Councillor refused to sign Holocaust Memorial Day book
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Councillor Kassem Al-Khatib
● Because Jews use the Holocaust as propaganda
● Because Zionism's like the Final Solution
● Because it's a recipe for more mass murder
●...but some of his best friends are, yes, Jewish
A Labour city councillor launched into a tirade about the "propaganda" of Holocaust Memorial Day, after he was criticised for not signing a book of commitment.
Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Kassem Al-Khatib was one of two councillors who refused to sign Stoke's HMD book of commitment.
Mr Al-Khatib, a Palestinian, said in a statement: "I have nothing to apologise for. I am convinced that the Holocaust memorial is the perfect recipe for controversy, and when used as a tool for education, the truth will be the victim, put in a Zionist straitjacket."
He also compared Zionism to "Hitler's Final Solution" and called it a "premeditated genocide." He added: "The Holocaust memorial, and Zionism at large, is not a recipe for peace, it is a recipe for more holocausts."
Mr Al-Khatib later defended his remarks, and took exception to the term "antisemitism", citing Arthur Koestler's book The Thirteenth Tribe which claims Jews are descended from Europeans, not the ancient Israelites.
He added: "Why should we have a memorial here? Why shouldn't it be in Jerusalem? What has Britain got to do with the Holocaust? The Holocaust has been used for many things. I haven't had a penny in compensation [for leaving Palestine]. The Jewish victims of the Holocaust got compensation which nobody else got. That is a privilege and it's because of the power of the Zionist lobby. People in Europe, and they are Jews and non-Jews, use the Holocaust as propaganda in order to form the Zionist state."
He added: "Some of my best friends are Jewish; I have no problem with the Jews as individuals. I am not antisemitic and I am not a Holocaust denier."
A West Midlands Labour spokesperson said: "The Labour Party is aware of the situation and is looking into whether any further action is necessary."
Libertarian Party councillor Gavin Webb also refused to sign the book, saying it was because of his objections to British foreign policy.
Board of Deputies chief executive Jon Benjamin said: "Mr Al-Khatib's tirade reveals that he is steeped in every kind of revisionist trope. It is a narrative designed to sever any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. It is he who is politicising HMD and conveniently ignores the fact that it remembers other victims of the Nazis and the victims of other genocides."
A CST spokesman said: "It is hard to recall a more offensive tirade from a public figure in relation to Holocaust commemoration events. The fact that al-Khatib concludes by saying "Some of my best friends are Jewish" is beyond parody."
But Martin Morris, trustee of the Stoke Hebrew Congregation, said the congregation would not complain to the city council about the comments. He said: "There are always going to be people who have their own agenda about these things. If he is that dedicated to the cause in Palestine, then what is he doing in Stoke-on-Trent? But we have a good interfaith relationship in the area, and we are great friends with the Muslim community."
Stoke is one of the UK's smallest Jewish communities, with only 22 members of the synagogue coming from 200 square miles of north Staffordshire.