On Holocaust Memorial Day this year, a survivor called Dorit Oliver-Wolff spoke of her experiences surviving antisemitic persecution as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Europe. She recalled that when walking with her mother in a park in Budapest, a middle-aged woman approached her, bent over and spat in her eyes, telling her she was “a filthy Jew”.
It is difficult to imagine the irrational hatred that could so possess a grown woman as to make her spit in the face of a little five-year-old, but the evidence that such hatred still exists is, sadly, not far away.
When we commemorate the Holocaust, the organised disaster that saw six million Jews murdered, the antisemites are only spitting distance away, and like the woman in that Budapest park in 1941, they simply cannot control themselves.
Jackie Walker, for example, a Labour Party member who sits on Momentum’s steering committee, already once suspended for repeating the lie that Jews were the chief financiers of the slave trade, went out of her way to attack Holocaust Memorial Day (which she once called a “celebration”). She repeated her infamous and original erroneous attack on the commemoration of the Holocaust, suggesting that Jews do not remember other genocides on Holocaust Memorial Day, allowing it to be assumed that there is something malevolent in Jews mourning the disaster the befell them, and that the event promotes remembering the genocide of Jews at the expense of remembering other genocides. Walker was suspended from her Party for a second time.
David Ward, a Liberal Democrat with a long history of antisemitism also could not help himself. Last Thursday, we learned as much about him from when he chose to speak, as from what he said: by utilising the most widely used contemporary antisemitic charge against the Jewish community — so often used by Baroness Jenny Tonge who had to leave the Liberal Democrats after being suspended over antisemitism — that everything the Jewish people say or do is a front to protect Israel from criticism, including remembering the dead victims of the Holocaust.
— David Ward (@DWard) January 27, 2017
Though the timing of these statements is clearly offensive, they are as nothing compared to the hypocrisy of the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, who makes great play of how he mourns the Holocaust, saying: “This Holocaust Memorial Day let us…redouble our efforts to defeat evil and intolerance.” Yet the pious Mr Corbyn has taken money from the Iranian state to appear on their TV Channel, a state that denies the Holocaust and runs an annual cartoon competition mocking it. He has praised Hamas as “dedicated… to social and political justice” and describe working with them as a “pleasure and honour” despite Hamas’s constitution being genocidally antisemitic and quoting of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text on which Hitler based his propaganda. He had a long and close friendship with the Holocaust denier Paul Eisen. He has steadfastly refused to disown or apologise for his actions since becoming Party Leader. He has recently expressed public and explicit support for Jackie Walker, and warmly welcomed her back into the Labour Party after she was inexplicably allowed to return following a secret hearing. Ken Livingstone, lest we forget, who has nurtured the idea that Hitler supported the right of Jews to self-determination, is still, astonishingly, a party member, as is Sir Gerald Kaufman MP, a man who said that Jews use money to control political parties. The list is longer still and is beyond disgraceful: it has stained British public life.
Whilst Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats said that the day represented a chance to “think about our responsibilities as individuals, citizens and nations”, he pointedly failed to rebuke antisemitism in his own Party’s ranks.
The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day this year was “How can life go on?” The horror of the Holocaust is unspeakable, the stain on humanity indelible. One might ask: “How can antisemitism go on?” and a great part of the answer lies with the fact that our political leaders allow senior members of their movements to publicly use the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day to spit in Jewish faces.