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Canadian Silence On Netanyahu's Comments Distorts Holocaust

11/04/2015 02:29 EST | Updated 11/04/2016 05:12 EDT
DEBBIE HILL via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a memorial service marking the 20th anniversary of the assassination of late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the Mt. Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem, on October 26, 2015. Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli right-wing extremist who opposed his concessions for peace with the Palestinians. AFP PHOTO / POOL / DEBBIE HILL (Photo credit should read DEBBIE HILL/AFP/Getty Images)

By blaming Palestinians for the Nazi Holocaust, Benjamin Netanyahu wildly distorted Jewish suffering for Israel's ends amid a lack of widespread comment by Canada's main Jewish organizations.

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 Jew. 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?" and the mufti allegedly replied: "Burn them."

Some Canadian Holocaust organizations such as B'nai B'rith have stayed silent in the face of Netanyahu's ridiculous effort to blame Palestinians for Nazi crimes. The Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Independent Jewish Voices, on the other hand, are among those that did address the topic.

While telling, this partial silence is not surprising. Some of 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, The Montreal Gazette 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."

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 in a Nazi-like salute.

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 did not 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," Fogel said. "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."

"That said, politicians run an obvious risk when they invoke the Holocaust in policy debates, and we generally think that such references are best avoided as they distract from the issues at hand," Fogel added.

(If a comparison between Bill C-51 and the Nazi Holocaust were 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 it appears some of Canada's major 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.

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