When I was little and my mother was trying to teach me how to navigate the seder and the Haggadah, I remember getting to the part of the plagues and her telling me how my grandmother would routinely add an extra plague to the 10 we already had — Hitler.
I have to admit that, aged five or six, I hadn’t the faintest idea what Grandma meant, only catching on years later when I read about the ironic Russian Jewish prayer: “May God save and keep the Tsar… far away from us.” Just such a prayer could equally be applied to those who invoke Hitler.
Only those living under rocks or elsewhere in the galaxy could have failed
to have caught on to the endless repetition of Hitler in the past few months.
It has begun to feel like being on the receiving end of an interminable series of Channel 5 programmes, Hitler in colour, Hitler the vegetarian, Hitler who-might-not-have-been-as-bad-as-Assad, and –
lest we forget – Hitler who supported Zionism.
There have been the merely stupid comparisons, such as those made by White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and the calculated, made by the reviled former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.
I don’t believe that Spicer is a Holocaust denier, although there are plenty of people who were quick to pin that label on him. And Spicer, who may not be the sharpest knife in the box, has at least acknowledged that he, as he himself put it, “screwed up”.
As for Livingstone, who has consistently and steadfastly refused to apologise for his comments, I believe he is a wily politician who knows exactly what he is doing and how far he can push people.
On 5 April — yes, it seems longer ago, doesn’t it? — Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, back against the wall, announced that there would be a new inquiry into Ken Livingstone’s continuing membership of the party.
I haven’t seen any further details of this inquiry and I doubt very much that either it, or any conclusion, will come in time to save Labour in the general and local elections in the strongholds of Jewish voters.
Last Wednesday, a group of the usual suspects, the “As-A-Jews” immortalised by Howard Jacobson, wrote a whining letter to the Guardian saying why Livingstone should not be thrown out of the Labour Party.
Interestingly, two of the signatories – Tony Greenstein and Jackie Walker – are themselves facing party disciplinary proceedings.
To the Jew in the pew, I wonder how much any of this backstabbing and infighting actually penetrates. For me, for the first time in my life, I am considering not voting at all, which I regard as a terrible betrayal of all that previous generations of women, and previous generations of Jews, went through in order for me to be able to have my say at the
What I’m left with is a feeling of astonishment that, after nearly 80 years,
the name of Hitler can still be conjured up with such ease and that comparisons with the Nazis are so carelessly invoked.
I also know that at last week’s seder, as we were calling out the names of the plagues, and the children round the table laughed and made faces, there was another name which I added to my list.
Thanks for the idea, Grandma.