Charges that Jewish leaders use the Holocaust as a club to oppress others drew an angry response from a spokesman for the Canadian Jewish Congress during an ecumenical conference to help North American Christians better understand the plight of Palestinian Christians.
"I stand here in amazement and some outrage that this conference, which is supposed to be looking at voices of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East, has become a forum for the holocaust," said Eric Vernon, director of the advocacy office of the CJC in Ottawa.
"We don't need to be told that we are abusing the Holocaust, an intellectually dishonest argument which, in my opinion, falls into the camp of the most vile Holocaust denial."
Mr. Vernon was speaking from a floor microphone at the first Canadian Sabeel conference, which ran from Nov. 8 to 10 and was co-sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. He was responding to members of a panel - including an American Jewish theologian - who claimed Jewish leaders use the Holocaust as a form of abuse and to silence criticisms from others.
Marc Ellis, head of Jewish studies at Baylor University, had told the audience of predominantly Christians and Muslims that the past 50 years of Jewish history "has taken us from a helpless, suffering people to being an empowered and sometimes abusive people."
It's a great tragedy that the Jewish "establishment" uses the Holocaust as a form of abuse, he added.
"What it is being used for today is to dispossess and dislocate people and to permanently oppress people, and that's where I say No."
Another panelist, Canon Naim Ateel, founder and director of Sabeel, an ecumenical centre for Palestinian liberation theology in Jerusalem, also said the Holocaust has been used "to silence criticisms of the unjust policies of Israel. …