It is very hard for non-Jews to understand what Israel and the Holocaust mean to Jews born after 1945. From the earliest memories a Jew can dredge from a middle-aged brain, the Holocaust has always been part of the family discourse. Whether secular, Progressive or Orthodox those born in the 1940s and after have had this unspeakable descent into hell drummed into their little memory banks from early childhood as an added weight on already-heavily-burdened shoulders reflecting two-thousand years of persecution.
At the same time the precious refuge of the tiny strip of land known as Israel seemed a gift from God after Hitler and a considerable portion of complicit Christian Europe expressed its hideous hatred of the People of the Book by attempting to exterminate them in ‘the Final Solution.’ From earliest childhood Jews around the world learned about the sadistic medical experiments and indescribably cruel tortures inflicted on Jewish men and women in concentration camps across Europe. ‘Jewish men and women’ are specified here because in recent years liberal and human rights groups have gone out of their way to stress that ‘it wasn’t just Jews who suffered.’
Yes, homosexuals, gypsies, people of colour and political dissidents also suffered but it must be made clear that the vilest tortures and methods of slow death were reserved for the Jews: lawyers, university professors, artists, musicians, scientific geniuses, doctors and all manner of decent, productive Jewish citizens of these countries were destined for the cruellest of slow deaths, castration, sterilisation and medical experimentation without anaesthetics. After the Wannsee Conference, it was decided that the Jews be annihilated from the globe and Adolf Eichmann set out his timetable for the extinction of the eleven million remaining on planet earth. In the Middle East, many Arabs joined forces with Hitler in his quest for world domination.
Now a delegation of Muslims in Great Britain has decided, only a few weeks after four of their own killed fifty-two innocents in London, that they find Holocaust Memorial Day an affront to their sensibilities and have recommended to Prime Minister Tony Blair that it be scrapped. At first the news of this recommendation seemed akin to an April Fool. This year, it was reported that Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain boycotted the annual ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day. The proposal on the table is to replace it with a Genocide Day. One Muslim spokesman in the UK says the destruction of 500 Palestinian villages is also genocide.
Now, let me get personal here. A good editor does not use ‘I’ or ‘me.’ But here goes: I have put up with celebrations in my immediate London environs on 9/11/01. I have put up with offensive comments by my Bangla Deshi corner shop proprietor about Jews, America and Israel for years. When he removed the shop’s biggest sellers -- ham, bacon and sausages - from his shelves this mostly working class Cockney neighbourhood did a slow but silent burn. They just fumed in private and migrated to Tesco. When I was told I would be ‘killed’ if I visited the local mosque on a Friday (in a road where I had lived for twenty-eight years) I just chalked it up to a few crazed radicals visiting from Saudi Arabia.
However, now that the Muslim community of Great Britain has put its cards on the table and shown how little it cares about interfaith relations, it is little wonder even the most liberal of Anglo-Jewish leaders have recoiled in horror at the request for the abandonment of British Holocaust Day. Frankly, the idea that anyone would suggest the scrapping of this day of remembrance is repugnant and, simply stated, a hideous slur on the Jewish people. The Holocaust, born out of the repeated lies perpetrated by Hitler and Goebbels and reinforced by centuries of Blood Libels and slanders against Jews across the Christian world, is a defining moment in Jewish history. One and a half million babies and children were exterminated. Who amongst them might have discovered the cure for cancer? A people that gave the world over 5,766 years of their history the Torah, the Commentaries, countless great works of literature and scientific discovery was nearly wiped from existence.
The establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day by the British government was a moment of Christian goodness in the history of mankind. Despite the rise of anti-Semitism and the plague of exaggerated accusations against Israel in the daily discourse of the British media, the island nation set itself apart from the world by initiating a day to remember the Shoah. The day commemorates the innocent Jews and numerous other victims driven from their homes to extinction by a tyrant Winston Churchill had identified as the destroyer of civilisation long before anyone else had cottoned onto the true danger of the Third Reich. The annihilation of world Jewry was a well-planned, meticulously orchestrated state project instigated by the Third Reich with the cooperation of other countries who capitulated to the Nazis, and until 1933 no such atrocity had ever been perpetrated in human history. That the Muslim community of Britain can link the conflict in Palestine with the suffering of European Jewry is a gross insult to the survivors of that state-organised, deliberate genocide.
This past fortnight we -- and I include in the ‘we’ many law-abiding and decent Muslims -- have been reading of the infiltration of British industry and academia by radicals. We have been reading of the British woman who was told at a London NHS hospital that her husband could not stay the night during her long labour because his presence offended the Muslim women on the ward. We have been reading about the 3-5,000 suicide bombers believed to be living in Germany awaiting orders to strike across Europe.
My suggestion to the elements in British Islam who wish to see the back of Holocaust Memorial Day is to produce an Immanuel Jacobovits, a Hugo Gryn, a John Rayner, a Louis Jacobs and an Albert Friedlander and to produce leaders of greatness in the Middle East who will lead their peoples out of the poverty and tyranny that has nothing to do with the policies of the State of Israel. The rabbis listed above include Holocaust survivors and Kinderstransporte who came to Britain with nothing but grief and loss in their hearts. Instead of lashing out they led exemplary lives and promoted interfaith dialogue.
The idea that a segment of Muslims in Great Britain wishes to demolish the day that remembers the loss of six million Jewish men, women and children is nothing short of an obscenity and is indicative of a spiritual wasteland that can engender only hatred and spite. The establishment of the state of Israel as a sanctuary for a nearly-extinguished race to start afresh and turn a desert into an orchard should have been a source of joy to the people of the Middle East at that time. Instead of welcoming the remnant of European Jewry intent on starting a new life in the sun, war was declared by the Arab League and has perpetuated itself ever since. Golda Meir worked tirelessly to promote technological advancement in Africa and in its many Muslim nations. ORT, a Jewish charity, does not differentiate when distributing generous donations and goods to the needy in the global community. Israel was amongst the first of the countries to offer to rush field hospitals and relief to the Tsunami victims, regardless of their religious faith.
It is time for the Muslim world to reach out and, in the spirit of the late Rabbi Hugo Gryn, lead mankind in the search for reconciliation and peace.
It is time for the British Muslims who generated the move to abandon Holocaust Memorial Day to apologise to Anglo Jewry, to the British and allied servicemen who fought to defeat Hitler and liberate the camps, to Holocaust survivors and to all of world Jewry.
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