January 31, 2013
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) is a nationally designated day of remembrance for the victims of the Shoah. It rightly calls on us to remember that man’s inhumanity to man has led to further genocides perpetrated since the Second World War. Sadly, there are no signs that genocide, or its intent, can yet be consigned to history. This year HMD has adopted the theme of building bridges between communities to combat racism and intolerance.
As if HMD last Sunday was not sad and thought-provoking enough, it was made much more depressing by two events in the public space here in the UK. The first consisted of comments by the Liberal Democratic Member of Parliament for Bradford East, David Ward. Using (more accurately abusing) a book of remembrance for HMD, Mr Ward accused Holocaust victims of committing atrocities on Palestinians comparable to those of the Nazis. He insulted their memory by accusing them of failing to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. He even received support from fellow Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies. Mr Ward’s remarks have been widely condemned, and the reasons are obvious. You can read the excellent post by the Board’s Jamie Slavin at http://www.bod.org.uk/live/content.php?Item_ID=130&Blog_ID=711
It took a summons by the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip to wring a brief apology from Mr Ward, the sincerity of which is considerably undermined by his leaving the offending remarks on his website. The Chief Whip has apparently censured Mr Ward, but only for his use of the phrase “the Jews”, which Mr Ward has undertaken not to repeat – and has already breached the undertaking by leaving the words on his website. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats said in a radio phone-in on 31st January that he finds prejudice abhorrent. Why then has he not acted to require David Ward to take down his statement ?
Most of our community will regard the censure as completely inadequate. It misses much of the point and is far too limp-wristed to be much of a disciplinary step. It would have been better if serious consideration had been given to withdrawing the whip from Mr Ward, or even expelling him from the party altogether. Nor, it seems, has any action been taken against Chris Davies MEP, who wrote in support of Mr Ward.
The second depressing event was the by now infamous Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times. Israel’s Prime Minister, shown with a bulbous nose, is depicted as trapping Palestinians inside the bricks of a wall, using mortar made of blood. Scarfe has apologised, but his apology is not for the cartoon, merely for publishing it on HMD. So for Scarfe, its publication on any other day would be fine. The Board has issued a strong protest and lodged a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, as was widely reported in the national and international media. After initially defending the cartoon, the Sunday Times has apologised, both by its Acting Editor and by Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of the Times Group, who rightly described it as grotesque and offensive.
It is depressing that in 2013 a Member of Parliament and a national newspaper of repute can publish such crassly disproportionate, offensive and simply wrong statements about Jews and Israel.
But it is encouraging that the reaction to them was one of overwhelming condemnation.
This is a cross post from the Board of Deputies website at http://www.bod.org.uk/live/content.php?Item_ID=130&Blog_ID=715