The Tory leader
David Cameron seems to be struggling these days. After calling government
funding for school visits to the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz a
'gimmick,� he�s facing demands for an apology.
In a speech on
Friday, Cameron accused Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government of being
"obsessed with short-term gimmicks," including a recommendation for
schools to make "trips to Poland."
government announced this month it would give 4.65 million pounds to the
Holocaust Educational Trust set up in 1988 to educate young people about the
Holocaust. It wouldn't take a genius to guess that the Jewish political
institutions in Britain were very quick to tear Cameron apart for his comment.
Henry Grunwald, the
president of the Board of Deputies
of British Jews, said, "The Board of Deputies does not get involved in
party politics, but we are surprised and disappointed that David Cameron should
in any way have used the word 'gimmick� in connection with visits to
Karen Pollock, the
chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said, "We do not want
to be involved in party politics. But you should not use visits to Auschwitz to
score political points."
Pollock and Grunwald do not like to get involved in 'party politics'. For that
purpose they have some very dedicated agents such as Lord Levy, David Abrahams,
the Tory Friends of Israel and the Labour Friends of Israel.
Party was very quick to understand the message. It immediately surrendered to
the 'non-political' pressure. Within hours, the Tory spokesman said:
"School trips to Auschwitz are a brilliant idea."
Trying to quell the
storm, the Conservative spokesman said, "Cameron was not criticising the
visits, but rather the fact that the government funding did not cover their
Very much like
Grunwald and Pollock, I would refrain from interfering with British politics,
yet I may suggest that Cameron was absolutely correct. The trips to Auschwitz
are indeed a gimmick. As far as I can see, the educational value of these trips
Unlike Karen Pollock
from the Holocaust Educational Trust, who said, "Students use their
experience to raise awareness of the lessons of the Holocaust in their schools
and local communities, challenging prejudice and racism today," I am
convinced that trips to Auschwitz are there to divert the attention from crimes
that are committed on a daily basis in front of our eyes and in our names. The
trips to Auschwitz are there to silence ethical awareness. They are there to
shutter the possibility of self-reflection.
It is indeed rather
easy for the British government to spend some money trying to teach young
students how bad the Nazis were 63 years ago. Yet, it is far more challenging
for the British government and British educational institutes to confront
British wrongdoing in the past and in the present.
Instead of sending
British youngsters to Auschwitz, I would suggest spending governmental funds on
student trips to Gaza concentration camp. This would have a far greater
educational value in so as far as challenging 'racism and prejudice.' Clearly
it is in Gaza where millions of Palestinians are starved by the Jewish state
while the West keeps silent.
Britain bears some
direct responsibility for the Palestinian tragedy. Firstly, the Palestinian
disaster was set by the British Empire. It may have started with the Balfour
Declaration, but it matured into devastating ethnic cleansing in 1948, three
years after the liberation of Auschwitz. Secondly, whichever way we decide to
look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinians are the last victims
of Hitler and the genocide in Gaza is a Shoah in the making.
If Karen Pollock is
truly concerned with 'racism and prejudice,' Gaza is the place to send the
British kids to, so they can come home and ask their grandparents, 'Grandpa,
what did you do when it all happened 60 years ago?' We have to send our kids to
Gaza so they can come home and ask their parents, 'Mum, what can we do to help
If Karen Pollock
still wants to increase our kids' ethical awareness, yet she might not be convinced
that Gaza is the place to do so, she may also want to consider sending our
youth to Basra or Baghdad. At the end of the day, the genocide of the Iraqi
people, in which one and a half million Iraqis have died so far, is a war crime
committed also by the current British Government.
But on second
thought, there is no point in sending young British students to Baghdad; they
can go there as soon they finish school. They can then participate and
contribute to this very contemporary Holocaust that is being committed by
Britain and America in the name of democracy and neoconservative ideology, all
they have to do is just join the British armed forces.
Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli jazz musician, author and