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What a Disgrace: a Fellow Journalist Trashes Student Auschwitz Visits
Last uploaded : Saturday 22nd Mar 2008 at 00:29
Contributed by : Carol Gould



Recently I have been reporting on events that pass like ships in the night -- the sort of occurrences that will be missed if one blinks.

I am therefore grateful to Vivien Lichtenstein, Chair of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, for bringing to my attention a very short item by Peter McKay in ‘The Daily Mail’ of 25 February 2008. Vivien and I agree on almost nothing but we do share an understanding of Jewish aspirations in a post-Holocaust world. We can both smell an anti-Semite a mile away and this article had all the earmarks of the ‘top five’ epithets of which we have been at the receiving end since early childhood.

McKay writes about the story that dominated the news for a few days near the end of February: the Brown government’s suggestion that British schoolchildren should visit Auschwitz concentration camp, and the immediate accusation by Tory leader David Cameron that this was a Gordon Brown ‘gimmick.’ Poor David, who could not be called an anti-Semite, was roundly criticised from all corners of the Anglo-Jewish community. In fact, he redeemed himself a week later by delivering a moving speech at a Jewish charity fundraiser.

The public discourse went on for days, with the usual crop of ‘Nigel in St Mary Cray’ bloggers sending in their angry messages about our poor benighted British schoolchildren being forced to visit concentration camps but not being sent to Gaza to see the bad things being inflicted by those nasty, brutal, ruthless Jews in Israel. It is amazing the way the slightest mention of the Holocaust engenders such animosity towards Jews these days; in a separate article I have related the nightmare I endured at a National Union of Journalists meeting in London when the members, to a man, berated me about the Jews ‘nicking the land off the Arabs in 1947’ and ‘getting the Holocaust out of your system, Carol.’

And so it was on 25 February that Peter McKay of ‘the Daily Mail’ indulged in that most abhorrent of analogies: that non-Jews get the Holocaust thrust down their throats and as part of the equation are forced to support Israel.

This is how he put it:

‘ There’s only one reason I can think of why our children have their noses rubbed in German excrement. It’s not to make sure ‘this never happens again’ --- that’s beyond their control. It’s in the misguided belief that it’ll make them always take Israel’s side.’

As I mentioned earlier, this truly appalling linkage was brought to my attention by Vivien Lichtenstein of Jews for Justice for the Palestinians. Her parents survived the Nazi occupation of Europe and settled here in Britain. I mention this because her parents’ remarkable story of survival against unspeakable odds is so compelling it should be told to schoolchildren as part of their war history lessons. The idea that the stories of the Holocaust would be taught and brought to life by survivors or by visits to the death camps and then used to make sure the young support Israel is an ugly one. Vivien and I agree on practically nothing in the political sphere but we are united in our horror at this Peter McKay column, which implies that a visit to a concentration camp must be linked with coerced support for Israel.

It is true that some of the wretched remnants of European Jewry, depleted by some six million innocent souls by 1946 went to Palestine; their numbers were small and they were mostly weak, starving and tortured shadows of their former selves but they managed to start a new life in kibbutzim in the Holy Land. But in the past few years Britons have confronted me about the hordes of rapacious, land-grabbing Jews who ’stole’ Arab lands. This is an accusation curious to Britain; one does not encounter this level of vitriol in mainland Europe, and it is scary and ugly because the implication is that those pesky Jews should have been finished off in the ovens and be done with it. (In recent weeks the anti-Semitic chants at Chelsea football games lead me to believe, as the great philosopher George Steiner has said, that Anglo-Jews should have their bags packed.)

Compare the Peter McKay view with the American attitude towards the post-Holocaust era, commemorated so magnificently in the recent films ‘Paperclips’ and ‘Freedom Writers.’ Both explored the passionate commemorations made by totally non-Jewish schoolchildren, in Tennessee and California respectively, to the legacy of the Holocaust. In the films, children who have had no personal family experience of the Nazi genocide discover it through the gentle guidance of their non-Jewish teachers and throw themselves into projects to leave a permanent memorial to the people who died so many thousands of miles away some sixty-five years ago.

They are not, dear Mr Peter McKay, indoctrinated with Zionist ideology or made to ‘support Israel.’

Now I would like to look at this issue from an entirely different perspective. Peter McKay and the hundreds of bloggers writing in from all over Britain protesting that concentration camp visits gloss over the ‘genocide being committed by Israel’ seem to forget one thing. Were a British child to be encouraged to visit Israel he or she would find that this is possibly the best gap year any young Briton could experience. The only danger they would encounter would be the relentless attacks -- rockets, bombs, snipers -- by the Arab neighbours who for sixty years have wanted only death to be upon the Jews of the Holy Land. In Israel a British student will find little crime or drunkenness but they will experience an avalanche of culture. One hears horror stories of British kids going on ‘gap year’ trips and being abducted, raped and murdered. Death to a visitor in Israel will only come from Palestinian attacks. (Where, I keep asking, do the billions in aid go that the ‘starving’ Palestinians receive from the Arab League, EU and USA? Why if they are destitute do they have money for fancy uniforms and masks and endless supplies of ammunition and rockets with which to attack Israel? ) Surrounded by art galleries, theatres, bookstores galore, concert halls and research institutes, a visiting Briton, like the indoctrinated-to-hate-Israel Englishman I took with me on a film project, will end up never wanting to go home. I would venture to say he was an anti-Semite before we set out but by the end of our series of visits to Israel he was ready to convert.

Peter McKay’s comment suggesting British children are somehow being primed by some Anglo-Jewish conspiracy to indoctrinate them by dragging them to Auschwitz is poisonous. The Holocaust, which saw the Jewish citizens of every European country -- lawyers, professors, doctors, musicians, writers, architects -- removed from their ancestral homes and burned in ovens, is a genocide unique to humanity that stands alone. Yes, children must know about Cambodia’s killing fields and Rwanda, but the total destruction of European Jewry by Christian Europeans is the culmination of centuries of Jew-hatred that started with the English Blood Libel in Norwich, the York massacre and the Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290. British children must learn their history and be able to relate it to their recent past. By doing this they are not being made to love Israel.

When my mother left the United States army she was deployed to a civilian post with USES, the United Service for New Americans. She processed ‘DPs’ -- people -- or walking ghosts --- who had been sent to the USA from the Displaced Persons camps of Europe and from Palestine, where they had been turned away by British quotas. She was still a young woman. It left an indelible impression on her. British schoolchildren should be sent to see Auschwitz. They must know about this, their own European history, so it will never happen again.


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