Friday, 25 January 2013

David Ward talks offensive nonsense about "the Jews"

Appalled to read Lib Dem MP David Ward's comments about the things that he considers "the Jews" to have done to the Palestinians: http://order-order.com/2013/01/25/libdem-mp-in-the-jews-holocaust-meltdown/. Pleased to see a statement from my party saying: "This is a matter we take extremely seriously. The Liberal Democrats deeply regret and condemn the statement issued by David Ward and his use of language which is unacceptable."

Does Mr Ward equally condemn "the Muslims" for atrocities committed by Pakistan in Bangladesh in 1971 (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_Bangladesh_atrocities - atrocities that actually appear to have killed far more people than have died in the entirety of the Israel/Palestine conflict)? If Mr Ward did so condemn "the Muslims" for the past actions of some Pakistani soldiers, then he would be stigmatising an entire global community for the perceived actions of one country's soldiers some decades ago, just as he is stigmatising the entire global Jewish community for the perceived actions of some Israeli soldiers some decades ago.

Has history taught Mr Ward nothing about the dangers associated with using the language of condemnation to describe "the Jews", "the Gypsies", "the Arabs", "the Bosnian Muslims", "the Tutsis", "the gays" - demonising "the other" by ascribing malign characteristics not to individual human beings, but to whole categories of human being - in this case "the Jews"?

If Mr Ward really has said: "It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated" then he is talking about me and my views on "how others should be treated". He is not talking about some Israelis; he is talking about all Jews: Israeli Jews, English Jews, Indian Jews, Guatemalan Jews - all of these people, says Mr Ward, have a problem regarding "their views on how others should be treated".

And if "the Jews" are to be portrayed by Mr Ward as being people whose "views on how others should be treated" are problematic, then does he also believe that "the Jews" should be condemned for holding such views - a belief that would be shared by those antisemites whose condemnation of "the Jews" leads them to carry out such atrocities as last year's murderous attack on a Jewish school in France (http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-17426313)?

I confidently assume that Mr Ward believes no such thing, in which case he should come right out and say so, given the appalling language that he has used. As Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg put it in a speech in 2010:

"...it is outrageous...that some people's feelings about a conflict in the Middle East should create a climate of opinion in which British Jews are attacked and threatened both verbally and physically. No amount of anger about overseas events can ever justify hostility, let alone hatred, towards British Jews."

Words that Mr Ward might wish to ponder as he considers the full implications of his comments about "the Jews".

As for Mr Ward's comments on the Holocaust, I'd be interested to read precise details of how, within a few years of the Holocaust, "the Jews" carried out "atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza." Upon reading the history of Arabs living in the new State of Israel (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_citizens_of_Israel), I do not see anything about "atrocities" - perhaps Mr Ward could enlighten me? When I read Amnesty International's latest annual report on the Palestinian territories (http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/israel-occupied-palestinian-territories/report-2012), I read much that concerns me, but I do not read about "(atrocities) on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza".

As I have written before (http://matthewfharris.blogspot.com/2011/06/who-now-remembers-armenians.html?m=1), Israel's 1947-49 War of Independence involved atrocities committed by both sides, and sparked the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Jewish and Arab people, creating injustices that remain unresolved to this day - hence the need for a peaceful, just solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including the creation of a viable Palestinian state that will co-exist with a secure State of Israel.

From the Sabra and Shatila massacre to last year's bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv, many people have done many terrible things throughout the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - things that are worthy of condemnation, without resorting to the language of demonisation, be one's demons "the Jews", "the Arabs", "the Lebanese", "the Israelis", "the Palestinians"; such language gets us nowhere, and actually delays the day on which peace will have been achieved between Israel, the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours.

Nothing that has happened in Israel/Palestine is so bad as to stand comparison with the genocidal murder of millions of Jews and other people in the Holocaust. To compare Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (or some Palestinians' hatred of Israelis) with what happened in Nazi death camps is to misunderstand the former and to trivialise the latter. Also, to suggest that Jewish suffering in the Holocaust means that Jews should now know better than to behave as badly as everyone else behaves is to hold Jews to a higher standard than others are held to, with the Holocaust thus becoming not a cause of sympathy for "the Jews", but another reason to criticise "the Jews" - and that stinks.

1 comment:

  1. Harris - the letter was not written by the Lib Dems it was issued by the leadership. Many in the party supported what David said. Israel is an apartheid state and we should not close our eyes simply because the pro Israeli lobby disagree.

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