Economist continues to mislead over Israeli historian’s alleged “concentration camp” analogy

We recently posted about an article in The Economist, by their Middle East correspondent Nicolas Pelham, which quoted Israeli Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer characterising Israel’s detention center for African migrant’s as a “modern concentration camp”.

In our post, we noted that, in an email exchange with Mr. Bauer, he flatly denied using that term in his interview with Pelham. However, after further emails between Mr. Bauer, UK Media Watch and The Economist, the 91-year-old historian thought again about the interview and then said he “may have” used the term “in a fit of anger”, but that he certainly does not believe the detention centers in any way resemble concentration camps.  

Following this new information, we revised our post (and our original tweet) to reflect these new facts – making it clear that though the quote was not fabricated, it nonetheless clearly did not represent Bauer’s views.

We then contacted Economist editors, asking that they either remove the misleading quote or, at the very least, add an editor’s note clarifying to readers that Mr. Bauer does not actually believe that there’s an analogy between Israel’s detention center and “concentration camps”. 

Here are Bauer’s exact words in an email to UKMW:

“The [detention] camp in the Negev desert is pretty awful, but it is not a concentration camp German style (or Guantanamo American style).”

Thus far, editors have refused to make this correction, and the article continues to substantively mislead readers.

As UK Media Watch and CAMERA has demonstrated, this represents a pattern by Pelham of distorting the facts to support an anti-Israel conclusion.

However, what makes the misleading quote so pernicious is that it has the effect of legitmising comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.  Such comparisons are codified as antisemitic by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliances’s Working Definition of Antisemitism (which was adopted by the British government).

Tellingly, Pelham began his Economist article by casually dismissing concerns over such toxic comparisons:

COMPARISONS with dark chapters in Jewish history tend to elicit the knee-jerk Israeli response of asur le’hashvot, the Hebrew for “you can’t compare”. But a government plan to deport more than 34,000 African migrants to Rwanda is provoking more hand-wringing than usual, not least because Israel itself was created by refugees and survivors of the Holocaust.

Whatever objections there may be towards Israeli policy regarding African migrants, suggesting that their detention and planned deportation evokes the Nazis’ treatment of Jews is ahistorical and intellectually unserious.

The decision by The Economist to leave the false impression that a leading Holocaust historian evoked such a comparison does not reflect well on the seriousness of editors in upholding their own editorial standards, which includes a pledge to “consider whether the context and presentation of the facts are fair”.

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9 replies »

  1. Holocaust is a hot topic, thanks to Poland and their rush for revisionism. Whether the Economist is guilty of their own revisionism doesn’t really matter. They’re writing for readers who don’t care beyond Holocaust=Jew=Bad=Poor, Pitiful Palestinians.

  2. Has the Economist sought and used “Holocaust” or “concentration camp” citations regarding immigrant expulsions by its own EU government(s)?

    Because European countries – much larger and richer than Israel – certain do expel:

    Or is comparison of legal expulsion with Nazism something the Economist reserves for Jews?

    And why the word “deportation”? To emphasise the false, nauseating Economist comparison of Israel to Nazis?

    The Economist comparison is yet more vile given its country’s history of oppression of Jews (both in the UK and in the Mideast), of acquiescence to the Holocaust, of mistreatment of DP’s, of denial of refuge to Jews fleeing the Holocaust, of caging of Jewish refugees after WW2, etc.

    Why was neither Britain nor Palestine obligated to take many more of Jews fleeing the Holocaust, but tiny Israel obligated to take African migrants?

    Loathesome, racist, anti-Semitic hypocrisy at the Economist.

  3. I trust none of you is paying to subscribe to the Economist?

    22009Additional pressure would be contacting their advertisers, The Economist charges up to hundreds of thousands of US$ for various ad categories. You can find these at, or — I went straight to “Economist Advertising”. What if even a few hundred of us CAMERA supporters contacted advertisers and warned that they are cancelling their subscriptions unless the Economist CORRECTS its UNbalanced coverage, and promises to check facts before bloviating..

    Money talks.

  4. I have spoken with Pelham, the Economist Middle East correspondant, at a few events and he has always implied that he bears the State of Israel extreme animus

    As far as he is concerned Israel can do no right and will always be guilty of every charge against it.

    He cannot be considered a news correspondant; rather he is a commentator voicing his point of view on Israel.

    It is many years since I last read the Economist because if I have cause to distrust one writer on their paper, then it must cast doubt on their selection process, and leave me doubting the sincerity of all their writers

  5. I loathe the Economist and am unsurprised they would find the worst possible angle to present Israel in, but in this case Yehuda Bauer was just as stupid and worthless as this publication. I don’t care if he was struck with a “fit of anger” because the Left damn sure doesn’t excuse their opponents when they say poorly considered and/or dumb-ass things after being rendered furious (even when the circumstances for that anger, most notably the murders of Israeli civilians by terrorists, are much more understandably enraging than most Left-coddled cases are, including this one). He should be viewed as a total asshole, and I don’t care if he’s sorry that he fucked up so badly.

  6. Since it was the British that pioneered the concept of the “concentration camp” during the Boer War, perhaps The Economist views the comparison as a compliment to Israel because it is following a traditional British practice. The only problem is that Israel has no such camps so the comparison itself is simply baseless.

    • No ‘Charlie in NY’ not Britain.
      I have had to point this out before, but who knows maybe this time the truth might get through and displace myth.
      The actual term ‘concentration camp’ was invented by the Spanish (as campo de concentración or campo de reconcentración) in 1896. A rebellion had broken out in Cuba, then a Spanish colony, the previous year. The rebels, outnumbered by Spanish government troops, turned to guerilla warfare. In response the Spanish commander Valeriano Weyler ordered the civilians of Cuba to be ‘concentrated’ in concentration camps under guard so they could not provide the rebels with food, supplies or new recruits. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were interned in these camps, and poor sanitation and lack of food led to as many as a quarter of them dying of disease.

      The second country to operate concentration camps under that actual name was the United States in 1900. They had recently acquired the Philippines from Spain, only to be confronted by a rebellion by Filipinos who wanted independence rather than American rule. The Filipinos turned to guerilla warfare and in response the Americans copied the Spanish solution. Concentration camps were set up on the islands of Marinduque and Mindanao, and civilians from rebel-sympathising districts were forced to reside there. As in Cuba, the death rate from disease was horrendous.

      The third country to set up concentration camps was Britain, during the Second Boer War in November 1900.

      So Spain and the USA beat Britain to it.