Israel Rose Out of the Ashes but Let’s Dust Ourselves Off

In response to the continuing anti-Semitic venom spewing from the Labour Party in the UK, MK Isaac Herzog sent a letter to Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (referring to him by the wonderfully socialist sounding appelation of ‘Mr Leader’) inviting him and a delegation of Corbynites for a tour of Yad Vashem.

Whilst lessons clearly still need to be learnt by the Labour Party about the Holocaust and modern Jewish History; I am skeptical as to whether Mr Herzog’s invitation would achieve this.

These people see no connection, causation or correlation between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. When we use the Holocaust to combat anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Zionism we do a disservice to the memory of the Holocaust and to the necessity of the State of Israel. If a person sees a total distinction between criticising Israel and criticising Jews, when we invoke the Holocaust, we only play into the hands of the argument that the Holocaust will always excuse Israel’s actions.

Granted, Israel was established in the wake of the Holocaust but, I cannot believe, solely because of it. As a Zionist I believe that Jews, like any other people, have a right to self determination and it is a painful reality that the Holocaust is what woke the world up to that fact. We are not Zionist because of the Holocaust. Although that period of our history shows the dangers that lie in wait when a persecuted people are trapped in diaspora. We are Zionist because the Jewish people have as much of a right as any other to self-determination in their ancestoral and cultural homeland as any other people. Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust rather Israel allowed a people to thrive in spite of the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitism today is, more often than not, shrouded in anti-Zionism. But for people who see an absolute distinction between the two responding to their hatred by preaching about the Holocaust only lends credence to their claim that it is a “cash cow”.

Former Mayor of London and no friend to the Jews, Ken Livingstone was suspended from the Labour Party after claiming that Hitler was a Zionist, yet defends his comments and still thinks of himself as a student of History. Livingstone does not accept that criticism of Israel can be legitimately seen as anti-Semitic and I would hazard to suggest that a private tour of Yad Vashem would do little to convince him that it is inappropriate to compare Jewish journalists to Nazi guards. When a person thinks that Israel justifies its perpetration of a genocide because Jews were once a victim; playing a victim will only prove their point.

With claims already abound that there is a concerted effort by the Israel lobby to bring down the Labor Party by highlighting these remarks by Labour figures, it does us no good to draw connections between Israel and the Holocaust. Aside from the absurd irony of the Electric Intafada’s claim – there isn’t an anti-Semitism problem in the Labour Party because the Jews are fabricating it – why are we afraid to make the common sense arguments that:

  1. Ken Livingstone is an anti-Semite, period.
  2. All people have the right to self governance and in such a regard Israel is no different to any other country and the Jews to any other people.
  3. The Holocaust is entirely incomprehnsible and unjustifiable as either a reason for the establishment of the Jewish State or anything else.

As we approach Yom Hashoah this week we must obviously search our souls for answers to the global problem of rising anti-Semitism. However it is more than crucial to ensure we are not sullying the memory of Shoah by turning it into a cheap political tool. We need not be apologetic of our Zionism and look for reasons as to why Israel has a right to exist and further we need not be ashamed of our Judaism and have to convince the world that their bigotry is anything but their own disgrace.

Holocaust education is of course important for all people and should play a key role in any serious discussion of history, politics, religion or philosophy but both Zionism and anti-Semitism existed before the Holocaust and, as we are seeing all too often, exist in the post-Shoah age. To view Holocaust education as the solution to the anti-Semitism question is to take a short view of history and a narrow view of the world.

About the Author
Originally from the UK, Alex Drucker has been involved in Jewish Education and Israel Advocacy for many years and is currently the Education and Program Director for the Jewish Community in Hong Kong.
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