Open Letter to the JC

Open Letter to the JC

IHRC has written an open letter to The Jewish Chronicle to complain about their reporting of Genocide Memorial Day’s school resources. Find the text below.

Open Letter, sent by email

7 February 2020

Mr. Pollard,

Your attack on Holocaust memorialisation and genocide awareness and prevention in your 22 January issue is shocking and offensive.  Your paper’s salacious and often misleading attacks on IHRC and many others because of our support for justice for the Palestinians is nothing new.  However to attack a project that focuses on genocide awareness and prevention is a new low even for The Jewish Chronicle.

We will choose to overlook the baseless accusations you make about the IHRC and Al-Quds Day, slurs that you have made repeatedly over the years in an effort to demonise both. We have on more than one occasion exposed the motives that underlie your maliciousness.

On the inclusion of Holocaust Memorialisation as part of the Genocide Memorial Day project and its teaching materials

Lee Harpin’s attack* on the Genocide Memorial Day project’s teaching materials in “Government pledges to act over teaching material that compares Gaza to the Holocaust” is slanted, misleading, unfactual, racist and Islamophobic. It so greatly distorts the actual situation that it is hard to see the piece as anything other than the lowest kind of gutter journalism. 

By misrepresenting and undermining Genocide Memorial Day, the article also displays a staggering level of insensitiveness, effectively belittling the suffering of millions of victims of genocides past and present, and is particularly offensive to those survivors and children and families of survivors of the Holocaust who have been involved in and supported the Genocide Memorial Day project. 

We will confine our focus to your fierce disapproval of our distribution of Genocide teaching materials to educational institutions around the UK, and which were uploaded on the Times Educational Supplement website. Your affected ire claims to be about the content of the resources, in particular those sent in an email of 15th January to schools.  The three resources can be found here, here and here.  The email sent to schools, of which you have printed a partial screen grab is appended below in full.

These three resources are:

  • a presentation for use and or adaptation for assemblies containing 20 slides of examples of different genocides and genocidal acts;
  • a lesson plan on the Holocaust for children aged 10-12 on Ian McKewan’s acclaimed book Rose Blanche, the stated learning objective of which is ‘To learn about the Holocaust; to learn about how ordinary people can both be accomplices with oppressive regimes and genocidal acts, as well as oppose both in whatever way they can; to have confidence in standing up for what is right; to think about the type of narratives used to justify genocidal programmes’;
  • and a lesson plan for children aged 14-18 on the Holocaust and Eugenics.

The content of these lesson plans, prepared for teachers, are uncontroversial. 

Yet you have made many spurious claims, and sinister implications which have no basis in fact. 

As you keep attempting to conflate GMD with Holocaust Memorial Day it is apt to point out that  various HMDs around the country, and the Holocaust Educational Trust itself include a variety of different genocides in their commemoration material.  It is clear you take umbrage that other genocides have been mentioned (we mention at least 20 others in the assembly presentation Harpin’s article complains about), particularly the fact that just one of the many genocidal acts committed against Palestinians has been listed.  You have indeed presented this in such a way as to make it appear that only the Holocaust and this genocidal act are mentioned across all the teaching materials in this project.

This and the fact that it is IHRC – a Muslim led organisation, seem to be your focus.

In our opinion, this article is a further example of racist discrimination and demonisation on your paper’s part.

Like many in wider society we do not share the view that opening up the discourse on genocide to take in mass slaughters such as occurred during the era of slavery, in Cambodia and the war on Iraq in any way “downgrades” the Holocaust, which is one of the many genocides that is listed and discussed in the teaching aids. 

Lee Harpin’s portrayal of the School Resources section of the GMD site as simply making equivalence between the Holocaust and genocidal acts committed by Israeli regimes, forces and institutions against Palestinians is forced and misleading.  By simply highlighting one of twenty slides, or two books from an extensive reading list, or one IHRC report whilst ignoring scores of different and various material is deeply cynical and we assume presented as such to bolster Harpin’s view that the ‘teaching resource pack’ has: ‘compare[d] Israeli actions with Nazi Germany’ and that this in his opinion violates the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

Any review of the GMD school resources will show that this claim in particular and the article is a cynical distortion of the content, and most likely defamatory.

On comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians with the Nazi treatment of Jews

Whilst the GMD school resources do not make this claim, it is worth noting that this argument has been made repeatedly, often by Israelis and Jews, and even at Holocaust Memorial Day events around the country.

We note that your article does not seek to explain why you disagree with the comparison. 

We provide below links to notable activists, academics and practitioners who have made this claim.

Whilst JC is free to support Israel right or wrong, to try to delegitimise and silence the views expressed by so many people working on genocide awareness and prevention by instrumentalising the Holocaust is callous and works against the goal of understanding the causes of such heinous crimes against humanity.  We are appalled at your singling out of GMD and believe it to be the result of a wider vindictive campaign against IHRC because of our unflinching support for Palestinian rights and our ‘without fear or favour’ approach to criticising Israel and its supporters. It is part of a wider agenda to remove from the public sphere any voices that dissent with the false reality presented by the groups wanting to dominate Holocaust memorialisation. This is not acceptable since the issue of genocide is too important for any one interested party to act as the self-appointed gatekeeper to the discussion chamber.

Gerald Kaufmann, ‘UK Jewish MP- Israel War Crimes in Gaza’ in the House of Commons

 Hajo Meyer, Holocaust Memorial Day ‘Never again, for anyone – Hajo Meyer’ at Holocaust Memorial Day

Haim Bresheeth on Colonialism, Racism and Genocide at Genocide Memorial Day

Richard Falk, Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust on TNI

Gideon Levy, Go to Gaza and Cry Never Again in Haaretz

Hagai El-Ad, Netanyahu Exploits the Holocaust to Brutalize the Palestinians in Haaretz

These are simply a few of the many such resources.

As shown from the above mainstream newspapers in Israel itself have previously and continue to publish this narrative, including on and around the Auschwitz Liberation memorial day this year. 

When such commentary is made widely available in Israel, your paper’s attempts to demonise such commentary here are grotesque. 

On playing to a racist gallery

It seems clear that Harpin’s piece plays to Islamlophobic and racist narratives about Muslims.  Not only does he imply that a Muslim led organisation has no business commemorating the Holocaust, he highlights decolonial arguments raised in an article by an IHRC writer in mainstream media about the English language, as somehow worthy of investigation.  These are at best absurd points to make.  Further he reports that JC’s concerns have been conveyed to the Immigration Minister who has vowed to look into the matter.  As the Minister mentioned is not the Immigration Minister it seems that Harpin wishes to emphasise the racialised otherness of IHRC by this mischaracterisation of his position.

JC has shown that it is ready to platform the denial of anti-Muslim racism or Islamophobia, however you prefer to term it, and reproduce demonised representation of Muslims.  Melanie Phillips piece of 16 December 2019 calling Islamophobia bogus and your response that her piece was part of a ‘debate’, is a case in point.  At a time when racism of all sorts is on the rise, resulting in hate crimes, and travesties like Holocaust denial, your own attempts to delegitimise and deny anti-racism language and work is appalling.

GMD is premised on the notion that if we are to do justice to the victims of genocides we must recognise there is no league table or hierarchy of suffering. In this sense GMD is much more inclusive than prevailing definitions, something which has made it accessible and popular with people of all ethncities and religions since its inception. GMD also widens the discussion to include the policies and actions that lead up to genocide in order to empower people with the knowledge to recognise at an early stage any slide towards it.

GMD rescues the Holocaust from the type of despicable political exploitation your article has exemplified.  We trust a full apology and retraction will be published asap, and an appropriate offer of compensation made to IHRC.

Your sincerely,

Massoud Shadjareh

* We note that despite requesting Mr Harpin to email the media team at IHRC with questions when he called, no email was received.

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