted Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as an evil Quasimodo hunchback like figure building a wall over Palestinian bodies with the cement made of blood. This cartoon in its use of blood recalls the blood libels of the Middle Ages, where the Jews were accused of drinking the blood of children. This modern day blood libel is just as antisemitic and it is shocking that it was given an airing by a respected newspaper. Moreover, the use of antisemitic imagery to attack Israel for defending itself is the demonization of Israel, simply for being a Jewish state. All of this was made worse by the fact that this was printed on HMD, a time when we should be speaking out against antisemitism, not promoting it. It is something that both the Sunday Times and David Ward have willfully forgotten. Shamelessly, they seem to be using the publicity of HMD to criticize Jews and have tried to cover it up as reasoned and fair criticism of Israel, when it is nothing of the sort.
Many say that Jews today especially in the UK bang on about antisemitism too much. However, at a time when, according to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, this pernicious hatred of Jews is on the rise we are right to be worried. As long as it is still acceptable to criticize Israel in ways that are antisemitic by leading newspapers and politicians, then the fight against antisemitism is not over. The lessons of the Holocaust after all are that we cannot stay quiet in the face of prejudice, and I hope brave men and women will condemn purveyors of this horrific hatred.