By Rick Morton
Social Affairs Reporter
January 2, 2019
Activist priest and Senate hopeful Rod Bower has been rebuked by Jewish groups for the “offensive” and “irresponsible” comparison of the processing of asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to the Holocaust.
The Rector of the Gosford Anglican Church used his now famous parish sign to offer support to another priest, Catholic Father Bob Maguire, who said pictures of refugees on the islands “reminded” him of Nazi concentration camps.
Father Bower, who announced plans to run for the Senate last October, erected his own sign which read: “Manus is how the Holocaust started.”
He added online: “What we have done on Manus does not necessarily lead to the Holocaust but it is a necessary step on the path to that particular hell.”
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies chief executive Vic Alhadeff told The Australian the equivalence between the two was “deeply hurtful”.
“Comparing the situation on Manus Island to the murder of six million Jews is historically inaccurate and undermines the enormity of the Holocaust,” he said.
“Irrespective of one’s position on the detention of asylum-seekers, such analogies are both grossly inappropriate and highly irresponsible, as well as being deeply hurtful to Holocaust survivors and the families of the victims.”
The Australian Jewish Association also condemned the sign’s wording, tweeting late on Monday: “Grossly offensive to memory of the Holocaust.”
“The Holocaust was a systematic attempt on an industrial scale to exterminate an entire people,” it said.
“Whatever your views on offshore detention, it is nothing of the sort and to try to link one with the other is outrageous.”
After he was criticised online, Father Maguire said: “I was referring to two Twitter photos … one barbed wire Auschwitz, one barbed wire Manus … one REMINDED me of the other … no more implied, no less.”
While Father Maguire later clarified his comments, Father Bower appeared to double down.
“The Australian (Jewish Association) is to Judaism what the Australian Christian Lobby is to Christianity,” he tweeted yesterday.
In response to another comment about the AJA, the popular social media priest then accused “some members of the Jewish community” of “supporting neo-Nazis”.
He said he came to the thoughts behind the sign after meeting Holocaust survivor Inge Woolf in New Zealand early last year.
“After having told her that I was deeply concerned about Australia’s treatment of refugees she pointed to the photos of the Holocaust and said ‘you are right to be concerned because this can happen so easily’,” he wrote. “Her chilling comment will remain with me for the rest of my life.”
Father Bower could not be reached for comment yesterday.