Israel compared to Nazi Germany at Cork conference

Notorious anti-Israel academic uses 'Nazi' language


A University of Exeter lecturer has defended comparing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to the way the Nazis treated Jews. Dr Ghada Karmi also insisted that the term “untermensch” - used by the Nazis to brand “inferior” non-Aryan people - could be legitimately used to describe Israel's relationship with the Palestinians.

Ms Karmi, who has delivered lectures on 'conflict and peace-making' at Exeter, made her remarks at a conference of academics and pro-Palestinian activists, held in Cork, Ireland, which repeatedly questioned Israel's right to exist.

On Saturday, one of the main conference organisers had told the audience that he was "profoundly uncomfortable" about the use of the word “untermensch" in a previous speech at the event. Ms Karmi responded: "I just felt I had to say something about the use of the word 'untermesch'. Untermensch's equivalent in English is sub-human. And sub-human is how people in Gaza feel they are being treated by the Israeli army."

She continued: "We are not allowed to use words that the Nazis used as if they were true and unique only to what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is not right. For Palestinians I don't think they make a distinction between what happened to the Jews in Germany and what is happening to them. That is something we need to remember. If the writer of that paper used the words 'untermensch' - people need to be shocked into awareness of what is really happening."

On Friday, Ms Karmi, who was born in Jerusalem but has lived most of her life in the UK, had offered her thoughts on Jewish immigration into then Palestine after the Holocaust. She claimed: "Most of those Jews wanted to go to US or to Europe - they did not want to go to Palestine. However we know Western states were unwilling to admit them. Palestine seemed a good solution."

She then added: "The Jews were not wanted in Europe, they were an unpopular, unloved people, who were off-loaded into the area."

Ms Karmi claimed the Jews in Palestine were "groups of foreign immigrants trying to behave as though they were indigenous." She added: "It is a foreign community who just turned up."

Commenting on the foundation of the Israeli state, she said it had been "a stitch up from beginning to end" by the United Nations.

The row over the word 'untermensch' had been sparked at the event at Cork City Hall on Saturday after an 'academic paper' written by Prof Yosefa Loshitzky, from London University's School of Oriental and African Studies.

The paper used the Nazi terminology to describe what were termed by Prof Loshitzky as "crimes against humanity" by Israel in Gaza.

The use of those words, along with a question from the audience that claimed there was a written account of Zionists depriving children of affection in order that they turned into killers, sparked a complaint about the character of the debate. Former Labour Cabinet minister Claire Short, who was attending, claimed it was "rude to interrupt" proceedings - despite the inflammatory nature of the debate. Piaras MacEinri, one of the event organisers and a lecturer in Geography at University College, Cork, then took to the floor to express his displeasure at the tone of the debate.

He said: "Comparison between what is happening in the Middle East and Israel/Palestine with what happened in Nazi Germany is not only historically unfounded, it is also unhelpful. I feel strongly about that. I think we should stop doing this, it does our movement no favours and at academic conferences in particular."

In a separate lecture during the conference, British-based university professor claimed Jews need to "become human again".

Oren Ben-Dor, who teaches law at Southampton University, also claimed that Jews possessed a "victim mentality" and a "supressed desire to be hated... to be boycotted".

Mr Ben-Dor said the Jewish State revolved around the idea of "extreme separateness", suggesting that "separateness" and "exeptionalism" was "the State of Israel's raison d'etre."

Asked by the JC to explain his remarks, the Israeli-born academic said he was referring to "European, not Arab Jews."

He added: "Judaism itself is interacted with Greek mythology. It's complex - it cannot be reduced to a sound bite."

Claiming that Israel was "worse than South Africa", he said: "Israel is an apartheid state built on apartheid. Israel is not like South Africa at all - the kind of legalism in Israel is the kind to use tricks of law to prevent looking from within."

He added: "Self-hatred is levelled at any Jew who criticises Israel."

His comments were immediately condemned. Barry Williams of the pro-Zionist Irish4Israel group said:"Once again we see Oren Ben Dor dehumanise Jewish people, while we are repeatedly told criticism of Israel is not antisemitism , Oren crosses the line and seems to enjoy doing so.

"It is entirely fitting this conference is taking place over a weekend that contains April Fools Day."

The three-day conference, which ends on Sunday afternoon at a venue rented from University College Cork, was condemned by the Israeli Embassy in Ireland.

In a statement the embassy said they were "dismayed" a platform had been provided to people openly questioning the right of Israel to exist.

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