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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing – Paying for the - Consequences

There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

Fishel Benkhald Passport Jew PakistaniSo we must suppose, for example, that as the outrage caused by the US Trump administration’s tough anti-illegal immigration policies highlighted the large number of Muslim countries that ban Jews, so the consequent embarrassment has forced Pakistan to allow Fischel (ne Faisal) Benkhald to register officially as a Jew.

Benkhald (29), born to a Muslim father and a Jewish mother, describes himself as ‘the last Jew in Pakistan’. But it is believed there may be hundreds more Jews who have decided to live secretly in Pakistan due to the steep rise in antisemitism there following the partition from India in 1947.

Benkhald, whose Muslim siblings distance themselves from his activities, has done much to restore the Jewish cemetery in Karachi, where a community of largely Iraqi and Indian immigrants once lived. He says he hopes to travel abroad "to a free country" to study Hebrew and Judaism but until then, he will continue his activism in Pakistan.


There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

So it must have been a fluke that caused The Guardian newspaper to feature the worst excesses of the Nazi film industry barely hours after it was the subject of a screening and discussion for the Anglo community here in Karmiel, Israel.

In her nJud Sussewspaper feature, historian and film-maker Karen Liebreich covered several of the same movies as those discussed during the local event led by US-Israeli Marc Milzman.

Both, for example, examined Jud Süss (Süss the Jew), generally considered to be the most dangerously antisemitic film ever produced.

The movie, seen by about 20 million people throughout Europe by 1943 , is thought to have been the direct cause of many pogroms as well having helped to enthuse SS troops and concentration guards to perform their evil work with yet greater zeal..

It is painfully clear from Liebreich’s interview with Kristina Söderbaum (whom she dubs ‘the Nazi Marilyn Munroe’) that even aged eighty and many years after the war, that the actress harbours all the same prejudices she held when she played the story’s ravished heroine, Dorothea Sturm.

Astoundingly, Söderbaum  claims the movie was not anti-Jewish; that everyone felt sympathy for the anti-hero and  that she was forced to appear in it simply because the director was her husband, Veit Harlan.

Post-war, Harlan was tried (but acquitted) for crimes against humanity. As for Söderbaum, in her autobiography she wrote that Jud Süss “burnt a wound in my soul, and whenever it seems nearly healed over, it is ripped open once more. I know it will never heal. That is my fate, I must live with it.”

And so must we.


There’s ‘no such thing as co-incidence’.

So it could only have been a really unlucky twist of fate that caused  an anti-Israel conference, first scheduled for, but then prevented from convening at  the University of Southampton, to be held instead at  University College Cork in Ireland during the very same weekend as we Karmielis were treated to  our Nazi film show!

Ghada KarmiIndeed,  Harlan could hardly have bettered the scenario: 

With the luscious green landscape of the Emerald Isle as backdrop, it starred Jerusalem-born Dr Ghada Karmi, a lecturer on the Middle East at Exeter University,  who said that the term ‘untermensch’ — used by the Nazis to brand “inferior” non-Aryan people — could be legitimately used to describe Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.

Dr Karmi further argued  that Jews had flocked to Mandate Palestine because they were “an unpopular, unloved people” and then described European Jews who fled to the Middle East as a “group of foreign immigrants trying to behave as if they were indigenous.”

Dr Karmi’s remarks were sparked by an academic paper written by Professor Yosefa Loshitzky from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) who used the Nazi terminology to describe what she called Israeli “crimes against humanity” in Gaza.

Dr Karmi also said: “We are not allowed to use words the Nazis used, as if they were true and unique only to what the Nazis did to the Jews. It is not right. For Palestinians, I don’t think they make a distinction between what happened to the Jews in Germany and what is happening to them. That is something we need to remember.”

The conference organisers included a former Israeli law lecturer Oren Ben-Dor — whose own university is Southampton. He told his audience, who included former Labour frontbench MP Clare Short, that “Jews need to become human again” and that they possessed a “victim mentality” and a “suppressed desire to be hated … to be boycotted.”

In a separate lecture, Mr Ben-Dor  attacked the ‘extreme separateness’ and ‘apartheid’ within  Israel. ‘Separateness’ and ‘exceptionalism’ were “the State of Israel’s raison d’etre”, he claimed. Later, he added  that Israel was “worse than South Africa” and an apartheid state; but not like South Africa because the kind of legalisms used in Israel were tricks of law to prevent looking from within.”

From reports I’ve read, only two speeches attempted to level  the argument.

Piaras Mac Éinrí, also a conference organiser and a geography lecturer at University  College  Cork,  pointed  out  that  comparison  between “Israel/ Palestine and Nazi Germany is not only historically unfounded, it is also unhelpful. “I feel strongly about that. I think we should stop doing this, it does our movement no favours,” he said.

The sole pro-Zionist speech during the entire three-day event was made by Professor Geoffrey Alderman  from the University of Buckingham who said later that he did not  regret having gone, as he had received  some positive feedback from his remarks.


So here I am, about to light a candle on the eve of another Yom Hashoa – Holocaust Memorial Day. Elsewhere, be it in close-up  or long-shot, the picture for Jews and Israel looks like the black screen of death.  That’s no coincidence!

© Natalie Wood (23 April 2017)

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