Denis MacShane, the veteran Labour Party member of the British Parliament for Rotherham, gave a major speech on antisemitism in the House of Commons yesterday. (Full text of Denis MacShane’s 20 January speech.)
In contrast to politicians across Europe who pay lip service to the battle against antisemitism ‘in general’, Mr MacShane emphasized the actual issues of the day, including two major and ongoing scandals sadly involving member states of the European Union in the new accession eastern area. In both cases, his speech serves to overcome the veil of reticence sometimes encountered when it comes to criticizing Britain’s partners in the EU, NATO, the OSCE and other international organizations.
One section of the MacShane speech was dedicated to the week’s events in Hungary, where a judge reinstated a libel claim, widely considered to be laughable, against the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Dr Efraim Zuroff, filed by a Nazi war criminal whom prosecutors have not (yet?) found the political courage to prosecute (our report here). In other words, the Nazi war criminal has not only escaped justice (the Wiesenthal Center only ever asks for suspects to have a fair trial in open court), but the perpetrator is allowed to pursue a circus-like case against the man asking for his fair trial. The affair has become emblematic of the twisting of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe to confuse the area with an array of ruses and mirrors.
MP MacShane put it this way in his Commons remarks:
“In Hungary this week, we have had the surreal spectacle of a court allowing a convicted Nazi war criminal, Sandor Kepiro, to sue for defamation Dr Efraim Zuroff, Israel office. I know that Hungary is not the home of Kafka but this is Kafkaesque, as the Hungarian authorities are allowing a Nazi war criminal to persecute a Jew whose job is to expose and bring to justice the last remnants of the perpetrators of the Holocaust.”
― Denis MacShane MP
Turning to the Baltic states’ current policies, particularly their spearheading of the ‘Double Genocide’ movement, MP MacShane came right to the point.
“Today the Prime Minister is hosting a number of right-wing parties from Baltic states at Downing street. I welcome the outreach to Baltic and Nordic states, but I hope that he is telling their leaders that the attempts by many of the conservative right-wing parties in the Nordic countries in particular and in the Baltic states to make an equivalence between the Holocaust and the crimes of communism—the so-called ‘double genocide’ campaign—is odious and offensive, and it is condemned by all democratic parties in Europe. Lord Janner of Braunstone has written eloquently about this issue.
“Given my own family background, I certainly do not need any lessons on the evils of communism and Stalinism in eastern Europe. However, this downplaying and devaluation of the Holocaust is a cold-blooded tactic by politicians, some of whose pre-war ancestors were openly anti-Semitic. The European right in many of the Baltic states is nationalistic and populist. Latvian right wingers celebrate the Waffen SS. Mr Michal Kaminski, the Polish nationalist politician, says that he will apologise for what happened to Jews on Polish soil when Jews apologise to Poland for what they did during World War II. Frankly, that is unacceptable language. There is very great concern in the Jewish community—tiny as it is—in those countries about this growing attempt to airbrush out of history the crimes against Jews between 1941 and 1945.
“I quote Lord Janner:
‘For Jews in Europe during the Holocaust there was little complication. The truth was and still remains that the Soviet and Allied forces were the heroes and that Hitler’s Nazis were the perpetrators and the war criminals. Any attempt to pervert this history is an attack on the memory of the hundreds of thousands of Jews from that region who were murdered including many of my own family, who were in Lithuania and Latvia.’
“Lord Janner is right. Just as the Islamists seek to devalue the Holocaust as part of their ideological assault on the right of Israel to exist, so too elements of the ultra-nationalist and populist right in Baltic, Nordic and eastern European countries seek to devalue the Holocaust as a unique event to justify their own anti-Jewish ideology of the past and, in some cases, of the present.
“The British ambassador in Lithuania, along with other ambassadors, signed a letter to the Lithuanian Government protesting about the ‘double genocide’ phenomenon. I asked the Foreign Office to publish that letter but to my surprise it has not, praying in aid to pre-WikiLeaks rules about secrecy and confidentiality. I think that it would do the Foreign Office no harm at all and in fact every credit to publish that letter because I know Foreign Office officials and other Government officials, and they want to work hard to promote the matter as solidly as possible.”
― Denis MacShane MP
Mr MacShane is the author of Globalising Hatred. The New Antisemitism, a major work on current antisemitism. It was brought out by Weidenfeld & Nicolson of London in 2008. In his book, he drew attention to a major development in Lithuania that not many were paying attention to: a campaign by state prosecutors to pursue Holocaust Survivors with kangaroo ‘war crimes investigations’. His was one of the most potent statements on the subject:
“The rise of nationalist antisemitic politics can be seen in Lithuania. Jews who escaped to join the anti-Nazi partisans in Lithuania in the Second World War are now being accused by Lithuanian antisemites of taking part in war crimes. 95% of Lithuania’s 200,000 Jews who lived in the country before the Russian occupation in 1939 and the Nazi invasion of 1941 were killed by Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. Lithuanian Jews who survived the Holocaust are now in their eighties, but such is the antisemitism coming back to life in some quarters of nationalist politics in the Baltic state, that it has been possible to open investigations that put Jews on the same level as their executioners.”
— Denis Macshane, member of the UK parliament, in his Globalising Hatred. The New Antisemitism, p. 33.
MP MacShane began his speech by paying tribute to his parliamentary colleague John Mann, the member for Bassetlaw, “whose whose energetic, coherent and sterling work on anti-Semitism has been a model for parliamentarians around the world.” It was John Mann who first exposed the Double Genocide movement (in the Commons, in January 2008), after an obscure Tallinn conference in January 2008, months before the Prague Declaration, launched in June of that year.