I’ve just returned from Kraków. It is a beautiful city, populated by beautiful people but saturated in tragedy, misery and suppression at an industrial scale. The most vibrant part of town is Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter. Before the Second World War, tens of thousands of Jews lived there. Now, only five hundred do so. The Nazis created a walled ghetto for just 16,000 Jews with 2 square metre living place per person in a neighbouring part of the city. Later, those people were exterminated at Auschwitz or sent to other camps to work as slaves, apart from the lucky ones helped by Schindler or the Polish Pharmacist of Kraków. Nearby Auschwitz is huge, the Birkenau camp being the end point of a ruthlessly efficient conveyer belt to extermination for 1.5 million people, mostly Jews. When Russian soldiers liberated Auschwitz, there were only a few hundred survivors. Soviet rule continued until 1989.
I come home to find The Labour Party still embroiled in a row over anti-semitism. Margaret Hodge, one of the few politicians I admire, has been accused of abusing her leader. She is fighting her corner very strongly. She is upset that Labour has decided to adjust the internationally recognised definition of anti-semitism in its new disciplinary procedure. Four of the eleven examples of anti-semitism, outlined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), are missing. Labour argue that three of them are ‘contextualised’ in further detail in the text. However, there is one glaring omission, which is, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”
Jeremy Corbyn, according to today’s otherwise conciliatory Guardian article, believes this example has implications for free speech. He has a long history of sympathy for the Palestinian cause. However, no matter how abhorrent Israel has behaved towards Palestine, it cannot be anywhere near the scale and heartless evil demonstrated by the Nazis. A comparison can only be intended to inflame and cause distress.
Corbyn plans to consult for a further month and indulge in negotiation, by which time, the situation will be worse with opinions polarised and irretrievably entrenched. The Jewish community already feels existentially threatened and unwelcome in the Labour Party. Frankly, I do not understand why Labour don’t simply include all eleven IHRA examples and move on, unless its leadership really does perceive the state of Israel as being similar to Nazis. You can still criticise Israel for its treatment of Palestine as forcibly as you like, just without the N-word.