Haifa 3: The Financial Times & British politicians compare Israel to the Nazis

October 07, 2003

CONTENTS

1. The editors of the Financial Times
2. The Scotsman
3. "Minister under fire for Middle East-Holocaust comparison" (Independent, October 4, 2003)


[This is one of three dispatches I am sending today]

[Note by Tom Gross]

The UK Government minister responsible for Britain's "Holocaust Memorial Day," at an address to "The Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding," at the annual conference of Tony Blair's ruling British Labour Party, says we "could draw parallels" between the Holocaust and "what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today".

As a follow-up to my other dispatches of this morning on the Haifa attack, I attach three items from the British press from recent days, with summaries first:

1. The editors of the Financial Times -- which on Monday October 6 2003, chose to publish on its front page not a photo of the destroyed Haifa restaurant (there is no Sunday edition of the FT), nor of any of the funerals, nor of the 3 year-old-Israeli boy who remains in critical condition at a Haifa hospital -- printed a letter (attached in full below) titled "Wall of shame" comparing Majdanek concentration camp with Israel's security fence. (Note the word Holocaust is published by the Financial Times without a capital H, contradictory to the generally accepted usage of the term.)

2. The Scotsman, one of Scotland's leading papers, chose the day of the Haifa attack, to print an editorial comment by one of Britain's most senior politicians, Sir David Steel, former head of the Britain's centrist Liberal party. Sir David dubiously cites an unnamed "rabbi from New York" telling him in respect to Israel's security fence: "My God, this is like a Nazi ghetto." Sir David goes on to say, "The wall's construction is a combination of the old South African apartheid policy, together with communist East Germany's Berlin Wall" and in relation to the murder of Dr David Applebaum and his daughter in one of September's Jerusalem terror attacks, he refers to "mutual violence in the Holy Land."

3. "Minister under fire for Middle East-Holocaust comparison" (The Independent, October 4, 2003). "The Government minister responsible for Holocaust memorial day has been accused of making "irresponsible and insensitive" remarks linking the Nazi genocide to the troubles in the Middle East. Comments by Fiona Mactaggart, a junior Home Office minister, at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton earlier this week, have caused outrage in the Jewish community. Speaking at a function of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, Ms Mactaggart said: "The fact Holocaust memorial day is being celebrated in Belfast this year and is focusing on Rwanda is something we should enthusiastically join in and at the same time say we have solidarity with you in remembering this genocide, but that does not mean that we support what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today. Indeed you could draw some parallels." Lord Janner said: "It is [not only] gravely offensive and shows a lack of historical perspective. It is both irresponsible and insensitive to make statements likely to stir up tensions between our Jewish and Muslim communities." Gena Turgel, 80, a holocaust survivor now living in London, told PA News: "I am absolutely shocked ... How could she make such an inappropriate comparison?"

 



FULL ARTICLES

WALL OF SHAME

Wall of shame
By Maggie Foyer
Financial Times
October 6 2003

Sir, In the gallery at Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, two pictures hang side by side. They were painted by a Soviet artist who liberated Majdanek, a concentration camp, and my blood ran cold as I stood before them. They were the two aspects of the wall I had just seen on the West Bank, the electric fence and the 10-metre-high wall with guard towers. These paintings should be moved to the Knesset where they may shame the government into a change of heart.
Maggie Foyer, London SW15 2QN, UK

 

MIDDLE EAST HEADS FOR DISASTER

Middle East heads for disaster
By Sir David Steel
The Scotsman
October 4, 2003

www.thescotsman.co.uk/opinion.cfm?id=1099372003

With so much attention focused on post-war difficulties in Iraq, the international community is in danger of forgetting about the "road map" to peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. A visit there last week left me with a deep, foreboding gloom about the stalemate, the continued strife and the failure of the outside world to act.

It is widely assumed that in response to the horrific suicide bomb attacks on innocent Israeli civilians, the government of Israel is justifiably building a security wall along its border - the green line - with the Palestinian territory. Most Israelis believe the same because of their own lack of investigative press reports. Sadly, the truth is different, and deeply disturbing. Only a minority of the wall is on the internationally recognised boundary; most of it encroaches into Palestinian territory. For most of its route it is a high, barbed wire fence accompanied by a new highway. In other places it is a concrete wall. It snakes through confiscated land, dividing fields and, in one place I visited, cutting a university campus in two.

In Qalqilia, the 25ft-wall encircles the town. It has a population of 42,000 but serves as the district centre for a further 90,000. The residents of the city are not allowed out, and the rural dwellers cannot get in to sell their produce or attend hospitals or schools without a long detour through checkpoints. The wall prevents 6,000 from the city and 13,000 from the rural area from reaching previous employment across the green line.

This is economic strangulation to put it mildly. A rabbi from New York on a recent visit exclaimed: "My God, this is like a Nazi ghetto."

To me, the wall's construction is a combination of the old South African apartheid policy, together with communist East Germany's Berlin Wall. Yet the outside world is turning a blind eye to this flagrant breach of international law and human rights. President George Bush has said it is a mistake, but US activity is limited to discussion on the route of future parts not yet built. The European Union grants favourable trade terms to Israel, but appears unable or unwilling to use any muscle leverage on its policies.

But what is most depressing of all is the complete lack of dialogue between the two sides. It is understandable that the Israeli government will not speak to the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, nor will they even speak to anybody who speaks to him. The European envoy accepts this humiliation apparently without protest.

Moreover, the Israeli/American policy of publicly ostracising the Palestinian leader has had the effect of reviving both his standing and morale. He looked a lot better physically than when I last met him five years ago. I met many Palestinians highly critical of Arafat as being autocratic and incompetent, or simply too old, but they are now rallying round their threatened leader. So the policy of trying to dictate who among the Palestinians they should negotiate with has backfired.

The problem is not the US: it is the bunch of ideologues who surround the inexperienced Bush and override the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The veteran leader of the Israeli opposition, Shimon Peres, has said that the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is leading Israel to disaster. Certainly instead of a land of milk and honey, there is a land of barbed wire, concrete and guns. Europe, in spite of the historic involvement in the region of Britain and France, remains impotent, and our own government spineless. The respected former foreign secretary Geoffrey Howe said the other day that Tony Blair "went on to align himself too closely with American policy". He was referring to Iraq, but the same applies to this conflict.

In Jerusalem, I passed the place of the last suicide bombing outrage. Among others, it killed the distinguished Dr David Applebaum and his daughter preparing for her wedding. The same day, I saw in Gaza the place where Mahmoud al-Zahar escaped an Israeli assassination attempt, which killed, among others, his son, a student on holiday from Britain, also just before his wedding. The deaths of these two young people, neither involved in politics, one Israeli one Palestinian, on the eve of their future family life, symbolised for me the futility of mutual violence in the Holy Land, and the wickedness of the inaction by the international community.

 

MINISTER UNDER FIRE FOR MIDDLE EAST HOLOCAUST COMPARISON

Minister under fire for Middle East-Holocaust comparison
By Pippa Crerar
The Independent
October 4, 2003

The Government minister responsible for Holocaust memorial day has been accused of making "irresponsible and insensitive" remarks linking the Nazi genocide to the troubles in the Middle East.

Comments by Fiona Mactaggart, a junior Home Office minister, at a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference in Brighton earlier this week, have caused outrage in the Jewish community.

Lord Janner of Braunstone, a Labour peer and chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, has written to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, demanding an explanation.

Speaking at a function of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding, Ms Mactaggart said: "The fact Holocaust memorial day is being celebrated in Belfast this year and is focusing on Rwanda is something we should enthusiastically join in and at the same time say we have solidarity with you in remembering this genocide, but that does not mean that we support what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today. Indeed you could draw some parallels."

Lord Janner said: "It is especially inappropriate for the Home Office minister in charge of community policy to draw parallels between the Holocaust and any aspect of the situation between Israel and Palestine.

"It is also gravely offensive and shows a lack of historical perspective. It is both irresponsible and insensitive to make statements likely to stir up tensions between our Jewish and Muslim communities."

Gena Turgel, 80, a holocaust survivor now living in London, told PA News: "I am absolutely shocked ... How could she make such an inappropriate comparison?"

But in a statement to totallyjewish.com, the news website, Ms Mactaggart said: "I was not seeking to draw a parallel between the Holocaust and what's happening in the Middle East. I'm saying there are parallels in how a community which feels assaulted by an experience feels, in order to make somebody in my audience understand why he, as someone who strongly opposed the actions of the government of Israel, should strongly support Holocaust memorial day." She stressed that she did not speak for the Government on foreign affairs.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.