Textile merchant and philanthropist Sir Jacob Behrens (1806-89), for example, knighted in 1882, was a long-serving president of the local Chamber of Commerce, and was instrumental in the establishment of the commercial department of the Foreign Office. Merchant Charles Semon (1814-77) was similarly involved in local civic life, and also philanthropic on a grand scale. A Bradford hospital and a nurses' training institution, and model lodging houses and a day nursery founded on his initiative, benefited in particular from his largesse. Like Behrens, he served as mayor of Bradford.
Even more outstanding as a philanthropist was yet another textle merchant from Germany, Jacob Moser (1839-1922), who, some years after Bradford's acquisition of city status, served as lord mayor. At a time when old age pensions did not yet exist he donated £10,000 (about £1million in today's money) in order that elderly inhabitants of Bradford irrespective of creed would have a weekly income. His wife also played a prominent tole in local affairs. Moser was a Reform Jew who nevertheless aided the local Orthodox congregation, and it's interesting to note that he gave what was, before the First World War, the most generous contribution by a single individual to the Zionist Organisation (in order to build the Herzlia Gymnasium in Jaffa).
Another notable Jew with Bradford connections was the artist and art school administrator Sir William Rothenstein, who was born there in 1872, the son of an immigrant woollen merchant, and died in 1945 after a distinguished career. His paintings include Jews mourning in a synagogue (which can be seen here).
Today, the Jewish presence in Bradford has been all but eclipsed, and the town to which those and other nineteenth-century immigrants flocked and in which they so eagerly integrated is home to a large Muslim community of mainly Pakistani origin who comprise about one quarter of the population.
It is against that backdrop that the outrageous remarks of Liberal Democrat MP David Ward, who represents the Bradford East, must be viewed.
Ward, as probably everyone reading this blogpost knows by now, declared ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) that
“Having visited Auschwitz twice – once with my family and once with local schools – I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.”He later made this appalling statement:
“The Holocaust was one of the worst examples in history man’s inhumanity to man. When faced with examples of atrocious behaviour, we must learn from them. It appears that the suffering by the Jews has not transformed their views on how others should be treated.”And he subsequently told Sky News (video here)
”I’m accusing the Jews who did it, [nervous laugh] so if you’re a Jew and you did not do it I’m not accusing you. I’m saying that those Jews who did that and continue to do it have not learned those lessons. If you are a Jew and you do not do those things and have never done those things then I am not criticising you.”Faced with a furore, Ward declared:
"My criticisms of actions since 1948 in the Palestinian territories in the name of the State of Israel remain as strong as ever.
In my comments this week I was trying to make clear that everybody needs to learn the lessons of the Holocaust.
I never for a moment intended to criticise or offend the Jewish people as a whole, either as a race or as a people of faith, and apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which my words caused.
I recognise of course the deep sensitivities of these issues at all times, and particularly on occasions of commemoration such as this weekend.
I will continue to make criticisms of actions in Palestine in the strongest possible terms for as long as Israel continues to oppress the Palestinian people."Ward must obviously be acutely aware that at the 2010 General Election he took the Bradford East constituency from Labour by the slimmest of margins, polling 13,637 votes to Labour's 13,272. The Conservatives managed to improve their electoral performance, polling 10,860 votes, by fielding a Muslim candidate, Mr Mohammed Riaz. Clearly, the Muslim vote is perceived as crucial in the constituency, and one way of wooing it and attempting to avoid a bruising at the polls is to slam Israel, hard and often. It can be no accident that Ward's initial disgusting statement was made to Asian News.
(Not that Ward is alone in comparing the situation of the Palestinians to that of the Jews under Nazism: such an obscenity has become a staple of many others on the political Left.)
There have been many blogs and articles denouncing Ward, and one of the most perceptive comes from Melanie Phillips who remarks, inter alia:
No, the true venom of these remarks is the way they reverse the position of today’s Jewish victims – the Israeli survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren -- and their current would-be exterminators – the descendants of Hitler’s Nazi collaborators in Palestine during the Holocaust.
For the fact is that Israel is not trying to exterminate the Palestinians ....
Nor are the Israelis behaving inhumanely; it is the Palestinians who are committing crimes against humanity by targeting Israeli innocents for mass murder without remission, both from Gaza and from the West Bank. It is the Palestinians, in the West Bank as well as Gaza, who are brainwashed from the cradle to hate Jews and to believe that murdering Israelis is their highest glory. Which they have been doing in Israel and before that in Palestine for more than a century – despite the fact that, as the international community laid down in binding treaty in 1920, the Jews alone had the inalienable and historic right to settle throughout Palestine, including not just present-day Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza.
Moreover, while the Jews accepted proposals for a Palestinian state first made in the 1930s and then in 1947, and while the Israelis offered them more than 95 per cent of the possible land for a state in 2000 and 2008, the Palestinians responded merely by murdering more Jews...."Since courting the Muslim vote is at the heart of this unpleasant incident involving the latest Lib Dem politician to smear Jews and Israel, let's give the final word to a British Muslim doctor of Pakistani heritage, Qanta Ahmed. The following was written by her regarding the Mavi Marmara affair, but it complements Melanie Phillips' points nicely, and sends a message that should be heeded by demonisers of Israel everywhere (including Ward):
While we dehumanize and decry the immoral IDF officer, the cruel Israeli superpower, the heartless Jewish state, we, 'the other', maintain our own moral compass intact in assessing our own contributions to ongoing tropism. Hence, Hamas, and its violent and truly cannibalistic approaches (fueling a culture which literally consumes its own children in the service of its ideology) becomes a resistance of valor and indeed apparently one above moral question.
This is a bastardization of humanity and morality. Who are we to judge the Israelis and their policies, when the wider Muslim world tolerates a total departure of the most basic Islamic values: living a meaningful life in this world, sanctity of life above all other rights, subscription to ideologies meaningfully exchanged through suicide bombing into spiritual and material currency, fundamentally abandoning the protection and nurturing of society's weakest: the child. Conveniently, for our collective moral Muslim superiority, our moral compass is off line when considering ourselves. We do not reflect. We lack introspection. Indeed our own, increasingly grotesque reflection is too awful for ourselves to behold, because within it we recognize our complicity in immorality....
When will we understand that Israel's security problem is everyone's security problem, that a threatened Jew is a threatened Muslim, that suicide bombers can come to a neighborhood near you, that there is no morality in the destruction of life and that these problems are so big they require all of us to engage together and collaborate, not polarize around primal tropisms and alienate? When will that be? When?"