For the Israel haters, finding someone who (a) claims to be Jewish (b) lived through the Holocaust and (c) compares Israel’s leaders to Nazis, is like winning the Lottery. They’re even better trophies than Neturei Karta. How can anyone possibly question Jew/Nazi comparisons made by a “Survivor”? They used the late Hedy Epstein in this way. In 2010 they paraded the late Hajo Meyer the length and breadth of the UK around 27 January, Holocaust Memorial Day (I compared him with a dancing bear). It goes without saying that the haters are not fussy about exactitude when they describe their trophies as ‘Survivors’. In my book (though I admit, it’s controversial) the word ‘Survivor’ should be reserved for someone who survived a concentration camp. Hedy Epstein was never in a camp. She left Germany (on the Kindertransport) on 18 May 1939, for England. The War did not start until 1 September 1939 (the invasion of Poland).
So it was that Bristol University Friends of Palestine paraded ‘Holocaust Survivor’ Marika Sherwood on March 16 2018 to vilify Israel.
Like Epstein, Ms Sherwood was never in a concentration camp. Born in 1937, she was in the Budapest Ghetto. Her family escaped being taken to a camp by disguising themselves as Christians (in fact I was told that the family converted to Christianity in the 1920s, though I cannot find documentation for this). Her explicit shtick is ‘I’m a Survivor so I know what I’m talking about when I compare Israelis to Nazis’; a previous talk had to have its title changed because of its explicit antisemitism.
The Stephenson Room at Bristol Students’ Union was packed for Ms Sherwood – about 150 people, the vast majority of student age. Ms Sherwood began with her own background (for over 22 minutes – this took over two-thirds of her talk, with no mention of Israel – though there was a further 5 minutes before the Q+A, see below). She had an uncle who died near the border on the march to Auschwitz. She was ‘very unhappy’ to leave Hungary (in 1948, for Australia) “and it’s partly because of that, that I feel close to Palestinians.” She married an Australian, had a son, then quickly divorced (age 20). She wanted to leave Australia but couldn’t afford it. So she got a job as a clerical officer in New Guinea. This (she said) was her introduction to race discrimination (Didn’t the Budapest Ghetto count? Or as a child, witnessing Jews being taken to the camps?). She returned to Australia and went to university in Sydney to learn more about ‘colonialism’, studying Anthropology and Sociology part-time, while working. She said she was “brainwashed“, especially about the UK, “the mother country”. Then she came to the UK and got a job as a teacher at Hampstead Comprehensive School. She said there was discrimination at the school: the white children were in the higher streams, the black ones in the lower streams: “Anybody in NW3 or NW5 was in the top stream … White kids called black kids ‘Useless Ni**ers’ “. Then ….. “I was stopped from teaching for various reasons … asking too many questions and doing too much for these lower stream people”. No wonder she was sacked. Streaming was by evidenced ability. It’s deluded to suggest that a child who was less able but lived in Hampstead would nevertheless have been placed in the top stream, where s/he would have been completely at sea.
Later Ms Sherwood spent five years in New York. Another teaching job finished because – she said – she got too close to black people. She had also been “speaking out about Israel” and “a lot of the New York Education Department was Jewish” (the first of her antisemitic dog whistles: Jews try to suppress criticism of Israel. Like the Livingstone Formulation………..)
Eventually she turned to Israel. As expected, we got ‘Holocaust Inversion’.
Here’s what she said:
… I had hoped that the Jews would have learned that there has to be another way. You don’t kick Palestinians out of their land because some of your ancestors lived there 4000 years ago; we all lived somewhere else 4000 years ago. Imagine what would happen if all the Brits who emigrated to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and America decided they wanted to come back here. But the Jews have the right to go back to Palestine, why don’t all those people have the right to come back here? … How could Jews behave as they do towards Palestinians is …It’s just disgraceful … I just don’t know how you cannot learn . I tried to find my uncle’s grave as he died in the march to Auschwitz. How many Palestinans have died in the same way? Did we have memorial to them? Will the Jews ever look at what they are doing?
This is precisely the same ‘Holocaust Inversion’ that contributed to the former MP David Ward’s suspension from the LibDem Party in 2013:
Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza … It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.
Don’t be fooled by Ms Sherwood’s ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ faux-naïveté. It’s an act (it reminded me so much of Alison Chabloz in Court ten days ago). She knows precisely what she is doing!
From this it was an easy segue to the Balfour Declaration – and classic Rothschild conspiracies. Ms Sherwood is known for her dog-whistle hints (“I don’t think enough research has been done into……..”). Ms Sherwood said that when the UK government abolished slavery in the Colonies (1833), “most of” the £20m compensation paid to slave owners “came from” the Rothschilds. Fact omitted: The money was a loan, not a gift. As Ms Sherwood well knows:
Source: Marika Sherwood, After Abolition: Britain and the Slave Trade Since 1807
How deceitful to suggest to the students that the £20 million was a gift – as opposed to a commercial loan … Even in her book she says it was a loan, but then asks about “Rothschild’s motives for giving it……….”. The motive? How about that the Rothschilds were in the business of banking? That’s how Meyer Amschel Rothschild (born 1744) made his way out of the Ghetto in Frankfurt, the most repulsively antisemitic city in 18th Century Germany, where Jews were simply not permitted to enter most professions. The Rothschilds lent money to the government to fund the abolition of slavery, just as they had earlier done so to fund the Wars against Napoleon.
But for Ms Sherwood there has to be a sinister ulterior motive for the loan: “What was going on between the government and the Rothschilds? I could find no trace in either the National Archives or the Rothschild Archives.” Dog whistle …… Jewish Power…. It gets worse. Ms Sherwood then returned to the Balfour Declaration (1917) – which was (you will remember) addressed to Lord Balfour. Read what she said – it’s blatant:
“What was going on between the government and Rothschild? And what I found – in trying to research the Balfour Declaration – is that Balfour was in touch with the Rothschilds. Now what was that about? What was that about? Why did Lord Balfour – a senior member of the government, looking at a homeland for the Jews – get in touch with one of … if not the … richest Jewish families in the world? So that needs to be looked at I think, very seriously.”
The truth of course is really simple. Members of the British government talked to Lord Rothschild – and addressed the Balfour Declaration to him – because he was the titular head of the UK Jewish Community. And sorry Ms Sherwood, they talked to other Jews too, for example the brilliant Chaim Weizmann – who later was the only non-family member allowed into the room where Balfour was dying.
Next came an attack on Israel for the alliance with apartheid South Africa. Yes it was wrong – but then how many other countries were similarly guilty? Or are Jews supposed to know better, because of the Shoah? And why was Israel the only country you mentioned?
Then to the Q+A. Remember, this was a Palestine Society meeting. The female student who was chairing it: “This is a really safe environment … Any act that may be intimidating or aggressive, we will ask you to leave .. but again this is an open discussion.“ Right …
Before the Q+A Ms Sherwood spoke briefly. She told the students egregious falsehoods about history between 1917-1945:
“The amount of land that Palestine was supposed to hand over to the Jews was then specified. The Jews never followed that up and took over more and more land. Initially they just bought some of the land. But after a while they began to kick Palestinians off their land and they began to raze the villages to the ground and either confiscate the farm animals or kill them. There were wars, which Israel usually won [she seemed to have switched to the post-1948 period]. Hardly surprising given US military support. And when there were protests at the UN … there was never a full discussion because the US always used its veto to prevent a full discussion. So there has never been a UN agreement to what has become Palestine.”
Of course the truth is entirely different. The UN did agree the partition between Jews and Arabs, by Resolution 181 in November 1947. The Jews accepted it but the Arabs didn’t and started a war, which they lost.
(Surprisingly Ms Sherwood did not mention her most recent dog whistle – that the proposed new Holocaust Memorial in London is ‘simply a payoff in order to retain the friendship of Israel, Britain’s friend in the Middle East’. )
The Q+A. I got the second question. I corrected Ms Sherwood on Rothschild and the Balfour Declaration: no conspiracy. I explained why Israel is not a ‘colonial’ state – it came into being as a result of the collapse of the Ottoman colonial empire. I called Ms Sherwood out on Holocaust Inversion. I explained that Israel has been subject to terror for 70 years and has the most moral army in the world which achieves a civilian:combatant casualty ratio of 1:1, lower than in any other asymmetric war. Then of course the barracking started (“What’s your question mate?”) – so I had to raise my voice to ask my question: “Why are you pumping out lies to these students?”. Of course I was then asked to leave for being “unnecessarily aggressive” (!) in the “safe space”. I refused to leave. More from me: “No Palestinians were ‘hounded out’ of their land [as Ms Sherwood said]; they were told to stay, Read Efraim Karsh.They were told by the Mayor of Haifa to stay.” Security was called but it took them another 19 minutes to arrive.
The next question was from ‘Pete’ who volunteers at the Palestine Museum in Bristol. He said his father was Jewish and a refugee from the Nazis. “You’re representing everything that’s good about Judaism and Jewish people who have been fighting against injustice throughout the world for hundreds of years.” I said that Ms Sherwood was not Jewish. An aggressive young man then moved to sit in my ‘safe space’ (the vacant seat to my right): “You need to leave right now .. Security are going to come and drag you out”. Me: “I’m going nowhere, can you take your hand off me?”
Pete finished his question: “Why aren’t more people like you? Why aren’t more Jewish people in this country now – and in the US and in Israel – standing up for Palestinian freedom?” See how Ms Sherwood stoked up antisemitism!
Ms Sherwood responded to Pete. In doing so she repeated the Rothschild trope, just in case anyone had missed it first time around: “I wish I had an answer for you….. I wish I did. May I say something about the Rothschilds? I wasn’t thinking a lot of conspiracy [this was obviously aimed at me…] but if Rothschild lent or gave Britain £20 million in the 1830s and in 1917 Britain is consulting with them about something else, just what is going on behind the scenes? … There is so much that is not revealed about what the kind of discussion behind the scenes, very quietly … “
How To Defend an Allegation of Conspiracy Theorising With A Conspiracy Theory… You really couldn’t make it up!
A non-student accused Ms Sherwood of being “down on the Jews” and asked why she seemed not to regard what happened to Jews in Europe in the 1930s as “racism”. And accused her of out-and-out racism for talking about “the Jews”. Ms Sherwood’s response spoke volumes: “If I was antisemitic, I wouldn’t call myself a Jew, would I?”
Next came a student in a hijab in the front row. Emotionally – she was in tears – she remonstrated with Ms Sherwood about generalising about ‘the Jews’ – just as it was wrong to generalise about ‘the Muslims’. So far, so good. Unfortunately it went rapidly downhill, way over the red line into the land of false moral equivalence: “A real Jewish person who is practising the religion of God would not do what Israel is doing. Those people who are committing those crimes are Jews but they are not practising their religion, just as when there are horrible Muslims. The Israelis … the horrible Muslims … we should never generalise. You should say ‘the horrible Israelis and the horrible extreme Muslims’.”
Ms Sherwood’s scarf
Next came a student who pointed out to Ms Sherwood that she was wearing a scarf with a photo of Yasser Arafat, who had made vile statements about Jews. She agreed! Next a Jewish student who said that the number of anti-Israel events on campus was very distressing for Jewish students and who told Ms Sherwood that her dog-whistles simply served to stoke up antisemitism (he said he is currently doing a dissertation on the Balfour Declaration). He hit the nail on the head with his question: “Do you agree with me that it’s dangerous to suggest and hint to antisemitic conspiracies on campus to different students when there is a Jewish minority on campus currently feeling very insecure?” The Chair then tried to pull the meeting back to discussing Palestinian-related issues. Unfortunately for her, that was the very moment when three large security officers materialised, to eject me from the ‘safe space’. I left waving an Israel flag and shouting “Am Yisroel Chai” four times – and “a pack of lies”. About 20 minutes later the meeting ended prematurely. Another non-student Israel supporter told me he had told Ms Sherwood that she was a ‘bogus survivor’, the meeting had erupted and had ended early.
Well done to those four or five who pushed back. It is a complete disgrace that such a meeting can take place at a British University. At least we had some excellent 1-1 discussions after the meeting (Pete came to talk to me).
Oh and to the student journalist who thinks I am in my 40s … Thanks pal, I owe you a drink! But just for the record, I did not ‘enter the talk shouting and carrying an Israeli flag’. Neither was I ‘escorted off the premises’………
Addendum Just for a laugh ……….
The response of the Jewish students at Bristol to the meeting and the above statement is here.
Postscript: Avital Carno, a current Bristol student and the former head of interfaith at Bristol Jewish Society, has written this excellent and passionate cri de coeur……….