Letters: Doubting the Holocaust

How Palestinians have come to doubt the Holocaust
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The Independent Online

Donald Macintyre reports on teaching Gaza children about the Holocaust (5 October). When I worked in Lebanon with Palestinian refugees over a decade ago, most were aware of the Holocaust. That didn't stop many of them thinking that it was an exaggerated or made-up story to justify the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland; or, worse, that the Jews in some way deserved what they got. This view was formed in the context of living in a refugee camp in Lebanon since 1948, and being refused their right of return for decades.

One senior Palestinian nurse working in the camp had studied abroad. In the US, he gave first aid to a passer-by who was suffering from a heart attack, only to find later that he was an Israeli. He commented: "I visited him in hospital, he was a really nice man, we got on well." This was a story he told to his junior colleagues to demonstrate the nursing code of practice; serving everyone irrespective of ethnicity and religion. He was a person who did not support violence in any form, and always tried to see the best side of everyone.

One day, we talked about the Holocaust. He believed Jews were powerful and persuasive, a view gained from his experiences of Israeli invasions of Lebanon, and as a refugee, and visiting the West where the Palestinian story was under-reported and misunderstood. He said that Hitler perhaps felt he had no choice, as he may have thought that it was the only way of protecting the Germans from a Jewish takeover of their land.

Relating to Gaza children, the Holocaust will always be seen within the context of their own experience. Many are refugees; all have experienced living under harsh conditions of Israeli occupation. Introducing one new educational topic will not change views, particularly as the Holocaust was the product of European anti-Semitism, for which Palestinians have paid a heavy price.

What might be more relevant would be teaching all the world's children how to respect "the Other" and treat him/her as an equal, thus ridding the next generation of notions of racism and bigotry that still is at the root of conflict throughout the world.

Dr Judith Brown

Farrington Gurney, Somerset

Tory pension age not radical enough

As a professional economist, I support George Osborne's call to raise the state pension age to 66 from 2016, some ten years earlier than envisaged by current government policy.

But has the Shadow Chancellor done enough? Given an ageing UK population and our current inadequate pensions system, as excellently described by Ken Campbell (letter, 3 October), he should have been more radical. Why not bring forward the whole process of raising the state pension age to 68 by 2048 by at least 10 years, set a final pension age of at least 69/70 by the middle of the century, and still allow those of us who want to, to carry on working even longer?

Sadly none of this will save us from the current fiscal crisis which, in my view, will see most of us paying far more tax than any of the main parties will currently admit to. And, of course, we need to ensure that those who really can't work post-65 are not forced to do so.

But we can't have our cake and eat it: we live far longer – and in much better health – than those who preceded us; our work is generally more interesting and far less physically demanding; our standard of living is higher; and we are having fewer children than previous generations. As things stand, we are in danger of forcing them to support us for far longer than most of us will have to support our own parents.

Hence, let us hope George Osborne's sensible, though limited, suggestion provokes a wider debate about both intergenerational equity and longer-term fiscal sustainability.

Dr Andrew Meads


The Tories' scheme to raise the retirement age to 66 is commendable. This has positive repercussions not only for the ageing population in terms of their mental, economic and social wellbeing; but also for the prosperity and progress of our society at large.

The elderly are always viewed as a burden on healthcare costs, and this proposal will allow them to be viewed as active citizens; to recognise their potential and utilise their experience and knowledge to contribute to the economic growth and strengthen the social fabric.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2

Getting HIV drugs to the patients

You rightly report that news of a vaccine for HIV "offers hope to millions" (25 September). The potential to protect the next generation against HIV, which devastates communities worldwide, would be a massive step forward.

But medical technological advances alone do not hold the answers to the pandemic. In countries such as Lesotho, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world, with 22.3 per cent of the population estimated to be living with the virus, uptake of anti-retroviral viral drugs in 2007 was less than 50 per cent. This is despite the drugs being provided free by the government.

Clearly, a new vaccine could also save millions of lives, but only if it reaches those who need it. For more than four years, the British Red Cross has been supporting projects in Lesotho which train community volunteers to provide practical and emotional support to people living with HIV in their towns and villages. These "care facilitators" are able to access their friends and neighbours with key information and resources, including supporting clients to understand more about prevention of HIV and their treatment regimes.

For future generations, and for the 38 million people worldwide now living with HIV and Aids, medical interventions will be successful only if they are backed up by education and support services at a local level.

Alyson Lewis

Head of Health and Care – International, British Red Cross, London EC2

No substitute for speed cameras

Theresa Villiers says a Tory administration will reduce the number of speed enforcement cameras. She claims that they are not as effective as flashing speed warning lights and educating drivers about the dangers of speed.

Really? If this were the case, why aren't supermarkets and other businesses phasing out CCTV cameras and replacing them with educational messages?

What Theresa Villiers doesn't say is how their policy would detect those drivers who deliberately disregard the flashing lights and educational messages. The police cannot be everywhere.

I trust the Tories will hold their heads in shame every time someone is killed or injured by a speeding driver on a road where a speed enforcement camera has been replaced with a flashing warning light.

S McBride


Lessons of the Irish EU vote

It really is extraordinary that we meekly accept the continual political corruption of the EU, of which Ireland's repeat vote is an example. What is the purpose of voting at all if one is made to vote again if the EU does not like the first result? This is very similar to the Communist system of voting, where there was only one candidate, the one provided by the state.

John G Greer-Spencer

Dunfermline, Fife

I would like to thank Nigel Farage and the Ukip for their interference in the Irish political process. Their intrusion into our Lisbon referendum debate has greatly helped with increasing the Yes vote. The Irish electorate has shown to the world that Ireland desires to have a complete and voluntary involvement with the EU and mainland Europe. It has thoroughly rejected any association with the narrow "little Englander" mentality and its British island garrison.

K Nolan

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, Ireland

Bruce Anderson (5 October) asserts that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, in failing to allow a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, have been guilty of greater dishonour and dishonesty than any other British politician since the reign of Charles II.

He overlooks the deception of the British people by Eden's Conservative government about its collusion with France and Israel, to invade Egyptian Suez in 1956. I have no doubt which will be thought by future historians the greater dishonour.

Harry Wilkinson

Todmorden, West Yorkshire

Like Christopher Yaxley (letter, 6 October), I too am a Europhile and I too would vote "No" in a Lisbon referendum. Anything to block Tony Blair becoming President of Europe.

John Wells

West Wittering, West Sussex

Let's stick with the petro-dollar

Whatever its faults, the USA is deeply democratic and committed to the free market, and for those reasons if no others will seek to maintain sound money even in difficult circumstances. That makes the dollar a suitable choice for the world trading and reserve currency.

Whatever their merits, most of the "petro-yuan" group (report, 6 October) are profoundly anti-democratic, and their intentions in the world are at best opaque. This is a terrifying basis for the emergence of a new world reserve currency.

What on earth are the French thinking of? Is there no limit to the folly they will indulge in out of what I can only assume is visceral anti-Americanism?

R S Foster


Don't blame detergents

I am writing to correct any misunderstanding about phosphate from laundry products ("The Big Question: Why are our rivers so dirty", 23 September). The main source of phosphorus to rivers and lakes is not laundry detergents, but human sewage, with agriculture the other substantial contributor. In 2008 laundry detergents contributed no more than 7.5 per cent of the phosphate entering sewage works.

When sewage is treated to remove phosphate, the small amount of phosphate from the detergent is removed as well. The effect of banning phosphate from detergent is thus minimal, and it will not "keep it out of rivers". The Government has consulted on a ban on phosphate in laundry detergents, but it has not introduced any ban.

Philip Malpass

Director general, UK Cleaning products Industry association

Tattenhall, Cheshire

The usual sneer at media studies

Brian Hamilton (letter, 28 September) adheres to the usual convention of coupling any sneer at former polytechnics with – louder gasp, deeper horror – "media studies".

This subject was first addressed in this country by the Centre for Mass Communication Studies at Leicester University in 1959. What it is about this subject that causes his disdain?

Naturally, some of the arthritic university sector snipe at the post-1992 lot because they pine for the days when they could neglect their teaching duties, in the knowledge that their few graduates were guaranteed the glittering prizes in any event.

Professor Chris Barton

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire


Novel idea

David Lister (3 October) comments on there being no male equivalent of the Orange Prize for modern literature. Perhaps the reason is that it would be regarded too much of a lemon.

Dave Morgan

Beddington, Surrey

Art and taxes

Like many of your readers and Dominic Lawson (6 October), I am shocked at the news that we might, for tax reasons, be losing Tracey Emin to France – land of Johnny Hallyday, Jacques Tati and that bloke who paints his face white and pretends it's windy. If she has problems getting that "unmade bed" down the stairs, I'm sure I'm not alone in being prepared to go round and lend a hand.

Pete Barrett

Colchester, Essex

Tracey Emin is simply reminding us that she is one of the leading lights in the prevailing modernistic movement, "Art for Money's Sake".

Jeff Smith


Liberal revival

Anthony Pick (letter, 2 October) ponders what cause will replace the Labour Party. The answer is a philosophy that has never really gone away: Liberalism. This embraces the empowerment of people and the age of localism that he calls for. Liberalism's problem over the past 100 years is that the two authoritarian parties have unsuccessfully borrowed aspects of its philosophy. We've had social liberalism held back by a centralising state, and economic liberalism coupled to social conservatism. Yet many people describe themselves as liberal. The challenge is to create a party worthy of their support.

Steve Travis


Right off the scale

Have any of your other readers noticed how many of the raving right-wingers on the blogosphere and comment threads seem to have gone quiet these past few days? They wouldn't be meeting in Manchester, would they?

Paul Lettan

London NW1