Charity chief blasts ‘shameful’ comparisons between Nazi crimes and modern day Israel

Holocaust Education Trust chief executive Karen Pollock has unleashed a furious attack on the way some pro-Palestinian protesters are comparing the Nazis to modern-day Israel.

Ahead of commemorations of the horrific crimes by the Nazis, which saw the mass murder of 6 million Jews, Ms Pollock has warned that modern-day protests on a range of issues, including Gaza, are “trivialising” the Holocaust.

“The Nazis, their leaders and their symbols have become almost synonymous for ultimate evil,” she wrote in an article for the Jewish News. “Online, we see this result in the phenomenon of Godwin’s law: the idea that the longer an online discussion continues, the more likely it is that someone stresses their point by using a comparison to the Nazis. However, what may have begun as an online phenomenon has now truly cemented itself into the real world.

“Whether individuals donning a yellow star to protest pandemic restrictions or environmental groups using Holocaust-related language to warn against inaction on climate change – it seems that the only way you can make your point heard is by trivialising the murder of the 6 million. It is hurtful, it is wrong, and it is an insult to victims and to the survivors who see the Holocaust being deliberately used and misused.”

Students waving the Palestinian flag take part in a demonstration in support of Palestinian people at University College London (AFP via Getty)
Students waving the Palestinian flag take part in a demonstration in support of Palestinian people at University College London (AFP via Getty)

But the charity boss, whose work at Holocaust Education Trust since 1998 has focussed on ensuring the lessons of the past are not forgotten, made it clear she is particularly angry about the language and symbols on protests against Israel and the war in Gaza following Hamas’s attack on the state on 7 October last year.

“Even more shameful, is the practice of deliberately abusing the Holocaust to attack the state of Israel. Since 7 October, the streets of Britain have been flooded with protesters not calling for the release of the hostages and not condemning Hamas terrorists.

“While some might be calling for peace, we see others equating the Jewish star of David to the swastika, Israeli leaders to Hitler and Zionism to fascism. We even saw the Holocaust memorial in Hyde Park covered up – apparently as a precautionary measure.”

Her intervention comes amid continuously growing tensions between those who want to clamp down on the freedom to protest with fears that weekly demonstrations are leading to extremism and those who are angry about Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza. Hamas killed around 1,200 people in the deadly 7 October attacks, with more than 200 more taken hostage. The health ministry in Gaza says the Palestinian death toll from the war since then has topped 34,000.

The issue has even had an impact in the local elections with Labour’s campaign chief Pat McFadden on Friday admitting Sir Keir Starmer’s support for Israel was “a factor” in Muslim voters staying at home and the party losing or failing to pick up some seats. There are even questions over its impact on the London Mayoral election.

Karen Pollock meets Prince William (Reuters)
Karen Pollock meets Prince William (Reuters)

Ms Pollock warned that the distortion of language about the Holocaust as a means to attack Israel is putting democratic values at risk.

“If a memorial to the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered during the Holocaust has to be hidden out of fear that it will be desecrated, this should serve as a warning,” she said. “Many survivors rebuilt their lives here cherishing shared values of freedom, democracy and respect. These values feel under threat.

“We have to be clear in saying there is no excuse, no additional context, for carrying a swastika on the streets of London. It is not a symbol of political protest. It is a symbol of genocide, racism and antisemitism.

“There can be no excuse for comparing Israeli leaders to Hitler. The Nazis tried to eradicate the Jewish people in their entirety, no matter where they were. Their mission was to exterminate all Jews, because they were Jews. These comparisons do not add weight to an argument, they make its proponents racist. It is an abuse of the memory of the victims and a distortion of the Holocaust, a pernicious form of antisemitism.

“Calling out this hate speech is not silencing criticism of Israel, it is demanding that antisemitism has no place on our streets or in our society. On Yom HaShoah, it is not too much to ask for.”