Turn David Ward’s vile charge on its head

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As CST and others have reported, British MP David Ward (Liberal Democrat, Bradford East) recently decided to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day, observed internationally on Jan. 27 (the day, in 1945, that Auschwitz was liberated), by grossly debasing Holocaust memory.

On his website, there is an entry with the following title: ‘Bradford MP condemns Israel for treatment of Palestinians on the day he signs the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment’.

It begins thus:

Sunday January 27th will mark the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp which is the site of the largest mass murder in history. In the weeks running up to the day, the Holocaust Educational Trust placed a Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, giving MPs the chance to honour those who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and encouraging constituents to work together to combat prejudice and racism today.

Then there is a quote from Ward himself:

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.

While some have rightfully focused on the morally obscene comparison between casualties as the result of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Nazi extermination of six million Jew, there’s an element of Ward’s quote which is even more disturbing. It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that Jews, having faced unimaginable persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.

As Howard Jacobson argued, the argument leaves the Jewish people doubly damned: to the Holocaust itself and to elevated moral scrutiny as a result of it.  By this logic, Jacobson argued, “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.”

Further, as Chas Newkey-Burden so eloquently argued, those who employ the “they of all people” argument are, in essence, saying that it is Jews, and not the antisemites, who have lessons to learn – that it is Jews, not the antisemites, who need to clean up their act. 

Newkey-Burden:

“The Holocaust followed centuries of slander, persecution, violence and murder committed by gentiles against Jews. So it is not you who have an increased responsibility to behave morally, but us.

For instance, something that we gentiles should know better than to do is lazily accuse Jewish people, or the Jewish state itself, of any misdemeanour. We have seen what centuries of slander against the Jewish people led to during the 1930s and ’40s. We see the hatred, heartbreak and bloodshed that such anti-Jewish libels continue to provoke, particularly in the Middle East.

Yet much of the world still continues to delight in damning Israel with indecent haste. From Al Dura (the false claim that Israeli forces murdered a boy in Gaza) to Jenin, from the Goldstone Report to the Gaza flotilla; time and again the world has found Israel guilty of a particular crime before all the evidence was available. When the full picture emerged and exonerated Israel it was too late to undo the damage. We gentiles, of all people, should know better.”

Newkey-Burden’s urgent moral plea to resist those who would so debase Holocaust memory ends thusly:

“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 accept it; turn it back on those who offer it. For it is us, not you, who should know better.”

Turn David Ward’s vile charge on its head!

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