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“It is kind of you to warn me about the Jews”

John Rentoul

david ward mp signing the book of commitment 199x300 It is kind of you to warn me about the JewsBest thing I’ve read all year was Daniel Finkelstein in The Times, 30 January, in response to David Ward, the Liberal Democrat MP of whom no one had heard until he said, as he signed the Holocaust Memorial Day Book of Commitment (pictured): “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.”*

Later that day, 25 January, Ward sought to clarify his views to The Commentator: “It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”

That was the sentence that Finkelstein took as his text. His article is behind the pay wall; it is worth subscribing to The Times for it alone, but here is some of it:

The comparison the MP made, between Jews and the Nazis, is a distressingly commonplace one. It pops up all the time in the anti-Semitic mail that I receive on a regular enough basis that I have developed a standard reply (“Dear Sir, Thank you for your note. It is kind of you to warn me about the Jews. I will certainly keep an eye out for them. They sound terrible. Daniel”). But in public, most people are subtle enough to use the word Zionist when they mean Jew…

While lecturing the survivors of the concentration camps and their children on the lessons they would have learnt if only they had been good people like him, David Ward did not only show a lack of proportion. He also showed a lack of insight…

When the Nazis invaded Holland, and arrested my family in their home, and stole their property, and killed their friends, and destroyed their community, and put them on trains to go to death camps, they were able to do it because they had the army and the soldiers and the guns. They were able to do it because the Jews were defenceless…

Wouldn’t it be good if no one ever had to die to allow others to live, and freedom didn’t need to protect itself with a rifle, and little girls could go to school in Pakistan without being shot? I want that world as fervently as anyone else.

But one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that wanting it is not enough. Israel is deep in a struggle to defend the Jews who live there against more death and confiscation and terror. Because the Jews have had enough of that, thank you very much.

It’s right to be critical when Israel gets it wrong. It is creditable to make the human rights of Palestinians a cause. But to forget that after genocide and destruction the Jews wanted a home they could defend? Never again.

* Yes, it is still there, on David Ward’s own blog.

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  • garybkatz

    You can believe or not believe in the Bible – not my concern – but you can’t discount archeological and historical evidence that Israel was the one and only Jewish country. Believe me, most of the invaders were not particularly religious. The Philistines? The Romans? Keep in mind Israel was often invaded by people who invaded everywhere else. Power, control and wealth were their goals, not religion.

  • anne_lapin

    It is as good as Holland. Israel is the Jewish (the religion of Jesus), democratic (rights for all) and civilized (no civil war, hanging of gays, women stoning, `honour` killing of girls by their own fathers and brothers, etc.) country in the region (0,00000…1% of the ME, 20% of Palestine). If you are going to compare Israel to those countries that declared war, then compare your (?) Britain to the Muslim Arab bloodty dictatorships of Egypt, Yemen, Iraq or Libya Britain attacked, to the Muslim terrorists in Afghanistan and Mali the British army is fighting now.

  • Recoloniser

    “The idiocy of putting a new state and population on top of an already existing one is fairly self-evident to me, as is the fact that Israel has no right to be there …”

    That is not an entirely accurate reflection of what happened. Yes, the Arab population of Palestine had been there for some time, subjects of various empires over the course of time. The last in that line was the Ottoman empire which went to war with Britain and France in 1914. The Ottoman empire had been tottering for a while and the war was the last straw. The British and French overran a large part of it, leaving only present-day Turkey to the heirs of the erstwhile empire.

    Britain and France then found themselves in charge of large tracts of the Middle-East and accepted a commission from the League of Nations to administer these as mandate lands until their destiny could be decided upon.

    Zionist Jews had been immigrating into Palestine, with the consent of the Turkish rulers since the beginning of the 20th century when the Zionist movement was founded. The lands they occupied were bought and paid for.

    After the Second World War the French and British were anxious to end their mandates in the Middle-East and the Holocaust had underlined the need for an actual state for the Jewish nation. Therefore, the UN, which as successor to the League of Nations was the legitimate sovereign entity in Palestine, decided to partition Palestine into an Israeli part and an Arab part. The partitioning was decided upon on the basis of demographic distribution.

    Israel decided, after some soul-searching, to accept the partitioning. The Arabs did not. They went to war and lost.

    Israel derives its legitimacy from a vote by the UN Assembly, i.e. all its then-current members. The UN was at that time the legitimate holder of sovereignty in Palestine and thus had the right to make that decision.

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