Neviim Tovim/TheHaftarah Circle Gillian Gould Lazarus

The K Word

Posted on: October 23, 2018

Kapo. It is as offensive as Uncle Tom or Coconut, with similar imputations of treachery and servility.

Kapos were prisoners in Nazi concentration camps and they performed the work of the SS guards, under duress.  From the point of view of the SS administrators, Kapos served the purpose of relieving their workload while dividing Jewish prisoners against each other. Some were sadistically brutal to the prisoners they supervised.  All were collaborators by force of circumstance and all were victims of the system. The taint of treachery, disloyalty and collaboration with the enemy is attached to this word, kapo, which originally designated those Jewish prisoners in the camps who were promoted to a functionary role which probably helped to keep them alive.

Treason is one of the most hated crimes, odious to the group or nation betrayed by the traitor and  punished with the severest judicial penalties. Wartime collaborators often suffered extrajudicial punishments , including executions.

The anger felt towards a collaborator can be commensurate with the damage they achieve. The damage rather than the intention quantifies the response. Ethel Rosenberg was executed for typing up the notes her husband passed to Soviet contacts but it was believed that the notes assisted the Soviet nuclear programme.

Alternatively, the self-preservation instinct after the fall of an enemy may exacerbate the cruelty visited on collaborators. Consider the persecution in France in the years after WW2, meted out by those who may not have been personally blameless, of women considered guilty of collaboration horizontale.  Pointing out another’s collaboration could deflect from their own, so the women who had been intimate with the German occupiers were made to carry the blame.

In recent times in the UK, Jewish political activists whose efforts are construed as injurious to the Jewish community are sometimes reviled with the word kapo. Those who use the word are often rebuked, as it is pointed out that far from acting freely, kapos were also victims of the Nazis. Furthermore, those who have discovered their Jewish identity in an anti-Zionist cause probably believe that they are motivated by the pursuit of justice, rather than with the aim of whipping up anti-Jewish feeling. Nevertheless, with antisemitism now a force to be reckoned with in the UK Labour party, the strident denials of Jewish Voice for Labour and Free Speech on Israel, in defence of Jeremy Corbyn, BDS and PSC arouse resentment in Jewish communities, especially as their raison d’être seems to be to expel from the Labour  mainstream Jewish organizations of long standing in the Party which was their political home.

Today, the Jewish Chronicle carries the story that a member of the anti-Israel but Jewishly observant Jewdas group has been giving training in antisemitism to members of Dulwich CLP.

‘A left-wing activist from the controversial Jewdas group compared Zionism to Nazi ideology when she gave “antisemitism awareness” to a Labour Party branch meeting.

During her 55-minute speech to the Dulwich and West Norwood Labour branch on Thursday, self-declared “non-Zionist” … also claimed there was “room for discussion” about collaboration between the “Nazi Party and members of the Zionist movement.”

[She] said “Zionism is a racist ideology”, adding it was “not possible to have a democratic Jewish state”.’

By using her Jewish identity to suggest special knowledge, the Jewdas member promulgates the view that Jews who support Israel are racists and that Israel is a racist enterprise. She instructed Dulwich Labour members that:

‘antisemitism within Labour is being employed to attack Corbyn’s leadership and has been since day one…because of his views on Israel.’

This should be a popular view among supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and will resonate with JVL and Neturei Karta as well as with the aptly named Jewdas.

The Jew in the pew at the synagogue, or the Jew in the queue at Carmelli’s Bakery, or the Jew who is one of the few  – about 250,000 – rather than one of Corbyn’s many, is worried about the possible injury to our safety and standing in the United Kingdom. Mr Corbyn may yet become Prime Minister and, outside of Jewdas and JVL, there is a widespead fear that this would prove detrimental to Jewish life.

Meanwhile, there are Jewish people who insist that Corbynism is not harmful to Jews or that we need to come to an accommodation with the various Holocaust revisionists and conspiracy theorists now holding office in the Labour Party. They regard those of us who are aghast at developments since Corbyn became Leader of the Opposition as spinning a false narrative in defence of the State of Israel. Their arguments are approved and applauded in many of the constituency Labour parties. They may be held in opprobrium by  large numbers of Jews, but their Jewish identity has proved potent in defending Corbyn from charges of antisemitism. They are the best weapon he has.

The K word,  is indeed inappropriate and has the indecency that belongs to intense invective but it is provoked by the inimical energy of the Corbyn movement, which seems to be in the ascendant. It has the force of any profanity. For a period of time, kapos wielded power over other Jews, and power, while it lasts, may be less forgivable than treachery.

A thought: perhaps we should lose the word kapo and bring back the word herem? Why use insults when we can resort to anathema?

 

 

 

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3 Responses to "The K Word"

This is ridiculously good, Gillian. I am so annoyed because I’m compelled to go on to the next one and prevented from enjoying my book.

What’s your book? Mine is ‘The Woman in White.’ strange, but true.

Dark Sacred Night – Michael Connelly.
I’m a simple soul

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