"Fredrick Toben always insisted he wasn't a Holocaust denier because you couldn't deny something that never happened. The German-born Australian [!?] says there was never any systematic German program to kill Jewish people, denies the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and claims that Jews exaggerated the numbers murdered during World War II, sometimes for financial gain. When Australia passed racial hatred laws in 1995, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry decided to take Toben on, led by its then director Jeremy Jones and the solicitor in the case, Peter Wertheim. Their first complaint was in 1996. It took until 2002 for it to get to the Federal Court, which found that Toben's views weren't part of academic debate about the Holocaust, but were designed to 'smear' Jews. Toben refused to remove the material, citing freedom of speech. In 2009, he was sentenced to 3 months' jail for contempt of court. Wertheim is the executive director of the Council, which has used racial hatred laws aggressively to fight serious examples of anti-Semitism - cases have been conciliated through the Australian Human Rights Commission and several have found their way to the Federal Court. The influential Jewish group and every major ethnic organisation in the land will not let these laws go without a fight." (Locked in a war of words to define free speech, Gay Alcorn, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/3/14)
So begins but the latest in an avalanche of articles, op-eds, opinion pieces and letters in the corporate press on the Attorney-General George Brandis' challenge to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
If you've been sampling this coverage, you'll have noticed the frequency with which Wertheim and other Israel lobbyists are quoted, all opposed to 18C's removal from the Act, presumably because it's the only thing preventing attacks, routinely defined as anti-Semitic, on the official Holocaust narrative.
Now leaving aside the question of whether or not that or any other official narrative should receive legislative protection, and leaving aside the glaring contradiction that these crusaders against racial abuse in Australia are all advocates for Israeli apartheid, it's the monumental hypocrisy that comes with defenders of the official Holocaust narrative denying or minimising the Palestinian Holocaust - the Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948 - that really gets me going.
Here's Wertheim, for example, on the subject:
"The question of Palestinian refugees from 1948 takes on a less daunting perspective when one realises the small numbers of them who are still living." (Israel has and will negotiate over land for peace deals, The Canberra Times, 9/8/13)
Of course the subtext here is: if, like Israel, you create a body of refugees and then refuse to allow them to return for long enough - 65 years now - the problem of the first generation of refugees will literally die away. Dare I say it - a final solution for the refugee 'problem'.
As for the second and third generations:
"Few would begrudge them or their descendents the opportunity to become Palestinian citizens within a State of Palestine. But the descendents of refugees cannot truthfully claim to be refugees themselves. There can be no right of 'return' to the territory of Israel for those who were never there."
There is both insufferable hypocrisy and extreme disingenuousness here.
To take the former first. Wertheim, as a Zionist, believes that the brief existence of a fabled Jewish kingdom in Palestine thousands of years ago somehow entitles Jews such as himself (whose ancestors - converts to Judaism at some less distant point in time - have lived for centuries in Europe) the right to 'return' to Palestine/Israel.
And yet the descendents of the original Palestinian refugees who share a direct 65-year connection with Palestine, including title deeds and door keys, have no such right. WTF!
It's worth quoting here a passage from former Israeli politician Avraham Burg's 2008 book The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes:
"Not long ago I went to a dinner in Jordan. A group of young and old Middle Easterners sat around the table. Three were Lebanese, successful and articulate, media and business people of the newer generation. Although we were from two sides of the divide in the Middle East crisis, as long as the conversation centred on neutral subjects, there was no sign of rivalry... Then, late in the evening the topic of the [Palestinian] refugees came up at the table. The smiles and easy atmosphere were gone. Each of us told his story, recalled his parents' unending poverty, and missed a city in which he had not been born: in Jaffa, Acre, or the Old City. Then the conversation ebbed and all eyes were on me. Why are you not taking responsibility? You've asked us to control terror, to rout religious extremism, to commit to democracy, to act for liberty and women's equality. And you are willing to give us only very little in return. Words and no more. Suddenly, 'I saw that I was naked and I hid.' (Genesis 1:9)."
I can't in a million imagine Wertheim & Co. being so humbled.
Now for the disingenuousness. At the same time as Wertheim talks of admitting the by now millions of descendents of the Palestinian refugees of 1948 into a "State of Palestine," he defends, in the very same opinion piece, the Israeli settlement enterprise which makes a viable, contiguous Palestinian state nigh impossible. Go figure!
And here's Israel lobbyist Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) writing on the subject of the Palestinian refugees:
"While it is understandable that Palestinians remember the suffering of 700,000 Palestinians who fled or otherwise lost their homes in 1948..." (The time for peace has come, Sydney Morning Herald, 29/4/08)
OR OTHERWISE LOST THEIR HOMES!?
So, while we may (as a mere afterthought) remember their suffering, we're most definitely not going into details as to how they actually lost their homes (not to mention their lives).
Seriously now, is this (along with the significant underestimate of refugee numbers by at least 50,000) really any different to what Toben has been jailed for? Hey, now there's an idea!
[See also my 17/5/12 post Nakba? What Nakba? on Vic Alhadeff (of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies) and the Palestinian Nakba.]