Qureshi under fire for equating Israel’s actions with the Holocaust

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

11 Responses to “Qureshi under fire for equating Israel’s actions with the Holocaust”

  1. Leuw Says:

    I also find this statement problematic.

    ‘We should thank my hon. Friend Mr Clappison, because this is a debate and both sides of the issue have to be put. I am sure that everyone in this Chamber is totally committed to Israelis being allowed to live in peace and security in their state. Given the appalling oppression that they have suffered historically, how could anyone disagree with that?’

    This pushes the erroneous view that somehow Jews ‘deserve’ a state of their own, not as a matter of right (the right of self-determination available to all other peoples, including, of course, the Palestinians), but because of how badly Jews were treated ‘historically’.

    Such a view offers the framework for people like Qureshi and Ward to then compare the present day actions of the Israeli state to what Jews have ‘historically suffered’. In the light of this comparison one of the conclusions to be reached is that what was once ‘deserved’ is no longer ‘deserved’ now.

    And, as against every other state in the world, Israeli actions are compared against the barbarity of the states that caused such ‘historical suffering’ rather than the objective standards of International law and human rights (of which, of course, Israel is worse then some and better than others – that is, no better or worse than other states). For this comparison to be effective, Israel’s wrongs have to be framed as if they were the same as that ‘historical suffering’ (including, of course, genocide) despite the fact that it is precisely this history that cannot be compared.

    Yet, this is not the only way in which reality gives way to fantasy, Leigh’s views continues to perpetrate the myth that Israel came into being because of some notion of (Holocaust) guilt; that, somehow, after all this ‘historical suffering’, states and politicians around the world were suddenly hit with so much remorse and guilt that they immediately helped Israel into being. A nice story, but only if one forgets about the anti-colonial war the future Israelis fought against the British and only if one believes that that the USSR’s recognition of Israel (the first state to do so), was the result of that big-hearted softy Stalin (who was responsible for the murder of millions as well as betraying the Polish resistance) being moved at such horror rather than cold political calculation (along with a host of other facts).

    Part of that ‘historical suffering’ was to see (and make) Jews the exception. Today, some are using that past in such a way that continues that inglorious tradition.

    • Barbara Mazor Says:

      Good points, Leuw.

      Point of information: The US was the first country to recognize the provisional government of Israel, de facto recognition. It gave Israel de jure recognition following elections in Jan ’49. The USSR was the 7th country to recognize Israel, although the first to give de jure recognition.

      • Leuw Says:

        Thanks for the info. Considering the amount of misinformation and myths surrounding all of this, I wasn’t that far wrong!!
        Can I ask for the source, so I can read up even more on this?

    • Noga Says:

      ” Given the appalling oppression that they have suffered historically, how could anyone disagree with that?’

      This pushes the erroneous view that somehow Jews ‘deserve’ a state of their own, not as a matter of right (the right of self-determination available to all other peoples, including, of course, the Palestinians), but because of how badly Jews were treated ‘historically’.”

      Furthermore, the appalling oppression of Jews has not stopped with the establishment of statehood. There has not been one moment of peace and security for Israelis in the last 100 years. It’s been one massacre after another, one war after another, one terrorist attack after another, one threat of annihilation after another. The Jews of Israel have been the target of either wars, boundless violence, or political campaigns of de-legitimization, demonization and boycotts. Israelis deserve to live in peace and security because it is their right as human beings to live in peace and security. This on-going, ceaseless, relentless anti-Israel propaganda is nothing short of preparing the warrant for genocide.

      BDS must be commended for its success in turning the demonization of Israelis into an art form, in the same way Medieval preachers turned Jews into a symbol of evil for the masses. I’ve recently watched a British movie, Page Eight, in which this success is blatantly dramatized, with self-righteous triumphalism. It sent a shiver of fear down my spine, literally. This is what BDS has wrought, such is its evil fruit. And make no mistake about, it is a success. Those who care about Israel must never let anybody forget that BDS is an effective demonization machine, not a force for peace, but a force for destruction. People who support it must be made aware what they are complicit with.

  2. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Why didn’t anyone ask Qureshi for evidence for her plain assertions? Then let her squirm in apology? As for Kaufman, I would think that he could find the same phenomenon in the cafés of Beirut (in supposedly safe areas, of course). Don’t notice any condemnation of their uncaring attitude. Not that I would expect one.

    • Paul M Says:

      How many cafés in the UK went under because British latte drinkers couldn’t bring themselves to take a sip whilst their military were killing people in Afghanistan and Iraq? I think we deserve to know.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Darn, I wish I’d thought of that analogy instead of the much weaker one I reached for.

        I may steal that at some time in the future, Paul (be warned if it turns up not under your name)!

  3. Jonathan Lowenstein Says:

    For the record, more people have been killed in Syria over the last three years then in all the Israeli conflicts put together, including all Arab states involved.

  4. Mark Says:

    I was thinking of popping over to Starbucks for a coffee and cake but considering all those poor Brits under water do people think it would be a bit – erm – distasteful of me?

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Well, Gerald Kauffman might, but what does he know? Actually, his grounds for distaste might rests on Starbucks enviable ability to generate profit, him being a supposed socialist or something.

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