The motion to the Scottish Parliament congratulating Positive Action in Housing on its 15th anniversary says it all. Robina Qureshi is a founder of PAIH. I know her through the regular e-mails we receive asking for money to house and feed destitute asylum seekers. I know her name from the innumerable campaigns agains the racist system of starvation and deportation that asylum seekers experience. Campaigns against blood sucking charities like the YMCA who make their money from housing asylum seekers and say nothing when they are deported after the money has dried up, without a moments thought as to where they may go next.
Despite the fact that I am treasurer of a charity in Brighton, 450 miles from Glasgow, I try to respond to her many e-mails because in the end it doesn’t matter where someone is lodged, the fact is that they are an asylum seeker seeking shelter from a capitalist system that treats them as so many units of surplus labour.
It was therefore with some alarm when I heard that Ephraim Borowski, Director of the Scottish Director of Jewish Communities was harrassing Robina on account of a quite understandable comparison she made between the plight of asylum seekers today and Jews in Nazi Germany and Poland.
In an article ‘Glasgow campaign for refugee homes: Is the Home Office climbing down on threatened eviction?’ Robina wrote that:
“The UK Borders Agency has underestimated the strength of feeling about the agency’s actions on Scottish soil. From the hundreds of emails and letters we are getting from the public, people are disgusted. Members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany.”It seemed pretty unremarkable and accurate and non-controversial to me. In any case it quoted what other members of the Jewish community had said. Members of the Jewish community had raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany. Good for them.
The holocaust occurred between 1941 and 1945. The Nazis took power in 1933. Jews experienced between 1933 and 1939 the kind of racism that Arabs in Palestine experience. Not being able to do certain jobs, not being able to live in certain towns or villages, being subject to arbitrary treatment because of their religion/ethnicity and not being able to do certain jobs. No comparison is exact but there are certainly comparisons to be made. In Poland the antisemitic Colonel’s Government from 1935 until the Nazi invasion increasingly used open anti-semitism as a weapon to divide the working class and peasant opposition.
The Zionists too recognise that there are comparisons, such as those who shout 'back to Auschwitz' and Hitler was right at Jewish demonstrators in Sheikh Jarrah. Or soldiers who, in the way they see the Arabs under occupation, style themselves Auschwitz Commandos. Or maybe the retired Israeli Jewish judge Ben-Itto who thinks 'we' have a lot to learn from Hitler!
But of course there are other comparisons that can be drawn, not those between Zionist racists and Nazi racism. The welcome by 55% of Israeli Jews for the ruling by Safad's Chief Rabbi, supported by 300 other Israeli Orthodox Rabbis, that it is a sin to rent 'Jewish' property to non-Jews.
Jews were dehumanised, so are asylum seekers. Jews were deported from countryside to town initially in Germany. Asylum seekers are also deported at the convenience of the immigration authorities. German deaths were to be subject to 100 reprisals carried out against Jews in Serbia. Israeli Jewish deaths in Sderot are avenged by a factor of about 1,000-1 in Gaza.
The comparisons are legion but to the Zionist movement the Holocaust is uniquely Jewish, there are no lessons to be learnt. The Holocaust has but one purpose, to legitimise the Israeli state and all its works. It has no anti-racist lessons. When Zionism says ‘never again’ what it really means is ‘never again to the Jews’. Which is why Israel never had any hesitation in supporting and equipping death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala when over a hundred thousand Indians were massacred.
A Zionist nutter [ZN], who isn’t even Jewish, wrote to Borowski complaining about the above quote. McKenzie is strongly suspected by Robina of being a chauvinist who regularly bombarded her with racist messages on PAIH’s website. Robina wrote that:
‘I am concerned about who ZN is, as there was someone of the same name who repeatedly posted xenophobic messages on our website and was eventually blocked , I also receive regular hate mail via BBC website. I just wondered if you know who this person is as e one who harassed us with racist messages is of the exact same name and the style of writing is similar to the complaint. I am happy to discuss this if you wish to give me your contact number but Im concerned about information being passed to someone I certainly do not know and who is bot on our list yet appears to be stirring up complaints. If it is the same person then they have some sort of axe to grind, though quite what I do not know as i have never met this person except on email. I think you should be aware anyway.’Instead of backing off Borowski just ploughed on. What was important was what this person was saying, not whether he was a racist, despite the fact that he admitted that ‘I must admit there were some phrases in his messages that I thought might have been more sympathetically expressed, but it did seem to be no more than a matter of phrasing.’ In fact a reading of the complaint's original letter makes it clear that he believes that asylum seekers are on to a good thing and are well treated.
It is noticeable that Borowski doesn't actually say what he takes objection to. The ZN believes that making comparisons between Jews of the 1930's and asylum seekers today is a form of holocaust denial! Clearly it is impossible to argue with a madman.
Borowski's only complaint is that it wasn't made explicit that references to Jews in Nazi Germany and in Poland weren't the equivalent of the holocaust. Other than that who knows?
Of course Zionists today have, for the most part, nothing better to do than defending non-Jewish racists and trying to keep anyone from making any comparisons or drawing any conclusions from the Holocaust. They thought they could browbeat Robina into recanting and claim that as an other notch in their handkerchief.
However anyone who knows her, knows that Robina is made of sterner stuff and effectively told Borowski to get lost and try reading what is written, not what he imagined was written.
For my part I am amazed at Robina’s patience! The correspondence is below.
Postscript: I find it interesting that 3 representatives of the Glasgow Educational Forum wrote to the Jewish Chronicle in May/June 2010 (which unsurprisingly was not printed!) stating of Mr Borowski that:
' Finally, the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum are concerned at the repeated attempts of SCoJeC to exaggerate the threat of antisemitism, which will only cause harm to the interests of Jews living in Scotland.'
It seems that Ephraim Borowski has form in these matters!
Regrettably, Leon Symons’ article last week about the First Minister’s address to the Scottish Jewish community was inaccurate.
Firstly, it did not explain to your readers the sequence of events that led to Mr Salmond accepting the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum’s invitation to talk directly to our community. As was made clear to your reporter by the First Minister, it was Martin Bright’s contention that the community had shrunk in size due to the increase of antisemitism (JC, 19th March) that compelled the First Minister to state that the Jewish community is not under siege and that Scotland is a good place for Jews to live. That conclusion would not have been evident to anyone reading Bright’s article.
Irresponsible articles and reporting have led some to believe that Martin Bright’s article was accurate, and it is to Mr Salmond’s credit that he thought it important to set out the Scottish Government’s position. Your reporter also did not point out that Mr Salmond was well-received, and our feedback is that most of the audience welcomed and appreciated his commitment to discuss these issues directly with anyone in the Jewish community.
Finally, the Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum are concerned at the repeated attempts of SCoJeC to exaggerate the threat of antisemitism, which will only cause harm to the interests of Jews living in Scotland.
From: RM [mailto: email@example.com] Sent: 03 December 2010 11:34 To: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org:email@example.com Subject: Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany
Is the Jewish community aware of current quotes in the media in connection with some asylum seekers being relocated from Glasgow to other parts of Scotland claiming *
'Members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany.' My understanding of the relocation of Jewish people at the time of The Holocaust is .... Jewish people, many whom had been born in the above areas, built businesses, worked, owned houses, were important contributors socially and financially to their communities, were relocated from their homes and placed in ghettos. Their children were forbidden to attend school. All was stolen from them. The ghettos were disease and poverty ridden half-way stops to the death camps.
In comparison, some of the asylum seekers may be relocated to be rehoused in areas out with Glasgow. Nothing is being taken from them. They are not being made homeless. Their new accommodation will be all furnished and they (asylum seekers and their children) will be able to continue their education. I do not believe any 'Members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany.' To do so would be going down the route of denying The Holocaust.
I am not Jewish. I leave the decision to the Jewish community to refute the 'with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany' statement.
*Statement from Robina Qureshi, Director, Positive Action in Housing, Glasgow.  http://www.gcvs.org.uk/news_and_information/777_obituary-dr_henry_tankel_obe
From: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Monday, December 06, 2010 4:40 PM To: Robina Qureshi
Subject: RE: Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany
We have received the message below, which is self-explanatory, and, on checking, find that your circulated message did indeed read as quoted.
Whether or not any member of the Jewish Community with even minimal knowledge of history would make any such comparison, it is unfortunate that you appear to endorse the comment.
There is no reason for me to reiterate Mr X's explanation of why the comment is grossly offensive, and I would therefore ask you to issue an apology, to respond to Mr X, and to amend the article before you post it on your website.
Ephraim Borowski Director
From: Robina Qureshi [mailto:RobinaQureshi@paih.org] Sent: 07 December 2010 15:56 To: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities Subject: RE: Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany Importance: High Ephraim,
First of all, for the avoidance of any doubt, below is the exact quote in its actual context http://tinyurl.com/2f5voyt
“The UK Borders Agency has underestimated the strength of feeling about the agency’s actions on Scottish soil. From the hundreds of emails and letters we are getting from the public, people are disgusted. Members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany."
I do not know Mr X or his motivation for writing a complaint. Nor do I follow his logic about denying the holocaust. He also states he does not “believe” any members within the Jewish community have also raised comparisons with what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany. He is wrong and appears not to be aware of our work in fighting racism and fascism. I would comment as follows:
a) Positive Action in Housing is fully aware that the holocaust has always been an extremely sensitive issue amongst the Jewish community for obvious reasons. The treatment of the Jews in Poland and Germany are two prime examples. Many asylum seekers are living day by day in fear of being returned to countries where they face persecution or death, the two situations are different in many respects - albeit both unacceptable.
b) The comparisons made to us by members within the Jewish community were about people living in fear and being told they had to leave their homes suddenly with only two bags. Also, the dangers of people left destitute and not being welcome as refugees in the UK. That’s as far as the comparison of human experiences went. We made reference to the comments as a statement of fact, not as an endorsement of any particular position.
c) We have received funding from Jewish charities because of the similarities in how Jewish people were destitute and poor when they claimed refuge in the UK.
d) Several of the asylum seekers this charity assisted include Russian Jews who sought our assistance as a result of being made absolutely destitute, or were locked up in detention centres with their children.
e) One of the families we recently assisted had received a letter from the UKBA telling them they would have to move within 3 days elsewhere in Scotland with no more than two bags. The family were distraught at this, and also because their children attend a local Jewish School.
f) In 2003, I took a family of Russian Jews into my own home to avoid them being incarcerated in Dungavel Removal Centre. We remain friends to this day.
g) I have attended many gatherings where speakers have made similar comparisons. Noone complained and, more importantly, no disrespect was ever intended. Certainly the comments appear to be driven from the anger at the treatment of asylum seekers, who are essentially seeking refuge from persecution or death, yet are treated inhumanely in this country.
h) I have publicly condemned holocaust deniers including the BNP and several Euro MPs, and received hate mail and threats to my personal safety for several years since 2005.
i) Until recently PAIH had one of the UK’s most respected members of the Jewish Community on its Board in Dr Henry Tankel, who was also a member of the Jewish Board of Deputies. Indeed, earlier this year, I and three other members of Positive Action in Housing attended Henry’s funeral alongside yourself I believe. Prior to that, Judith Tankel was on our board for over 12 years. We are now seeking a representative member to fill that gap, which shows our commitment to diverse perspectives on our board on all such matters. Henry had personally spoken with me of the common experiences of Jewish people, his family and the asylum seekers. In my obituary of Henry in June 2010, which was circulated to over 2,000 members and supporters, I wrote: “He came out with us on protests at the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and spoke of the common experience of his family and the Jewish community in the second world war. He also regularly donated to our destitution service and hardship fund”. Additionally, both Judith and later Henry were featured in our 2005 and 2010 annual reports. Many asylum seekers feel they are victims of a fear and blame driven asylum policy designed to goad them into returning to their home countries despite the legitimate fear of persecution or death. They are forbidden to work; they are made absolutely destitute or have been locked up in detention centres. Asylum seekers are being put into the worst, hard to let social and private rented housing that noone else wants to live in. There was a public outcry at the UKBA sending out 600 letters to vulnerable people telling them they must move out of their homes within three days to somewhere else in Scotland with no more than two bags.
I do not think that the sentiments expressed to us were in any way designed to be dismissive or undermining of the Jewish experience. I simply don’t accept Mr X’s logic about holocaust denial. And I would of thought that you, as someone who is aware of this charity and my own personal commitment, would have known us well enough to find out exactly what we were trying to say before jumping to unfounded and quite frankly offensive accusations.
Robina Qureshi Director
On 7 Dec 2010, at 08:01 PM, "Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
Thank you for your response, but I'm sorry to say I find it unsatisfactory.
I did not accuse you of anything; I asked you to withdraw an offensive comment, but you have chosen to respond in entirely ad hominem terms. For the record, I too have accommodated Russian refugees in my home, but that, like who might have been on your Board, is simply beside the point.
The point is that suggesting that the situation of asylum seekers in the UK is comparable with "what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany" is grossly offensive. That is not to deny that both were threatened with deportation at short notice; the point is that leaving it at that is to suggest general comparability, including scale, treatment, and motive; and that is tantamount to belittling the Holocaust. Had you even said it was comparable to some of the early treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, I would not have written to you but replied to X to say that although perhaps a bit hyperbolic, I could not see anything objectionable about what you said.
But that is not what you wrote, and the simple point is that if something is comparable to something else, then the latter must be comparable to the former, and I am sure you are not suggesting that "what happened to Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany" is comparable, taken as a whole, with the actions of UKBA, however unpleasant they may
I note that you did not copy your message to Mr X. As a courtesy I am doing so.
Ephraim Borowski Director
From: Robina Qureshi [mailto:RobinaQureshi@paih.org] Sent: 07 December 2010 23:33
To: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Subject: Re: Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany
I'm glad we reached a common understanding , if you would recommend anyone from the Jewish community to sit on our board and who can fill the gap left by Henry gonna let me know pls,
From: Robina Qureshi
Sent: 15 December 2010 17:05
I am concerned about who this Mr X is, as there was someone of the same name who repeatedly posted xenophobic messages on our website and was eventually blocked , I also receive regular hate mail via BBC website. I just wondered if you know who this person is as e one who harassed us with racist messages is of the exact same name and the style of writing is similar to the complaint. I am happy to discuss this if you wish to give me your contact number but Im concerned about information being passed to someone I certainly do not know and who is bot on our list yet appears to be stirring up complaints.
If it is the same person then they have some sort of axe to grind, though quite what I do not know as i have never met this person except on email. I think you should be aware anyway. My mobile number is XXXXX if you wish to discuss.
On 16 Dec 2010, at 17:25,
"Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
I'm sorry Robina, but it seems that amongst the things on which we lack a common understanding is what constitutes a common understanding.
All I asked was that you acknowledge that your words give offence and amend them. I am following this with a further e-mail from Mr X expanding on his objections.
However much you obfuscate, you are refusing to do that.
Robina Qureshi [mailto:RobinaQureshi@paih.org]
Sent: 16 December 2010 18:03
To: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Subject: Re: Jews in Poland and Nazi Germany
I note u ignored my previous email
Which precise words caused you offence and why?
If you can answer in your own words then I would be to happy to reply. But i wont be harangued or bullied by you like this. i have stated already I dont follow the logic of any fool equating asylum seekers with the holocaust. It wiuld be a really dumb thing to say. We would never make such a statementnor seek to cause offence within the Jewish or any other communities.
Sorry but that's just not what we said, it was a reference to what others said. But similarities in treatment do exist and i will justify it happily.
Further I ask you not to forward replies to Mr X as I have already noted our concerns to you about this person and the issue if hatemail. Therefore please regard this correspondence as strictly confidential. Again if you seek genuine clarification then instead of bullying me for an apology I suggest u give me a call or we meet. I'm busy but I'll make the time.
On 16 Dec 2010, at 19:15,
"Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
We have never as far as I know had any previous contact with Mr X, nor have we now done anything other than the courtesy of including him in the conversation he began.
I must admit there were some phrases in his messages that I thought might have been more sympathetically expressed, but it did seem to be no more than a matter of phrasing. This new info does raise concerns - but they are concerns about him, not about the point he makes, which remains cogent, and I still await your agreement to apolgise and amend the offending words before you post them on your website.
Sent: 16 December 2010 19:47
To: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Subject: Re: RE:
First of all, there is nothing to be removed. Information goes out we don't control that. There's nothing on our website.
Secondly I think you would want to be really careful not to be used as a pawn in a vendetta by an anonymous emailer whose views I am fairly sure you would not agree with.
Thirdly for me to apologise would be to deny the common human experience of pain and hurt and being victimised and dictated to, which is not owned by any person or community on this earth . Human experience is common to us all, the worst pain and tragedy, noone owns it, noone is a more deserving 'victim' , its domething yhat happens to us all, do you know where i learned that? From a holocaust survivor called viktor e frankl whose book called mans search for meaning I'm still reading. So clearly Im not about to apologise for the commonslity of human experience.
No ephram im not gonna apologise. The logic of your new fan whose motive you don't even know is warped to say the least. I doubt you would keep company with him yet your championing his vendetta, sorry complaint, despite me telling you we suspect he was the same person banned from our blogs in 2007 for quite questionable views. I have said this to u in these emails ad nauseum. But you don't seem like a person who is willing to listen or even be reasonable. Which is really sad.
The whole tone of your correspondence is of someone determined to find offence where there is plainly none. Had your tone from the get go been more reasoned and open to a discussion - for example like Henry or the wonderful amazing Judith tankel, you would probably have got a thousand apologies for you being hurt. But I don't believe that's where your coming from.
Finally, this correspondence is now at a close for me, I have something infinitely more important to do , like focus on my real job. But I will forward your correspondence to one if the people who had made the remarks about common human experience.
R Qureshi On 17 Dec 2010, at 09:05 AM,
"Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
If "there is nothing to be removed. Information goes out we don't control that.", what is http://ymlp.com/zYuDdz, which was posted by PAIH on the PAIH Facebook page?
There clearly is no point in continuing this.
From: Robina Qureshi [mailto:RobinaQureshi@paih.org] Sent: 17 December 2010 10:34
To: Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Subject: Re: RE: RE:
It is a PRIVATE link but given that you are so difficult to reason with it was obviously POINTLESS explaining it and given that we weren't saying what you accused us of I would not remove it anyway.
On 19 Dec 2010, at 09:52 PM, "Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
Private? on Facebook?!!
If you have such respect for Judith, why don't you respect her oft-quoted maxim that "if offence has been taken, then offence has been given"?
From: "Robina Qureshi"
To: "Scottish Council of Jewish Communities"
I'm sorry but what you accused us of was so ridiculous - that whats happening to asylum seekers is a holocaust - you were not even prepared to put it into words.
Instead you spoke on behalf of a deeply suspect complainant, who I believe is v happy that an email from me is now in his hands. For years, I did not respond to the goading of this person. I believe this is the same person who sent me emails constantly for the past five years via the BBC website , i opened a hatemail folder. When our wrk got high profile, I got hatemail directed at my family members. when a boatful of pakistanis were killed, i got comments that more should be killed. When a black person attacked a White person somewhere in England, more vile emails suggesting Africans were all rapists or killers. I won't bore you with the details.
Now that person, who wanted me to respond to his goading, has finally got an email written by me, because you took it upon yourself to advocate his stupid, nonsensical, dumb, factually incorrect complaint. If you had asked me whether it was true that I thought that the experience of asylum seekers is the same as eleven million people - Jews and non - Jews - being killed by Nazis , I could of said, no, end of. Not one other person has suggested this is what we said. The statement could have been more specific i.e. refer to the situation from 1933-39 but the suggestion that it is tantamount to holocaust denial is simply ridiculous.
There is, of course, no direct comparison with the extermination of millions of people but attitudes to asylum seekers certainly bear comparison with how the Jews were treated in the 1930's.
i. The opposition of governments in the West to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany very much parallels the attitudes and policies today. Indeed the very same newspapers, the Daily Mail and Express in particular, who vigorously opposed the immigration of Jewish refugees also of course oppose asylum seekers today.
ii. Jews were dehumanised in the 1930's and asylum seekers are today.
iii. Jews were sent back to their deaths, most notably the ship the St Louis which went from Cuba to the USA and back to Europe where the majority of the passengers perished. Asylum seekers are also sent back to their deaths with the same blank denials of knowledge or responsibility.
iv. The Holocaust took place from 1941 to 1945. The Nazi regime was in power from 1933-1941 and the West failed at any stage to criticise its treatment of the Jews up to the Krystalnacht pogrom on November 1/2 1938. The indifference of the Western powers and worse to Jewish refugees is indeed matched by the indifference of Western governments today. This is the end of the matter for me. I am sure that you have time on your hands to fire off emails. I don't , I have much needed work to do with people who are in need. Perhaps you should meet with asylum seekers and see what their lives are really like, and the terror they feel every day of their lives because of their status in this country. Who knows, you might start to similarities too.
Finally, in reference to Judith's maxim, she knew how to say it with kindness and warmth, and I'm deeply offended by your clearly Ill founded accusation on behalf of someone deeply suspect. Are you going to apologise?