You might recall the Liberal-National Party’s Hajnal Ban, for a variety of reasons. There’s the famous Russian leg-stretching operation, for one thing. But the Logan City local councillor’s political career has been what has garnered headlines.

Before the last election, Ban was preselected for the new federal seat of Wright. Some of us at the time predicted she’d be trouble for the LNP, and so it proved. “Irregularities” emerged in the administration by Ban of a trust fund for an elderly friend and the Office of the Adult Guardian took her to Queensland’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Ban was then kicked off the LNP ticket. And in fact, aspects of the case are still going this week.

Ever since, the young councillor has been trying to maintain a public profile, including via Twitter. Last week, she joined in the outrage of the climate deniers, attacking the prime minister for using the word “denier”. But Ban had a special take on the issue.  You see, Ban is a Holocaust survivor. On Friday, she tweeted:

“I am a holocaust survivor. If it were not for the Allies I would not be here. I dont support a carbon tax or warming ‘science’. Am I a denier?”

She released an “open letter” to the prime minister declaring she regarded herself as a Holocaust survivor and criticising Julia Gillard’s use of the word. Putting aside Ban’s grammatical issues, how exactly was a woman born in 1977 a Holocaust survivor? She explained further on Twitter:

“‘Holocaust survivor’ is a common term used for descendents [sic] of interned prisoners of the NAZI’s. My Jewish grandfather survived the holocaust”

And to one tweeter who questioned her claim to Holocaust survivor status, she responded: “unless your family lived through the orture [sic] of NAZI and Communist Europe you’re not qualified to comment.”

Alas, Ban’s fantasies don’t hold up too long to any scrutiny. “Holocaust survivor” is not a term used, commonly or uncommonly, for descendants of interned prisoners of the Nazis. Just who is a Holocaust survivor has been a much-debated issue. In 1997, an Israeli government committee concluded that a Holocaust survivor, defined “inclusively”, was “any Jew who has lived in a country at the time when it was under Nazi regime, under Nazi occupation, under the regime of Nazi collaborators as well as any Jew who fled due to the above regime or occupation”.

This is in line with other definitions, although Israeli academics also use a chronological definition, limiting the definition to between 1933 and 1945. Similarly, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum defines Holocaust survivors as: “…any persons, Jewish or non-Jewish, who were displaced, persecuted, or discriminated against due to the racial, religious, ethnic, social, and political policies of the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945. In addition to former inmates of concentration camps, ghettos, and prisons, this definition includes, among others, people who were refugees or were in hiding.”

In short, people can’t self-select into the category “Holocaust survivor”. If Ban’s a Holocaust survivor, I’m a potato famine survivor.

Ban didn’t like my questioning her on Twitter. After I retweeted one of her comments on Saturday night, appending (with apologies to Billy Birmingham) “Comments from the Holocaust survivor”, she promptly called me “anti-semitic and racists” [sic, again — apparently there’s more than one of me]. Given such terms are defamatory, and concerned that such a label would leave my career prospects for anything more than the editorship of the League of Rights newsletter rather precarious, I asked her to withdraw. Nothing doing. She replied:

“U owe me an appology for making a mockery of my heritage.Failure 2 do so will c me take action in the Human Rights Commission”

I confess that I briefly thought my fantasy of being hauled up before the PC police of the Human Rights Commission for crimes against someone’s hypertrophied sensitivity might come true. And who knows, maybe it still will. After all, Ban is a barrister. Later she accused me of refusing to apologise “for slurs against holocaust victims”. She also called a number of other people the same defamatory terms, via Twitter, and vaguely threatened legal action against another.

None of those people have the luxury I do of responding to this elected official via a media outlet. Some are considering legal options.

Ban was of course using “anti-semitic” in one of its classic forms — as a way to shut down criticism. Normally, it’s criticism of Israel or its treatment of Palestinians, but Ban seems to have arrogated the term to her own personal circumstances. Rather like she arrogated the status of Holocaust survivor to herself.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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