Jackie Walker, an ally of Jeremy Corbyn from the hard left group ‘Momentum’ has sparked outrage after criticising Holocaust Memorial Day at a “training session” at Labour Party Conference on antisemitism.
Walker attracted jeers from others in the room when she said of Holocaust Memorial Day “wouldn’t it be wonderful if Holocaust day was open to all peoples who’ve experienced Holocaust?”
Several in the audience pointed out that HMD does indeed commemorate all genocides, to which she responded “in practice it is not circulated and advertised as such”.
She also stated that she was yet to find a definition of antisemitism she could “work with”.
Finally, she suggested that security measures at Jewish schools are unnecessary:
“I was a bit concerned… at your suggestions that the Jewish community is under such threat that they have to use security in all its buildings”, she said.
“I have a grandson, he is a year old. There is security in his nursery and every school has security now. It’s not because I’m frightened or his parents are frightened that he is going to be attacked.”
Jeremy Newmark, chair of Jewish Labour Movement, reacted to Walker’s comments:
“To denigrate security provision at Jewish schools, make false claims about the universality of National Holocaust Memorial Day and to challenge recognised definitions of anti-Semitism is provocative, offensive and a stark example of the problem facing the Labour party today.”
Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust Karen Pollock also reacted:
“The Holocaust was a defining episode in history where 6 million men women and children were brutally murdered simply for being Jewish, the very epitome of man’s inhumanity to man.
“Whilst Holocaust Memorial Day rightly and proudly commemorates the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, one has to wonder why Ms Walker takes issue with commemorating the mass extermination of Jews in its own right. The deliberate use of term ‘HolocaustS’ – plural – undermines and belittles the distinct nature of the tragedy itself, ignores that genocides are the result of diverse and unique factors, and also deprives the Jewish community of their collective memory.”
Finally, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust have stated that they are “are extremely shocked and saddened that Jackie Walker has questioned the aims and basis of Holocaust Memorial Day, a day when people of all backgrounds come together to remember the Holocaust, all victims of Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides which have taken place in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Commemoration of the Holocaust should be a universal responsibility and does not prevent or undermine commemoration of other genocides.”