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February 2, 2016 7:05 am

The Sunday Times, the Holocaust and Israel: Have the Persecuted Become the Persecutors?

avatar by Adam Levick

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The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The gates of the Auschwitz death camp. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In 2013, David Ward (who was then an British MP for Bradford East) “faced intense criticism from the CST and other anti-racist and Holocaust education campaigners, when he wrote the following in reference to Holocaust Memorial Day.

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.

A year later, John Prescott (former British Deputy Prime Minister), in an op-ed about the war between Israel and Hamas, wrote the following in the Daily Mirror:

What happened to the Jewish people at the hands of the Nazis is appalling. But you would think those atrocities would give Israelis a unique sense of perspective and empathy with the victims of a ghetto.

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While many condemned the parallels that Ward and Prescott drew between Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews, the passage was compromised by another morally repellent trope — the suggestion that Jews, as a people, didn’t internalize the right lessons from the Holocaust, and have collectively forfeited any rights to sympathy by taking on the role of oppressor.

All of which brings us to an op-ed (“Do the right thing – long shadow of the Holocaust demands resolve,” Jan. 31) in The Sunday Times by Kevin Pringle, a Times columnist and former communications director for the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Pringle largely used his op-ed to praise education programs in Scotland’s schools by Holocaust Educational Trust (HET), but later pivoted to the creation of Israel which, he argued, became a moral imperative after the Nazi massacre of six million Jews.

Then, there was this:

After the Second World War and for many years thereafter, Israel was a cause and country supported by progressive opinion, which is hard to imagine now.

I deplore the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians — a tragic case of the persecuted become the persecutor — and wish to see an independent Palestine as part of a two-state solution. The suffering of Jews through history, however, gives me a sympathy for the people and state of Israel that I cannot, indeed do not want to, lose.

The Times columnist’s need to criticize (Israeli) Jews in an otherwise sober meditation on the tragedy of “the millions killed and many millions more unborn because of the Holocaust” reflects a common refrain suggesting that Israelis have ‘squandered’ sympathy due to their treatment of the Palestinians.

As Howard Jacobson characterized such critics who level the “you of all people” charge when lamenting Jews’ sub-par post-Shoah ethical performance:

[To such critics] the Holocaust becomes an educational experience from which Jews were ethically obliged to graduate summa cum laude, Israel being the proof that they didn’t.

In this extraordinarily misleading binary moral tale, reinforced continually in the UK media, not only are Israelis the oppressors and Palestinians the victims — erasing 67 years of Arab and Palestinian rejectionism, war, extremism, terror and endemic antisemitism — but Jews qua Jews have perversely assumed the role of their historic persecutors.

Of course, there’s an extremely important lesson about the Holocaust missed by Pringle.

Israel’s right to exist is not justified by the Holocaust. Nor should sympathy for the modern state of Israel be elicited by virtue of the suffering of previous generations of Jews.

Rather, Israel’s continued existence — its role as a safe haven for Jews in a dangerous region and an increasingly inhospitable world, its unique capacity to nurture Jewish life, culture, and tradition, and it’s capacity to safeguard Jewish continuity — serves as the only real answer — the final act of resistance — to the Nazis efforts to annihilate the Jews.

Holocaust education demands us to honor the memory of six million murdered Jews by honoring the continued sacrifices of six million living Jews.

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  • John Buttrick

    I lived in Jayyous, Palestine (West Bank) for 3 months in 2010 with the World Council of Churches EAPPI program. Daily, the farmers in this village of 2100 people, had to pass through Israeli check points to reach their fields. Regularly some were refused passage, and the rules for moving across the check point changed often. Four times in three months the Israeli army, IDF, entered the village at 3am, forced open doors of homes and took away teenage boys without charge. This village was under the administration of the Palestinian Authority but subject to Israeli military activity.

    These injustices and many more, such as home demolitions, are evidence of the Israeli military taking dignity away from Palestinians and holding them powerless.

  • Myron Robinson

    Well what does one expect. The world in the main hate Jews and it is only Jews who will look after our own together with those committed non-Jews who are unequivocal supporters of Israel. Stands to reason if one is not too old is to make Aliyah. Hopefully American Jews will vote for either Trump/Cruz/Rubio and not for either Clinton or Sanders. Since Justin Trudeau displaced Stephen Harper as prime minister, Canada has rapidly followed the Obama approach to Israel. Trudeau’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day message, like that of many European countries, omitted any mention of Jews. The rest of the world will follow soon. We must fight back on every media platform available.

  • Tommy

    There are three great ironies of the criticism for Israeli abuse of the “Palestinians”:

    1) I lived in Jerusalem when there actually was an occupation. Both Arabs and Jews were free to cross the 1949 “Green Line” at will. Many Arabs did so with the result that the Arab economy took off, per capita income soared, child mortality fell, life-expectancy and literacy increased. This progress came to an end as a result of the first intifadeh which was started to ensure that Arabs would NOT put this progress ahead of nationalist and religious goals and make peace with Israel. For Leftists, the reality demonstrated that capitalist economics worked, while their Marxist version doesn’t. That’s why the Left hates Israel today, because the reality of Israel is proof that the Left, which considers itself both intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us, is simply wrong.

    2) The “Palestinians” don’t want to have a state; they want the Jews NOT to have one. Thus, every effort to establish a “two-state” solution, which includes one for the Jews, contradicts the Palestinians’ own goals.

    3) During World War II, the leader of the Arabs (at the time “Palestinian” referred to the Jews in the Mandate) became a close ally of Hitler and did what he could to recruit Muslims to fight for the Nazis, using Nazi anti-Jewish materials to make the case. In my book, that means any Muslim who responded accepted Nazi ideology, which makes Islam compatible with Nazism. To now accuse the Jews of behaving like Nazis, when the Jews are actually behaving very differently, while the forebears of the “Palestinians” actually joined the Nazi effort, betrays unbelievable hypocrisy or ignorance.

  • Dani

    Talking about syndromes, the worst of all is the maniatic need that many antisemites have to judge jewish behavior anywhere in the world with not a pause skeeping any other important developments and tragedies that also happens in the world.

  • David Barrrett

    Simply Israel does not treat the so called Palestinians like the Germans treated the Jews in their ghettos. They have increased markedly in number ; they have a form of self rule , abused by Abbas; they are not short of bread and water ie food; they have their own transport system; they enjoy themselves in Israels malls and tan themselves on our beaches; many work in Israel proper and earn a good salary with full benefits . Many live in houses you would like to own and drive cars that I cannot afford . I cannot have any sympathy for them when they advocate killing Jews and making their ‘wanted’ land Judenrein. Their leadership is full of hate and pockets monies that should be going to its own population. Ward, Prescott and Pringle are ignorant shortsighted bigots who have no concept of what is happening in the ME

  • Robert Davis

    ward is an hypocrit or an idiot if not both to utter such lies. He may not have noted there are some différences between Auschwitz and the “palestinians’ suffering” : 1. No one was free to leave Auschwitz,did ward not notice it or is he blind and stupid? 2. “palestinians’ suffering” is PSYCHOLOGICAL not physical and comes only from frustration not to be able to kill all jews. Should we help them kill all jews so they doç not…suffer???????? lefters are a gang of totalitarian killers this is why they fit with arabs.

  • Stefano Shabtay Gay

    Why I can’t see all the 14 Comments ? Would be interesting to capt the other fellow sensation on such a thorny subject. Coop is appreciated.
    Shabtay

  • Josephine Bacon

    What is all this about “Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians?” Whoever heard of an “occupation” which had self-rule and a government of the “occupied” that was not a puppet but bitterly opposed to the “occupiers”? Do the people of Crimea have such autonomy, or of all the other regions occupied by Russia over the centuries? Do the people of Northern Cyprus? To equate the Holocaust with Israel’s rights to the West Bank and complete withdrawal from Gaza is total blasphemy and shows a deliberate ignorance of the way the Nazis behaved towards the Jews especially but also towards other ethnic minorities. Have they been to Ramallah and seen how prosperous it is? The Palestinians actually have TOO MUCH freedom, freedom to plant bombs, commit stabbings and attack Israel by every means possible, especially propaganda which is heavily funded by the wealthy Arab states who want to fuel the flames rather than help their fellow Muslims.The dupes who actually believe Arab propaganda, or want to believe it, such as John Prescott and David Ward, who must be aware of the facts, are loathsome.

  • Franklin Delano Paskutnik

    This equating of Israel’s behaviour with the Nazis is nothing but Christian propaganda – trying to find reasons to wash the Jewish blood off their anti-semitic hands. One must remember that for close to two thousand years the Christian world were the chief persecutors,oppressors and murderers of Jews – not Muslims,Hindus or pagans.The Holocaust happened in the heart of the Christian world – in so-called “civilized” Europe.The Nazis were of course Christians too : there are many recorded instances where Nazi concentration camp commanders went to Mass in the morning ,after which they resumed their jobs of murdering Jews! So much for all the Christian nonsense of “Love thy neighbour”!Two thousand years of inbred anti-semitism is not going to go away any time soon.The big difference today is that there is the Jewish State of Israel to protect,defend and stand up for Jews wherever they may be in the world.That the Jews actually have their own State maddens these Christian anti-semites who see in it a rejection of their core belief in the gospel of Matthew 27:15 – 26 : “His blood is on us and our children!”.And the Palestinians and their Muslim supporters are using these willing and “ready-made” anti-Jewish Christians as allies for their own nefarious anti-Israel purposes.

  • Mickey Oberman

    The warped minds and lies and propaganda of so many anti Semites are as responsible for today’s problems of the pseudo Palestinians as are the pseudo Palestinians themselves.

  • Haim

    The evil stupidity of those statements lies in a comparison between Holocaust and the self-inflicted woes of Palestinians.

  • Peter

    It’s sad but often the bullied unknowingly become bullies. When the majority of the world says that Israel are the bully, when 14 out of 15 judges from the international court of justice says that Israel is wrong then it is time for Israel to sit up and take a look in the mirror.

    • Yale

      Unfortunately, in this Leftist era in the international system, even judges don’t set politics aside to look at the facts. A politicized court that makes an anti-Israel “judgment” is no different from any other political body that is hostile to Jews and Israel.

    • Daniel

      Peter, unfortunately, the International Court has not advanced itself very far beyond the anti-Semitic mentality that brought about the Holocaust. They speak out of a willful ignorance of the facts if not out of pure hatred. They are controlled by those who want nothing less than Israel’s destruction. No, the Jews have not lost their direction. We are not committing the atrocities that they would like to believe that we are. But just as the Jews have not become worse, the rest of the world has not become much better. It is they who need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.

  • Myron Slater

    The British have always treated Jews poorly, starting with not allowing Jews to enter the Promised Land of Israel after World War 2 .This was to placate the Arabs so the British had access to the oil. They still have an antisemitic attitude, so any Jews living in England, should consider leaving for Israel.

  • art frank

    The brits have a long long history of Jew hatred fostered by the roman catholic church and the church of england. Two extremely evil entities.

  • Boris Borcic

    The boldfaced phrase supports the move, but I don’t find it quite fair to posit an equation of Pringle’s “Israel state’s treatment of Palestinians” to “criticize (Israeli) Jews” and the same bias again shows in the conclusion of “[Israel’s role] as a safe haven for Jews in […] an increasingly inhospitable world” that fails to measure how “Israel state’s treatment of Palestinians” itself is the main driver of the world getting “increasingly inhospitable” to (non Israeli) Jews. The Diaspora is hostage to Zionism – a weird form of hostage-taking that’s all the more conductive to a Stockholm Syndrome.

    • Leon Rogson

      Boris Borcic is just another example of the anti-Semitism affecting the world community.

      Compare Israel’s treatment of non Israeli Palestinians (i.e. Arabs living in areas of Judea and Samaria) with the treatment of Jews, Christians, Kurds, Sunni’s and Shiites within the Shiite and Non-Shiite areas of the Middle East, let me know how Israel comes off in:
      1. Number of persons killed
      2. Number of persons who fled as refugees
      3. Medical services
      4. Income
      In other words, let’s actually compare instead of insult.
      Leon

    • Ephraim

      What you, and all the bigots out there miss, is that Israel is not abusing the Arabs. It is the Arabs who are abusing the Jews. Most of the area the Arabs want for a Palestinian state are administered by the PA, not Israel. The rest of the lands are disputed, and there is ample reason for Israel to lay claim to them.

      By turning it around and equating Israel with South Africa or Nazi Germany, it is nothing short of the sophistry to end all sophistries. The fact is, if the Arabs would stop murdering Jews, especially mothers, children, and pregnant ladies, it would be possible for a final disposition to be made of the lands. Despite the incredible amount of antisemitism infecting the middle east and Europe today, the lands in question are disputed, as are many areas around the globe. No other country but Israel, however, is expected to tolerate mass murder of its citizens, and faces criticism if attempts to stop the bloodshed are not up to the critics’ standards. And no other country is demonized and ostracized than Israel. The facts on the ground are, for the most part, exactly the opposite of PA and Hamas narrative. Yet, the intensity of antisemitism is such that the poison created by these savages goes unquestioned.

    • EJ

      As evident by comparing the world’s reaction (usually very limited or none) to atrocities inflicted upon civilians across the board from any player other than Israel, it is clear that Israel’s “treatment” of ” Palestinians” has little to do with the hatred, inhospitable attitudes and anti-Jewish bias that is brought forth against Jews worldwide. Although it does provide a convenient hypocritical rationalization. But by all means, don’t let facts or truth get in the way of expressing your anti-Jewish self-righteous indignation.

      “Discussion” about Israel has become so weighed down with false historical perceptions, skewed anti-Israel propaganda and outright lies that it borders on the surreal. Which is exactly the goal that Jew haters and Israel’s enemies have worked so tirelessly to achieve.

      You can be pleased in the knowledge that you are doing your part to ensure the deception and disinformation continues. Know however that Israel is not going to lay down its arms and go peacefully into oblivion.

    • What?

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