Campaigners have hijacked the term “genocide” to demonise Israel, in a “moral inversion” designed to “tear open the still gaping wound of the Holocaust”, the Chief Rabbi has said.
In an article for The Telegraph ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday Jan 27, Sir Ephraim Mirvis says the “spurious” allegation that Israel was perpetrating a genocide in Gaza was “the ultimate demonisation of the Jewish state”.
He added that the misappropriation of the word “genocide” was an affront to the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust, and also to those of more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
“It is a term deployed not only to eradicate any notion that Israel has a responsibility to protect its citizens, but also to tear open the still gaping wound of the Holocaust, knowing that it will inflict more pain than any other accusation,” Sir Ephraim writes.
“It is a moral inversion, which undermines the memory of the worst crimes in human history.”
Sir Ephraim, who was born and educated in South Africa, cited the attempt by that country’s African National Congress government to bring a genocide case against Israel in the International Court of Justice as an example of “increasingly frequent, disingenuous misappropriation of the term”.
His warning came amid fears that some bodies were coming under pressure to cite claims of a genocide in Gaza during their commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day next Saturday.
Last week, the Jewish Chronicle reported that an east London library’s display of books relating to the Holocaust appeared under a banner stating “say no more genocide this Holocaust Memorial Day”.
The display was removed after a local resident complained. Meanwhile, activists disrupted a speech by David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, on Saturday, accusing the Labour frontbencher and his audience of “supporting genocide” because of the party’s stance on Israel.
Sir Ephraim said: “We have watched in horror as people have rushed to invoke the crime of genocide – some within days of Oct 7. Fringe academics and their partisan cheerleaders have selectively quoted Israeli politicians to paint a picture of a country bent on annihilation.
“The enthusiastic clamour by some to declare it as something which belongs in a different moral category to the many other just wars with horrific humanitarian consequences, represents a moral failure built upon a foundation of hatred and disinformation.”
Sir Ephraim cited the legal definition of a genocide as acts committed with “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
He added: “It should be obvious that if Israel’s objectives were genocidal, it could have used its military strength to level Gaza in a matter of days.
“Instead, it is placing the lives of its own soldiers at risk in its ground operations, securing humanitarian corridors and providing civilians with advance notice of its operations, even to the detriment of its military objectives.”