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Irish journalist abuses Holocaust to attack Israel

Frank McDonald launched a barrage of discredited facts and absurd claims to defend his anti-Israel position

The Irish Times is currently one of the most viciously anti-Israel media outlets and has been the subject of numerous recent HonestReporting critiques. In January, one blogger, Paula Stern, writing on The Times of Israel, responded to anti-Israel tweets from the Irish Times’ Environmental Editor Frank McDonald.

The post caught the attention of McDonald who has responded in his own Times of Israel piece. McDonald, however, goes beyond defending himself and instead, launches into a hate-filled diatribe against Israel. Most notably, he abuses the Holocaust as a means to attack Israel.

  • Comparing Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto

McDonald writes:

I stand over my comparison of Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto in terms of how they operated, though not in terms of outcomes, of course; we all know that the Jews crowded into the ghetto in Warsaw who didn’t die there later perished in the Nazi death camps. …


Inhabitants of the ghetto managed to survive by selling their remaining possessions to buy extra food, usually at exorbitant prices. Smuggling was rife, with hundreds of Jewish children wriggling through tunnels or holes in the wall, “sometimes several times a day . . . returning with goods that often weighed more than they did”. Just like Gaza boys do now in the tunnels at Rafah, in fact.

This isn’t the first time that this offensive and historically inaccurate comparison has been made by individuals and organizations who are more concerned with anti-Israel propaganda than the truth. 1943 Warsaw is nothing like 2014 Gaza for the following reasons:

1. Ha’aretz’s Bradley Burston notes that this comparison:

… denies and diminishes and exploits the Holocaust, does disrespect to Holocaust victims and survivors alike, alleviates European guilt over complicity with the Nazis, alleviates American guilt over inaction in the face of the annihilation machine, misrepresents both the cruel reality of the Gaza Strip and the cruel reality of the ghetto, dismisses the humanity and the vulnerability of the million Israeli Jews and Arabs within rocket range, and ignores completely the role of Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in having sent thousands and thousands and thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel.

2. As Eamonn McDonagh expounded:

The Jews in the Ghetto didn’t have their very own international aid organization to provide for their basic needs and there was no Jewish political entity down the road which enjoyed a limited measure of peace and prosperity despite being occupied by Germany. No Jewish organization had ever sworn to destroy Germany and turn it into a Jewish state. No Jewish organization had ever fired thousands of rockets at Germany towns and cities. No Jewish organization had sent suicide bombers into Germany and slaughtered hundreds of Germans while they went about their lawful business.

3. According to Middle East historian Mark LeVine on the Al- Jazeera website:

Gaza is not the Warsaw Ghetto. Even after the latest war, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank remain rooted to the soil, not buried beneath it.


The Warsaw Ghetto was used by the Nazis to confine Jews into the smallest possible space, eventually in preparation for their ultimate extermination – which became official Nazi policy within a year of the ghetto’s creation. Out of an initial population of over 400,000 Jews, 100,000 had died of disease and starvation by the time the uprising began in 1943. To be comparable, by 2007 over 300,000 Gazans would have to have died from similar causes.

  • Faulty fact-checking

McDonald writes:

Consider the prohibitions they [Gazans] must endure, as revealed by Gisha, an Israeli non- governmental organisation that campaigns against the oppression of Palestinians. The list of prohibited items was disclosed last month, after the authorities had first claimed in court that this would “harm national security and possibly even diplomatic relations”.


In another blow to Israel’s image, the list included sage, cumin, cardamon, coriander, ginger, jam, vinegar, nutmeg, chocolate, fruit preserves, nuts, biscuits, sweets, potato chips, gas for soft drinks, dried fruit, fresh meat, glucose, flavour and smell enhancers, fabric for clothing, toys, notebooks, A4 paper and musical instruments. It also included cement, plaster, tar and wood for construction (heaven forbid that the people of Gaza should be allowed to rebuild their homes after the Israeli onslaught 18 months ago), as well as razors, sewing machines, spare parts or heaters for hatcheries, irrigation pipes, fishing rods or nets, horses, donkeys, goats and cattle.

McDonald’s information is out-of-date and incorrect. Had he bothered to make a simple check he would have found that under regulations operating since 2012:

whatever is NOT on the restricted list will be allowed into the Gaza Strip. The only goods that are currently restricted are arms, weapons and various war materiel, and certain items that have military as well as civilian applications. Because of the problematic nature of these dual-use materials, construction materials are currently allowed in only for PA-approved projects that are under the supervision of international bodies. …


Essential food products including meat, chicken and fish, grains and legumes, fresh vegetables, dairy products, oil, flour, salt and sugar, in addition  to animal feed, hygiene products, clothing, school supplies, medicines and medical supplies have always been among the goods that are regularly delivered to Gaza. A wide variety of commodities have been added: spices, cakes and candies, toys, cosmetic products, housewares and other items according to the demands of the vendors and the customers. More construction materials are also being delivered.

(A full list of controlled items can be found here.)

Holocaust Inversion

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” is listed in the EU and U.S. State Department working definitions of anti-Semitism. This doesn’t stop McDonald from doing exactly that when describing his visits to Israel:

I was also really shaken by an incident that took place after we had dinner in West Jerusalem. We were about to get into a taxi when another taxi driver right behind beeped his horn. I went to him to see what the problem might be. He said: “Why are you getting into an Arab taxi?”. I was mystified about how he could know that, so I asked him. “It’s on their number plates”, he said. I walked back to the first taxi and got in, thinking: “My God, in the Nazi concentration camps, Jews had yellow Star of David symbols and numbers tattooed on their arms”.


The impression I was left with was that Israelis were treating Palestinians as “untermenschen” (to use that awful German word), just as Jews had been treated in other countries over the centuries.

Regarding the color of taxi number plates, residents of Jerusalem will remember the time before the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the Palestinian terror campaign when Israeli and Palestinian taxis shared the same thoroughfares. License plates were determined according to Israeli residency and not race. Therefore, Arab citizens of Israel had the same color plates as their Jewish counterparts.

More seriously, however, is McDonald’s use of what Manfred Gerstenfeld defines as “Holocaust Inversion”:

the portraying of Israel, Israelis, and Jews as Nazis-is a major distortion of history. This anti-Semitic concept claims that Israel behaves against the Palestinians as Germany did to the Jews in World War II. “The victims have become perpetrators,” is one major slogan of the inverters. By shifting the moral responsibility for genocide, Holocaust inversion also contains elements of Holocaust denial.

In his paper, Gerstenfeld continues:

The core motif of classic anti-Semitism was that Jews embody the most extreme malevolence. During the postwar era, the Nazi regime has become the paradigm for absolute evil. Comparing Israel’s conduct to its actions is a new mutation of this ancient theme.


As anti-Semitism historian Robert Wistrich put it:


“anti-Zionists” who insist on comparing Zionism and the Jews with Hitler and the Third Reich appear unmistakably to be de facto anti-Semites, even if they vehemently deny the fact! This is largely because they knowingly exploit the reality that Nazism in the postwar world has become the defining metaphor of absolute evil. For if Zionists are “Nazis” and if Sharon really is Hitler, then it becomes a moral obligation to wage war against Israel. That is the bottom line of much contemporary anti-Zionism. In practice, this has become the most potent form of contemporary anti-Semitism.

Frank McDonald has clearly crossed the line between legitimate criticism and deliberate demonization of Israel and offers a disturbing insight into the prevailing zeitgeist at the Irish Times.

But more than that, McDonald is representative of a wider anti-Israel ideological framework where anti-Zionism is demonstratively the new anti-Semitism.

About the Author
Simon Plosker is the Editorial Director of HonestReporting, returning to the media watchdog in October 2022, having previously been part of the organization’s management team from 2005 to 2020. Prior to his first spell at HonestReporting, Simon worked in Israel for NGO Monitor, BICOM, and served for a short period in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit. He was Managing Editor of the Geneva-based NGO United Nations Watch for two years before deciding to rejoin the frontline defending Israel from media bias. Simon has a BSoc.Sc in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Birmingham and an MSc in History of International Relations from the London School of Economics. He immigrated to Israel in 2001 from London.
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