Friday, 3 August 2018

It is possible to deplore the Shoah and sympathise with the Palestinians

Robert Fisk has been condemned as an anti-Semite by the more conservative media here and in the US. My regular reading of his columns in the Independent, when it was a decent print newspaper, led me to the conclusion that his prejudice was against overweening authority. He may well have become more shrill in his condemnation of the Israel government in recent years (I stopped reading the Indy when it went online only to the detriment of the features and columnists who had made it worthwhile), but back in 2006, this article summed up his even-handed approach. He is describing the second volume of diaries of Victor Klemperer, a cousin of the great conductor Otto, a German Jew who escaped Auschwitz by what seems now to be a series of miracles.

[Klemperer] showed great compassion for the Palestinian Arabs of the 1930s who feared that they would lose their homeland to a Jewish state.

"I cannot help myself," Klemperer writes on 2 November 1933, nine months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. "I sympathise with the Arabs who are in revolt (in Palestine), whose land is being 'bought'. A Red Indian fate, says Eva [Klemperer's wife]

Even more devastating is Klemperer's critique of Zionism - which he does not ameliorate even after Hitler's Holocaust of the Jews of Europe begins. "To me," he writes in June of 1934, "the Zionists, who want to go back to the Jewish state of AD70 ... are just as offensive as the Nazis. With their nosing after blood, their ancient 'cultural roots', their partly canting, partly obtuse winding back of the world they are altogether a match for the National Socialists..."

Yet Klemperer's day-by-day account of the Holocaust, the cruelty of the local Dresden Gestapo, the suicide of Jews as they are ordered to join the transports east, his early knowledge of Auschwitz - Klemperer got word of this most infamous of extermination camps as early as March 1942, although he did not realise the scale of the mass murders there until the closing months of the war - fill one with rage that anyone could still deny the reality of the Jewish genocide.

So comparison of hard-line Zionists with the Nazis - and by a holocaust survivor - goes back a long way. To be fair, those words were written before the systematic genocide of Jews and others had begun.

Fisk goes on to condemn the then President Ahmadinejad of Iran (and by implication all those other holocaust-deniers in Middle Eastern leadership positions).

For Ahmadinejad it was who called the Jewish Holocaust a "myth", who ostentatiously called for a conference - in Tehran, of course - to find out the truth about the genocide of six million Jews, which any sane historian acknowledges to be one of the terrible realities of the 20th century, along, of course, with the Holocaust of one and a half million Armenians in 1915. 

 The best reply to Ahmadinejad's childish nonsense came from ex-president Khatami of Iran, the only honourable Middle East leader of our time, whose refusal to countenance violence by his own supporters inevitably and sadly led to the demise of his "civil society" at the hands of more ruthless clerical opponents. "The death of even one Jew is a crime," Khatami said, thus destroying in one sentence the lie that his successor was trying to propagate. 

 Indeed, his words symbolised something more important: that the importance and the evil of the Holocaust do not depend on the Jewish identity of the victims. The awesome, wickedness of the Holocaust lies in the fact that the victims were human beings - just like you and me.

This is the point which Jeremy Corbyn was trying to make when he said that the Labour party condemned all racism. One might take him at his word, if there were not ample evidence of some of his more fervent supporters, particularly those with a south Asian background, repeating the old lies about Jewish control of finance and the media, and even trotting out the blood libel. No meaningful action has been taken against these people.

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