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Yves Engler's Blog

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Yves Engler has been described as "Canada's version of Noam Chomsky" (Georgia Straight), “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I. F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), "ever-insightful" (rabble.ca) and a "Leftist gadfly" (Ottawa Citizen). His latest book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper's foreign policy.

Netanyahu absolves Hitler while Canada's main Jewish organizations stay silent

| November 3, 2015
Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum

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By blaming Palestinians for the Nazi holocaust, Benjamin Netanyahu wildly distorted Jewish suffering for Israel's ends. The lack of comment by Canada's main Jewish organizations speaks to their own use of Nazi crimes to serve Israel and power more generally.

Using words that would have destroyed the political career of any mainstream North American, or western European leader, Netanyahu said the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini convinced Hitler to gas European Jewry. "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said: 'If you expel them, they'll all come here [to Palestine].'" Hitler, according to Netanyahu, then asked: "What should I do with them?" with the mufti allegedly replying: "Burn them."

The Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B'nai Brith and other Canadian Holocaust organizations have stayed silent in the face of Netanyahu's ridiculous effort to blame Palestinians for Nazi crimes. While telling, this silence not surprising. These groups aggressively backed the outgoing Harper regime despite government officials repeatedly minimizing the Nazi Holocaust.

In 2009 Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said "Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms," and told a European audience that pro-Palestinian activism spurred anti-Jewish activities "even more dangerous than the old European anti-Semitism." Similarly, in May 2008 Canwest reported: "Some of the criticism brewing in Canada against the state of Israel, including from some members of Parliament, is similar to the attitude of Nazi Germany in the Second World War, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned."

Indifferent to the Conservatives' Holocaust minimization, CIJA and B'nai B'rith denounced others for lesser transgressions. During the 2012 Québec student strike some protesters responded to police repression by comparing the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) to the Nazi SS secret police. Many chanted "S-S PVM, police politique!" while others mocked the police by marching in formation and extending their arm as if saluting Hitler. On what he said would have been Nazi victim and child author Anne Frank's 83rd birthday, B'nai B'rith CEO Frank Dimant issued a statement attacking a social movement much reviled by the establishment. "We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters", which Dimant said "defile[s] the memory of the Holocaust."

The pro-Harper Jewish groups also pounced when Justin Trudeau criticized the outgoing government by, in part, invoking Canada's refusal to give Jews fleeing Nazi Germany safe haven. In March the Liberal Party leader told a McGill audience "we should all shudder to hear the same rhetoric that led to a ‘none is too many' immigration policy toward Jews in the 30s and 40s being used today, to raise fears against Muslims today." The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies dubbed Trudeau's comment a "careless metaphor", CIJA called it "inaccurate and inappropriate" and Bnai Brith described it a "highly-inappropriate and offensive Nazi-era comparison."

But, when Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney repeatedly invoked the Nazi Holocaust a week earlier the same groups failed to register any concern. To justify the extraordinary powers of Bill C-51 Blaney told a parliamentary committee the government needed to curtail free speech, among other rights, because "the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chamber, it began with words."

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, B'nai B'rith and CIJA refused to criticize Blaney's remarks with CIJA CEO Shimon Fogel performing mental gymnastics to justify them. "Minister Blaney was speaking to an element of the legislation that focuses on the power of words and referenced Rwanda and the Holocaust in that context. Considering the genocidal statements issued by the Ayatollah calling quite literally for a new Holocaust targeting Jews, and the actions of ISIL along with their pronouncements, any discussion about the rationale for legislation that would address such language and its potential toxic influence is not entirely out of place," Fogel said. 

(If a comparison between Bill C-51 and the Nazi Holocaust is to be drawn it's in how the bill could pave the way to a Nazi-style police state.)

Netanyahu has demonstrated a clear willingness to distort Jewish suffering for Israel's ends. And in like fashion Canada's main Jewish organizations have also participated in this injustice to Palestinians and insult to Hitler's victims, for their own political ends.

All real opponents of Nazi crimes must cringe at this shameful debasement of the memory of tens of millions victims of fascism.

Yves Engler is the author of the just-released Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation.

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Image: Flickr/World Economic Forum



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