Monday, April 09, 2012

Poetic Injustice: Hypocrites insult the Holocaust dead

IN a week that saw the Israeli Interior Minister declaring an octagenarian Nobel prizewinning poet to be persona non grata, for a poem on the threat of nuclear war, Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May learned that she had made a big mistake listening to advice that likely originated from the Israeli government, in dealing with a Palestinian political activist - partly because of a mistranslated poem.

After ten months legal fight to clear his name, Sheikh Raed Salah won his case against deportation on Saturday. Saleh, leader of northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, had come to this country to honour some speaking engagements, but ended up spending much longer here after he was detained.

A former mayor of Umm el Fahm, Saleh had addressed a meeting in Leicester, and was due to address MPs when he was arrested at his hotel, on June 25 2011. Police were unable to say why. Though the Palestinian had entered Britain openly on his own passport, newspapers had headlined reports suggesting that the Palestinian had "breached security" and posed some kind of threat.

It turned out that Salah had been banned from the country only two days before he entered legally. Neither he nor the groups that invited him to the UK was informed.

Judge Mark Ockelton has ruled that “there is no lawful basis” for the Home Secretary to “implement the exclusion order that was based on exactly the same material” as the deportation order. Of May’s argument that Salah should be deported from the country, the judge said the tribunal considered it “to be very weak,” because she was “under a misapprehension as to the facts” noting that “she was misled as to the terms of the poem.”

The ban was based on a falsified version of a poem Salah had written, with the words “You Jews” inserted to incorrectly make it seem as if it had been antisemitic.

Tomorrow Salah's lawyers will ask for bail conditions to be dropped which prevent him speaking to the press or public, and required him to report daily to the police and wear an electronic tag. Although he was released on these conditions in July, Salah was unable to return home because he was told that his right to appeal would lapse should he leave the country. He was anxious to clear his name because he understandably fears that otherwise the Israeli authorities would use expulsion by the British authorities as a precedent to take their own measures against him.

The British government had cited Prevent, “the preventative strand of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy” policy, established by the Labour government after the 2005 bombings on London, in its evidence to the courts against Raed Salah. But the Jewish community's so-called Community Security Trust (CST), which is influenced by Israeli security agencies though it enjoys recognition from the British police, had also shown an interest in this case, describing the effort to deport Salah as an “important test case” (“Salah loses deportation case,” The Jewish Chronicle, 26 October 2011 ).

Judge Ockelton was not satisfied that the case had anything to do with "terrorism", nor that the government had even revealed on what basis it was acting. The government's lawyer claimed that the Home Secretary had a responsibility to act on "expert advice" which she could not disclose to the court.

It was revealed last year that the Home Office and UK Border agency had decided to act after receiving a report from the CST, including what proved to be a doctored version of Salah's poem. This was most likely supplied by Israeli intelligence. This had been followd up by the CST denouncing "extreme" Jewish critics of Israel, who might be “used as character references for Salah.”

Another poem which has apparently got its author into trouble is written by German Nobel Prize Laureate Gunter Grass, and entitled “Was gesagt werden muss” (What Must Be Said). Grass, concerned like many people, including Israelis, by the build up towards war with Iran, has asked why the world is showing such concern over Iran's alleged steps to develop nuclear weapons, while seemingly ignoring Israel's possession of such weapons. Warning against this threat to peace, the German writer has also condemned his own government for supplying Israel with submarines which could be used to launch a missile attack on Iran.

Benjamin Netanyahu has made a vitriolic condemnation of the poem, and the Israeli embassy in Berlin among other mouthpieces accused Grass of a “blood libel.” This overworked cliche in the vocabulary of Israeli leaders refers to the way Jew-haters used to incite pogroms, particularly at Easter time, by accusing Jews of making ritual use of Christian blood. But in 1982 the late Menachem Begin denounced as "blood libel" the accusation of Israeli responsibility in the massacres of Palestinians by Christian forces, at Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon. Israel's own Kahane Commission subsequently found Ariel Sharon culpable for unleashing the killers.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai has declared Grass “persona non grata,” and Grass's wartime service at age 17 in the Waffen SS has been thrown against him. Reports on TV here said Grass was being banned under a law against "ex-Nazis", and newspapers have quoted Israeli columnist Anshel Pfeffer’s claim that Grass’s service in the Nazi regime’s Waffen SS “disqualified him from criticizing the descendants of those Jews for developing a weapon of last resort that is the insurance policy against someone finishing the job his organization began.”

This is a vicious smear on the German writer, who was conscripted like masses of his countrymen for a regime for which he bore no responsibility, and served as a Panzer tank gunner during the last stages of the war. It is also an insult to the millions of Jewish and other victims of Nazism, who had a variety of political and religious outlooks and did not authorise the Israeli government to call itself their "descendent", either in oppressing the neighbouring people or developing weapons for mass slaughter.

Jewish historic experience has been so cheapened by the counterfeit use of it made by Israeli politicians that in Israel the settler right thinks nothing of donning fake concentration camp uniforms like it's a Purim spiel and taunting Israeli soldiers and police as "Nazis", as we saw during the Gaza withdrawal. In the Jewish Diaspora too, right-wing Zionists accuse peaceniks and anti-Zionists of being "kapos". Someone ought to remind them that it was their party which provided collaborators and ghetto police chiefs. And the Holocaust did not put an end to Israeli leaders' willingness to work with Nazis and antisemites.

But we need not open up the whole history book to see the hypocrisy of the way Gunter Grass is being treated. As my friend Michael Dorfman ‎has pointed out, "Forty years ago Grass visited Israel, and there was a big fuss about it. So the poet and oficial Zionist troubadour Nathan Alterman wrote a piece in his column in Davar, where he said, that episode from Grass' youth doesn't detract from the fact that he is a staunch anti-Nazi

We might also remember that while the Israeli Interior Minister supposedly invokes a law barring "ex-Nazis" to ban Grass on account of his wartime service, present-day Nazis who proclaim their current hatred is for Arabs and Muslims have been made all too welcome, even polluting the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem.

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At 3:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Panzer commanders were never conscripts, not even at the end of the war. Neither were members of the Waffen SS. They were volunteers in elite units whose fighting prowess and loyalty to Hitler were maintained throughout the war. And comparing Israel's possession of nukes with Iran is just blindingly stupid. Iran has threatened to obliterate Israel. Not once but many times. Israel has never threatened to obliterate anyone.


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