Here we go again.
On July 8, British MP ‘Battling’ Bob Russell was speaking during a House of Commons debate on the national curriculum in schools.
Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (Liberal Democrat):
“The Secretary of State referred to more coverage of world history. On the assumption that the 20th century will include the holocaust, will he give me an assurance that the life of Palestinians since 1948 will be given equal attention?”
Michael Gove, Education Secretary:
“These are delicate waters, into which I fear to tread too definitively. One thing I would say is that there has been near universal welcome and support for the centrality of the holocaust and the unique evil inherent in the holocaust being in the national curriculum. Once one gets on to the position of the state of Israel after 1948, it is probably better if I step back. I have strong views on the matter and I would not wish to impose them on the curriculum.”
Sir Bob’s question was a “shoah slur,” screamed the Jewish Chronicle, and he immediately came under attack as reported here in Jewish News.
Jeremy Newmark, of Britain’s Jewish Leadership Council said, “These remarks are a shocking piece of Holocaust denigration. There is simply no comparison between the two situations. It is worrying that so soon after the David Ward affair another MP thinks it is acceptable to play fast and loose with the language of the Holocaust in this context."
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, added: “To try to equate the events of the Holocaust – the systematized mass murder of 6 million Jews – with the conflict in the Middle East is simply inaccurate as well as inappropriate.”
“Bob Russell is a fringe, marginal voice in the community. All parties have them sadly”, said Gavin Stollar, chairman of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel.
Nobody is claiming equivalence in the numbers. But Palestinians, and indeed the wider world community, are entitled to feel there is nonetheless a disturbing comparison.
The word ‘holocaust’ is centuries old and has several meanings, one being "any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life". For those interested in the figures, Israel’s B’Tselem shows that between year 2000 and the start of Israel’s ‘Cast Lead’ assault on Gaza in 2008 the Israelis’ vast standing army, equipped with the most advanced American-funded weaponry, killed 4,790 Palestinian civilians in their homeland. Of these, 952 were children. Yes, 952 young Palestinian lives horribly snuffed out and their parents left desolated.
The Palestinian resistance, with their primitive weapons, killed 490 Israeli civilians, including 84 children. That’s a slaughter rate of 11 to 1 by the Israelis - reckless in anyone’s language. Since then Israel’s ‘destruction of life’ score has soared thanks to Operation Cast Lead (an act of infamy which slaughtered 1,400 Gazans, including 320 children and 109 women, horribly maimed thousands more, and is regarded by many as a holocaust in its own right) and the more recent Pillar of Cloud Operation as well as the countless air strikes in-between.
Although the Holocaust Education Trust and Zionists generally would like exclusive use of the H-word for Jewish victims, they must understand that there have been other holocausts besides the ‘Big One’ of World War 2. If there is such a thing as a Palestinian holocaust it is a slow motion one. The extermination may be on a smaller scale but is nevertheless of towering significance because it has been carried out in the Holy Land – of all places – and against Christians and Muslims.
There are at least three more reasons why it should be included in the British schools curriculum. Britain as the military power and subsequently the mandated power in the Holy Land was instrumental in creating the situation. The slaughter, deprivation and illegal occupation resulting from British duplicity is still going on after 65 years. And the intolerable mess we allowed to develop but took no action to resolve is a matter of deep national shame and a major cause of world unrest.
When researching for the book ’Radio Free Palestine’ I asked my local education authority (Cambridgeshire, a leader in the UK) if the Arab-Israeli conflict and its causes were taught in school. The answer was no, unless you picked the Middle East option at A-level, and even then teaching only "scratched the surface". So the book contains this passage:
"The truth about Palestine doesn’t sit well with Britain’s now crumbling reputation for fair play. Its name has been airbrushed from maps and purged, like a dirty word, from diplomatic lexicons. Even today the subject is only haphazardly taught in our schools. For older generations like mine it was never on the curriculum.”
In contrast, the Nazi holocaust against Jews is a compulsory subject in the history curriculum at all state secondary schools in England and the government has created a UK Envoy for post-Holocaust Issues. In 2008 the government and the Pears Foundation jointly funded a £1.5 million three-year national project to improve teaching and learning about the Holocaust.
Refusal to give the long-running crisis in the Holy Land proper emphasis in world history teaching is a denial of the Palestinian holocaust and the nakba (the ‘catastrophe’ of 1947-49 when nearly 750,000 Arabs were dispossessed of their homes, villages, towns and cities and driven into exile by Jewish terrorists and Israeli militia. Many died or were massacred in the process. Those who survived have not been allowed to return). Israel’s illegal military occupation is the longest in modern times with no prospect of ending while corrupt politicians rule the international scene.
British children must be given an opportunity to understand that Britain’s complicity in such a cruel state of affairs can never be tolerated again, just as they are already learning that Nazi atrocities at Auschwitz and elsewhere must never happen again. Bob Russell is surely right to call for the curriculum to give equal attention to the causes and effect of the Palestinians’ suffering and he should be applauded for seeking a balanced approach in these matters.
The big stink over David Ward
Complainer Jeremy Newmark (above) mentions the David Ward affair, referring to another Liberal Democrat MP who earlier made this remark on his website: "Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."
Chiefs of the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Board of Deputies of British Jews kicked up a huge fuss, loudly complaining that Ward "deliberately abused the memory of the Holocaust" and his remarks were "sickening" and "offensive".
The Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Alistair Carmichael, agreed that Ward’s remarks were "wholly inappropriate" and that singling out ‘the Jews’ in that way crossed a red line.
For speaking out on the Israeli regime’s crimes Ward was treated like a delinquent and comprehensively humiliated. The Jewish Chronicle reported that party leader Nick Clegg told Ward he must work alongside Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFoI) “to identify and agree language that will be proportionate and precise” in future debate. He should attend meetings with LDFoI representatives in order to achieve a better understanding of “the legitimate concern” that his comments caused within the wider Jewish community. Disciplinary steps would then be reviewed.
Gavin Stollar said: “LDFoI has essentially been appointed as probation officers for David Ward. If we are not convinced that he is salvageable then we’ll be in the position to report back to the leader and the chief whip and express our views. Rather than making him a martyr, LDFoI welcomes the opportunity to educate one of our MPs."
There are no reports to show that Ward complied with any of this arrant nonsense.
And who is this upstart Stollar, who thinks it’s his place to re-educate elected members of the British Parliament? Here he is warmly shaking the bloody hand of Tzipi Livni, who is on several wanted lists for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Livni,Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the holocaust inflicted on innocent Palestinians, trapped in their tiny enclave with the borders sealed, over Christmas and New Year 2008/9. Her office afterwards issued a statement saying she was proud of her decisions in Operation Cast Lead, the murderous blitz she unleashed.
No-one, least of all ‘Battling’ Bob Russell or David Ward, need lectures or re-education from the likes of Stollar and his fellow stooges.
Stuart Littlewood is a marketing specialist turned writer-photographer in the UK. He is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation.