The British Daily Mail reported on 25 January that a Liberal Democrat MP in the UK faces expulsion from his party for saying that supporters of Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinian people had not learned from the Nazi Holocaust murder of six million Jews.
The reactions of Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, and Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to UK Liberal Democrat MP David Ward’s observations regarding Holocaust Memorial Day go far in proving Ward’s point. The reality is that the Palestinians are suffering in their own homeland, because they are not Jews, at the hands of a state that arrogantly claims to represent all Jews. There are, of course, many Jewish individuals and organisations, their voices sadly muffled by the mass corporate news media, that are horrified by Israel’s conduct.
The pursuit of Israel’s territorial ambitions involves land theft, house demolitions, segregated roads, cruelty to Palestinian children and sabotage of Palestinian agriculture. These crimes represent just some of the Israeli state’s daily violations of international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention was enacted precisely because of world community revulsion at the horrors of ideologically-driven acts of inhumanity and the determination that such persecution should never be tolerated.
According to the Daily Mail report, Jon Benjamin found the idea “shocking” and “outrageous” that those who suffered the unspeakable cruelties inflicted upon them by the Nazis should support Palestinian human rights! The article quotes Benjamin: “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.” He went further – “For an MP to have made such comments on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day is even more distasteful, and we welcome the fact that the Liberal Democrats have sought to disassociate the party from David Ward’s comments.” If the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews does not consider Holocaust Memorial Day a most appropriate occasion for standing resolutely against human rights abuses anywhere in the world, then David Ward’s comments are timely.
The Daily Mail also quotes Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust: “. . . Mr Ward has deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust causing deep pain and offence – these comments are sickening and unacceptable and have no place in British politics.” Pollock’s criticism of Ward suggests that to be moved at such a time with compassion for a people suffering under a great injustice is sickening and unacceptable. The greatest honour that could be given to the memory and sacrifice of the victims of the Holocaust is to enable fresh generations to better understand the dangers inherent in allowing those who abuse human rights to do so with impunity.
Conservative MP Robert Halfon went even further and actually justified Israel’s conduct, asserting that David Ward’s comments were “a tragic trivialisation of real evil.” If Israel’s supporters do not consider Israel’s bombing of homes, schools and hospitals and burning children with white phosphorus to be a real evil then they are, indeed, incapable of learning from the past. The Tory MP’s comment that, “It should be remembered that Israel withdrew from Gaza. . .” raises the question – why were Israel and its settlements occupying Gaza in the first place – and at what cost to the Palestinian people? Most of Gaza’s present population are refugees, driven there against their will by Israel.
Holocaust Memorial Day should sear our consciences and, more to the point, it should inspire us to defend all who continue to suffer injustice and oppression.