This much I know...
At 14 my grandfather was his workplace's trade union representative (he was it's only worker, being a leather worker's apprentice, but his boss, himself an old 3rd arrodissement Jewish Parisian leftie of the best sort insisted on him taking part in the sit ins and walk outs anyway) during the 1936 popular front in Paris. His elder brother was married and his father had passed away so he thus supported his mother, sister and younger brother through work.
In 1943 he, his mother and sister were deported along with thousands of french jews, from Lyon under the command of the infamous Klaus Barbie "The butcher of Lyon". His mother and sister never came back from Auschwitz, whilst he was lucky - masquerading as a carpenter he was able to secure a "job" under a lifesaving roof out of the worst of biting cold of the Polish winter. As a slave labourer building the chemical factory for the I.G. Farben Industrie company.
Before and after this life changing, almost shattering experience he has been a lifelong member of the French Communist Party, standing for election as Communist Party candidate for the French Parliament in 1956. He was last on the Communist list and was therefore proudly able to proclaim "If I am elected to the parliament you can trust me - there will already have been a revolution in France".
As a Communist and a proud Frenchman (albeit of Polish lineage) my Grandfather doesn't have the greatest of affection either for US foreign policy nor for the State of Israel's approach to the conflict in the Middle East. That's putting it mildly. But he has also been awarded the honour of Commandeur de la Legion D'honneur, in part as recognition of his work as a survivor and witness to the holocaust, but also his work as one of the leaders of MRAP a radical anti-racism campaigning organisation in France, founded in 1949, over a great many decades.
It is why, although after twice visiting Israel myself and the Palestinian territories my view and impression of the conflict is radically different from his own, I have the utmost respect for him, for his opinions and for what he has to say about the conflicts that blight those beautiful lands.
My grandfather is quite ill at the moment and therefore I can't have one of my regular lectures on life the universe and everything - and about that time he gave a really great speech about it. But I can't help feeling that, whilst we both sit happily at total polar opposites ends of the European left spectrum - we would both be able to share deep, deep unease at reading an article like this, from Paul Oestreicher, in today's Guardian.
I don't want to get into the whys and wherefores of the conflict here, nor do I want to challenge the central thesis of Mr Oestreicher's article, that Israel's policies are fuelling anti-semitism at, although at some point maybe I will. I just want to say a little bit about language, metaphor and analogies. I want to use two little examples from his text of which particularly angered me.
At one point Paul Oestreicher says: “Jews for Justice for Palestinians organises to give Jewishness a human face.”
I don't think it's being facetious to point out that Jews and Jewishness has a human face already. That Jews and Jewishness is not constrained by the need to apologise for the actions of the state of Israel before their race and faith can be properly accepted by the citizens of the world. As a secular Jew living in the UK I don't feel as if I should be contrained to take one side or the other in the Israel Palestine conflict in order to give me or anybody else "a human face" and I certainly won't be involving myself in any campaigns with such a premiss at their heart.
Later Paul Oestreicher makes the following observation: “Once, in the days of Hitler, there was another Germany represented by those in concentration camps alongside Jews and Gypsies, the martyrs who are celebrated today. There is such an Israel too.”
The Palestinian people are diverse like any other, there are those who want simply to live their lives peacefully and in prosperity and there are those who wish to see Israel and the Jews wiped off the map of the Middle East.
Sadly in a war things are done and said on both sides which are wrong, and which one would wish as a human being would never and should never have happened. The people and government of Israel are not saints. Were I an Israeli citizen at the next election I would not vote for the current governing party, nor would I have voted for the last 5 years of leadership. Israel's response to the situation in Palestine since the war of 1967 would not have been mine. Nor would many of the state's acts before that date.
But crucial to that phrase is the word "response". If you are to draw an analogy between the "response" of Israel and it's people to the situation they find themselves in (without taking a position on whether essentially the situation is of their own making - since Mr Ostreicher accepts the existence of the state of Israel) and the "response" of Hitler, the Nazis and large sections of the German people to the situation they found themselves in the 1930s and 1940s; then you need to talk about that word "response".
And my question is this - what is it that the Nazis were responding to? Were they responding to provocation from the Jews? even if that hypothetical provocation were in response to a legitimate grievance? Were they responding to immediate security concerns even if the security concerns were illegitimate? Were they responding to anything other than the pure genocidal hatred of a race, a people, who had done little else than to live peacefully (or at least attempt to) at their side, for centuries?
And if you agree that it is the latter of these that is the true description, how can you, as someone who is a descendent of victims of that hatred, like myself, say hand on heart that you believe it is right to draw the analogy that you have drawn between this unparralleled hatred and deliberate slaughter, and the sad, sad, situation in the Middle East?