The memory of the Holocaust is frequently misused and abused. Enemies of Israel exploit the memory and imagery of the Shoah, using it against Zionists to deliberately cause pain. Many people unintentionally diminish this history by nonchalantly throwing around terms associated with the Nazi era.
Earlier this year, Project Democracy, a group that aims to convince Canadians to vote for the candidate in their riding most likely to defeat the Conservative candidate, produced a meme with a picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the words: “Canadians fought fascism from 1939 to 1945. Why vote for it now?” This from an organization that has as the first line on its Facebook page: “Our objective … is to *raise* the bar of Canadian political discourse, not *lower* it.” Fail.
It may be especially bewildering to see those who, of all people, should know better, exploit tragic history. Recently, there was a tempest involving Ontario Conservative MP Mark Adler (again).
Adler was the MP who embarrassed himself, his party and the prime minister while on a trip to Israel last year. Harper was praying at the Western Wall when Adler, in perfect proximity to a media microphone, urged one of the PM’s handlers to let Adler get in the picture.
“This, it’s the reelection,” said Adler, whose riding has a significant concentration of Jewish voters. “This is the million-dollar shot.”
The incident undermined the Conservative party’s insistence that its support for Israel is principled, not political.
Last week, Adler was criticized for appearing to exploit his family’s own history when he advertised himself as a son of a Holocaust survivor.
This is not irrelevant information. Being Jewish and being a son of a Holocaust survivor almost certainly has an impact on the manner in which Adler’s worldview has been shaped. It was pointed out, in his defence, that other people have proudly declared their own unique heritage such as, in one instance, being the first Canadian of Asian heritage appointed to the Senate. Fair enough.
But Adler’s fault here is twofold. First, he proclaimed himself the first child of a Holocaust survivor elected to Parliament, which was quickly corrected by former Liberal MP Raymonde Folco. Folco, who represented a Montreal-area riding from 1997 to 2011, is not only a child of Holocaust survivors but a child survivor herself. She told Canadian Jewish News (see story on page 4) that it was “disgusting” for Adler “to use the Holocaust in this way, for personal ends.” She did not publicize her family’s experience before, she said, accusing Adler of “profiting” from his.
Ouch. But being incorrect on whether he was the first or second child of survivors pales when compared with the form of his use of this family history. On a large banner printed for the window of his campaign office – which has since been changed – there were four points he wanted voters to take away: “Son of a Holocaust survivor” topped the list. This was followed by “Raising my family in Bathurst Manor” (a heavily Jewish neighborhood), “Strong supporter of Israel” and “Keeping our community and the economy strong.” On another banner, the wording and order varied, but the messages were the same.
We get it. You like us. You’re one of us. But this is just unseemly.