This is a cross post from Mark Gardner at the CST.
On 18th July, the Liberal Democrats withdrew the whip from David Ward MP, saying his language in a tweet about Zionists and Israel was insufficiently “proportionate and precise”. Ward’s tweet:
Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?
The response of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, and chief whip Alistair Carmichael:
We were in unanimous agreement that questioning the continued existence of the state of Israel fails the test of language that is ‘proportionate and precise’.
CST commended the “proportionate and precise” language demand, but a strong editorial in the Times was also surely correct when it stated that Ward “doesn’t need to change his words, he needs to change his mind”.
Ward’s tweet was the last straw that finally broke the Lib Dem camel’s back. It had beenschlepping bales of Ward straw since January, ever since he signed a Holocaust memorial book in the House of Commons and stated:
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.
Ten days before Ward’s overdue (and overly brief) suspension, another Lib Dem MP, Sir Bob Russell, was in the Commons abusing Holocaust memory on behalf of Palestinians. He is for Holocaust education, but thinks Palestinians deserve equal mention. He asked:
The Secretary of State referred to more coverage of world history. On the assumption that the 20th century will include the Holocaust, will he give me an assurance that the life of Palestinians since 1948 will be given equal attention?
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, probably knows more about Holocaust memory, education, and political attacks upon it, than any other person in Britain today. She commented on Russell’s intellectual and moral idiocy:
To try to equate the events of the Holocaust, the systemised mass murder of six million Jews, with the conflict in the Middle East is simply inaccurate.
This studied understatement was too much for Sally FitzHarris, the Secretary of Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine. Back in January, FitzHarris said that Ward had “spoken for the vast majority of Liberal Democrats“. Now, she jumped to Russell’s defence, writing to the Jewish Chronicle (July 19):
Ms Karen Pollock…describes the Holocaust as “the systemised mass murder of six million Jews. (News, July 12)But at least five million non-Jews were killed. Or do gypsies, homosexuals, priests, communists, Slavs, black people, mentally and physically disabled et al not count?
To actually send such a letter to the Jewish Chronicle is a gross insult to Jews and their memory of the Holocaust. This, before any discussion of its potential libel of Karen Pollock MBE, with its implied accusation that she, of all people, denies or obscures Nazi crimes against non-Jews.
The historical and moral (and political) question as to whether Nazi crimes against non-Jews even constitute “the Holocaust” is yet another matter: but that is hardly likely to have motivated Sally FitzHarris’ two-fingered insult to Ms Pollock and the JC’s readers. By her own logic, if non-Jews “count”, then why is the anti-Israel mob only so obsessed with what lessons and actions Jews derive from the Holocaust? Or, as Chas Newkey-Burden has written:
Let us strip the “they-of-all-people” argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn; that it is you, not us, who need to clean up your act. It is an argument of atrocious, spiteful insanity.
Do not for one second think that “proportionate and precise” language is somehow exclusively a Liberal Democrat problem. It is immeasurably wider and more important than that.
Anti-Israel politics could be precisely that: anti-Israel, opposed to the policies of a state. They do not need to spit on Jewish sensibilities and they do not need to echo antisemitism, from blood libels to conspiracy charges and all points in between: but all too often they do.
The old ”Jew” is replaced by the new “Zionist“, fuelling and reflecting antisemitic attitudes across the board. As with last decade’s “neo Con” fad, it is now taken as axiomatic in many circles that Zionists are intrinsic to global power dynamics, the secret state, call it what you will.
Furthermore, in one breath, Israel is compared to both Nazi Germany and South Africa: as if Zionism, Nazi genocide and apartheid racism have equal meaning to each other, and to Jews. And in this way of thinking, as per Ward, Russell and now FitzHarris, the Holocaust is a weapon for attacking Israel, with Jews and Jewish sensibilities trashed as collateral damage.
It is right to demand that Liberal Democrats get their house in order, but they are only a very small and visible part of a far deeper and still evolving problem. An extreme variation of such dynamics can be seen in footage from a very recent gig by former Pink Floyd star, Roger Waters.
When Waters announced his “boycott Israel” position in the Guardian (where else?), he strongly stressed that Israeli (to say nothing of Jewish) opinion is highly diverse. And, anybody remotely familar with his The Wall knows he is no Jew-hater. Nevertheless, the flying pig in his new show now has a Star of David on it: along with totalitarian symbols.
Here, thousands of fans cheer the pig. A huge video shows Waters in pseudo-Nazi costume, machine gunning the audience with a copy of the same gun that many German soldiers would have used in mass shootings of approximately 1.5 million East European Jews (prior to the gas chamber programme).
The Star of David pig, the Nazi imagery and the machine gunning are statements againstNazism and oppression. Waters, and much of the audience, seem to derive greategotistical appeal in the anti-Nazi, anti-racist posturing. Jews will be somewhat less comfortable at such trends.