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The Jewish Report Editorial

Holocaust and colonialism - no comparison

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The DA’s Helen Zille made comments on Twitter last week that sunk her deep into hot water. She defended colonialism. To be exact, she tweeted: “For those claiming legacy of colonialism was only negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped water, etc.”
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Mar 23, 2017

And then: “Would we have had a transition into specialised healthcare and medication without colonial influence? Just be honest, please.”

She later apologised, but the damage had already been done and she is going to have to live with the consequences.

Whether I agree with her or not, is irrelevant in this editorial. I am not about to defend her or sink her even further, and I am sure there are varied views among you, our readers.

The point for me is what it brought out in people, both in mainstream media and all over the Twittersphere.

I was horrified that her gaffe led to people, like DA party member Mbali Ntuli, suggesting: “It’s like saying Nazism was good for German democracy and their advancements in technology.”

Another wrote on Twitter: “Colonialism is only good if it touched others. That African genocide, enslavement & brutality is the same as the Holocaust is lost on Helen.”

And yet another wrote: “I’m sure next you’ll tell Jews to look at the positive side of Nazi Germany...”

And it didn’t stop there. There were many references and comparisons to the Nazis and the Holocaust.

I understand that colonialism was appalling and the consequences for Africans - among others around the world - were dire. However, for us, there can be no comparison to the wholesale murder of six million Jews, shattering the Jewish world.

In 1933, the Jewish population of Europe was about 9,5 million. In 1950, there were about 3,5 million. In 1933, as many as 60 per cent of Jews lived in Europe and they were the victims and survivors. But those who survived carried with them the pain of the Holocaust that unwittingly was passed through the generations. 

Jewish people were decimated. In the Holocaust there was no room for them to defend themselves; they were round up and forcibly sent off to their death.

My esteemed colleague, Kevin Ritchie - who is the regional executive editor of Independent Newspapers, wrote in an editorial that the comparison between colonialism and the Nazi Holocaust are “neither theatrical nor over-stated”.

He cites “Australia’s aboriginal population having declined from a quarter of a million in 1788 to less than 60 000 by the 1920s due to massacres and diseases imported by the colonists” and then the Germans colonialists who “exterminated” the Hereros of Namibia around the turn of the century.

Yes, there were those and other atrocities perpetrated under the guise of colonialism and, no, I am not making a comparison with the number of people killed and by whom.

My point is: There can be no comparison.

Colonialism was about people coming in from the outside and taking over from the local inhabitants. The initial perpetrators of the Holocaust were German people against German Jewish citizens and the horror was spread through Europe.

As Jews, the Holocaust touches something in each one of us. We make sure that even our children -  born more than a lifetime later - are taught never to forget.

Do I believe that the comparison to the Holocaust was anti-Semitic? No. My sense is that people were trying to think of the worst possible scenario to compare what Zille had said, and so they pick the Holocaust. Yes, it was the worst possible…

And through our history there have been many atrocities done to the Jewish people, but not so fresh and painful as this.

We will never forget, but also don't accept having this deeply etched scar dished up as a comparison where it suits.  

Peta Krost Maunder

Editor

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