Saturday, 31 March 2018

A Man Righteous Among the Nations

By Les May

YOU have probably never heard of Dutch schoolteacher Johan van Hulst.  I certainly had not until I read an obituary of him in the Washington Post.  Along with two colleagues he is credited with saving the lives of some 600 Jewish children who would otherwise have been sent to the death camps.  All this under the nose of the SS and knowing that if he were found out he too would be killed. That is what anti-Semitism really means.   It is part of the experience of many of our continental neighbours whose countries were occupied by the Nazis.  It is not part of our experience and it puts the ‘anti-Semitism’, which some would have us believe is rampant in the Labour party, into some kind of perspective. It also gives the lie to those people who claim the ‘The Holocaust’ was a hoax.

Both Stalin and Hitler despised Jewish people because they did not have a state of their own. Stalin deported them, Hitler murdered them.  With a history like this it is unsurprising that anyone who self identifies as Jewish will feel a close affinity with the state of Israel, the one country that is not going to deport them or murder them.

But identifying with a country is a two edged sword. It thrusts upon you a moral responsibility for that country’s actions.  On 17 March 2003 the late Robin Cook received a standing ovation from the House of Commons for his resignation speech after leaving the Cabinet in protest at the Iraq war.  Thousands of people took to the streets to voice their objections to the war.  They were people who wanted to tell Blair, and the world, ‘you do not go to war in my name’.

So the distinction between gratuitous anti-semitism and thought through anti-Zionism may begin to look a bit hazy at times.   Nonetheless the distinction is real.  Gratuitous anti-semitism on social media should not be made an excuse for not questioning the policies of the state of Israel, either by individuals or the press.   Nor should it be made an excuse for the press seeking to interfere in the internal structures of the Labour party.

It cannot have escaped notice that if Corbyn accedes to the demand that Christine Shawcroft should be suspended from the party and removed from the party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC), it will shift the balance of power between the pro- and anti-Corbyn forces.  So whilst it is not difficult to find a few dozen examples of gratuitous anti-Semitism coming from some members of the Labour party, it is also a story being whipped up mostly by MPs who have always objected to Corbyn leading the party and a press which thinks the same.

How many of the people who are so vocal about this would be willing to act like Johan van Hulst did?

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