It is perhaps more disappointing than surprising to report yet another example of the Holocaust being misappropriated by an MP as a stick with which to beat Israel. This time Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi was the culprit:
“What has struck me in all this is that the state of Israel was founded because of what happened to the millions and millions of Jews who suffered genocide. Their properties, homes and land – everything – were taken away, and they were deprived of rights. Of course, many millions perished.
“It is quite strange that some of the people who are running the state of Israel seem to be quite complacent and happy to allow the same to happen in Gaza.”
The initial response to complaints drew on the usual hackneyed excuses:
“These remarks were taken completely out of context. Yasmin Qureshi was not equating events in Gaza with the Holocaust. As an MP who has visited Auschwitz and has campaigned all her life against racism and anti-Semitism she would not do so.”
But the remarks clearly weren’t taken out of context as a link to the full transcript quickly demonstrates And neither visiting Auschwitz nor campaigning against racism guarantees immunity from slipping into bigoted thoughts or discourse. Even though Qureshi has now apologised, she still seems unwilling to face up to this fact.
“I am also personally hurt if people thought I meant this.
“As someone who has visited the crematoria and gas chambers of Auschwitz I know the Holocaust was the most brutal act of genocide of the 20th Century and no-one should seek to underestimate its impact.”
Although it’s Qureshi’s remarks which have attracted most attention, Marc Goldberg rightly draws attention to other aspects of the debate. He quotes Gerald Kaufman:
It is totally unacceptable that the Israelis should behave in such a way, but they do not care. Go to Tel Aviv, as I did not long ago, and watch them sitting complacently outside their pavement cafés. They do not give a damn about their fellow human beings perhaps half an hour away.
And then observes caustically:
Naturally the idea that an Israeli should be sitting in a cafe is despicable! I am sure Kaufman never goes and drinks a coffee while someone, somewhere in the world is in need.
Qureshi’s ill-judged words were a clear example of the ‘you of all people’ trope which Chas Newkey-Burden well describes here. Kaufman’s comment was less glaringly offensive, but it too reflects an impulse to hold Israelis to an unreasonably high standard.
Hat Tip: Mark Ferguson