A speaker at Monday’s demonstration against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Downing Street told Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporters that Jews should “overcome” the trauma of the Holocaust. Calling on Jews to abandon Zionism, Bruce Kent, a former priest who is now Honorary Vice President of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, told protesters that a “guilt complex” over the Holocaust is something that “inspires people in the wrong direction” when it comes to Israel.
A video captured by a JC reporter showed him saying: “The trouble is that many of us suffer from a guilt complex, certainly at my age. My wife’s great-aunt was cooped up a Berlin suburb in 1942, put in a railway carriage and taken for five days and five nights without any food or water of any sort, then put in a gas chamber. The memory is something that inspires people in the wrong direction. We have all had terrible sufferings in history – all of us. But we actually have to overcome that and start to live like human beings together. I believe it is perfectly possible. And I think there are many many Jewish people — Jews for Justice [for Palestine] for one — who know this perfectly well. To be a Jew is not to be a Zionist. That’s a different qualification.”
We are appalled that Bruce Kent expects Jews or anyone else to “overcome” the trauma of the Holocaust. It cannot be overcome, and one of its principal lessons is that Jews absolutely must have the right to self-determination, as embodied in the state of Israel. Since its establishment it has been the one country that offers persecuted Jews from around the world unconditional safe haven. Israel is the place from which Judaism originates and where half of the world’s Jewish population lives. It is the religious and cultural heart of Judaism. It is prejudiced to expect Jews to renounce all connection to Israel or be judged to be in some way deficient.