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May 4, 2016

In News

Jewish author whose Israel ‘relocation’ map was shared by Naz Shah condemns ‘obscene’ Labour antisemitism row

Norman G Finkelstein accused politicians of making ‘sick’ Holocaust comparisons for political gain

The American political scientist who posted the diagram that triggered an antisemitism row in the Labour Party has dismissed the furore as “obscene”.

Norman G Finkelstein, a Jewish author whose parents survived concentration camps during the Holocaust, said he published the map shared by Naz Shah on his blog in 2014.

Entitled “Solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict – relocate Israel to into United States”, it went up on his website on 4 August, the day before the future Bradford West MP shared it on her Facebook page.

Ms Shah has been suspended from Labour and quit two of her posts, while comments made by Ken Livingstone in her defence sparked a new row culminating in an independent review into antisemitism in the party.

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Mr Finkelstein said he posted the map because he found it funny, claiming that such “jokes are commonplace in the US”.

In an interview published by Open Democracy, he called comparisons to policies introduced by Holocaust organiser Adolf Eichmann “sick”, saying the Facebook post could not be likened to his parents’ experience of Nazi transportation.

“What are they doing? Don’t they have any respect for the dead?” he said.

“All these desiccated Labour apparatchiks, dragging the Nazi holocaust through the mud for the sake of their petty jostling for power and position. Have they no shame?”

Mr Finkelstein, whose work including a book called The Holocaust Industry has met with controversy, also said Mr Livingstone was “more or less accurate” with his subsequent claims about Adolf Hitler.

“Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel,” said the former Mayor of London, who was also suspended from the Labour Party.

“He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Analysts have said that although Hitler’s government explored various “transfer agreements” before the Final Solution, it did not amount to supporting Zionism because the Nazis opposed the self-determination at the heart of the movement.

Mr Finkelstein called comparisons between the Israeli government and Nazis “gratuitous and a distraction” but said politicians should not be “crucified” over the issue.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the divisive author, who was banned from entering Israel for 10 years in 2008, does not represent “mainstream” views in the UK.

“He might think the map was funny but most Jews in this country think the very opposite,” the group’s communications officer, Simon Round, told The Independent.

“It might have been treated as some kind of joke but there are sensitivities there and the context is vital…it’s not something that sits well.”

Mr Finkelstein was also sceptical of Labour’s antisemitism inquiry, arguing that finding a working definition of the term will be “impossible”.

The UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism told The Independent that being “anti-Zionist” is antisemetic.

Mr Finkelstein said Naz Shah should not have been ‘crucified’ for her Facebook post

“Zionism is the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in Israel,” a spokesperson said. “All people have the right to self-determination, so denying that right just to Jews is antisemitic.”

The group said it was not antisemitic to oppose Israeli policies but cited “examples of hatred directed at Jewish people…disguised as political discourse”.

But the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said there was a clear difference between antisemisim and anti-Zionism, calling the latter a “political ideology” that could be legitimately contested.

“While some seek to define Zionism as the right of Jewish people to self-determination, the Zionism of the Israeli state has resulted in the denial of basic human rights to Palestinians,” a spokesperson said.

“To confuse – whether deliberately or otherwise – legitimate criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism only serves to undermine the struggle against racism.”

Ms Shah stood down from her post on the Home Affairs Select Committee as the row continued on Tuesday.

The committee is conducting the inquiry into antisemitism, which could see David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn among the prominent politicians giving evidence.