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Has The World Learned Anything?

Yesterday, history was made, as the UN General Assembly convened a special session commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.*

 

60 years on, I cannot help but feel that the words “never again” have become just words. I am not alone.

Sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, a national anthem – Hatikva – was played Monday for the first time at the UN General Assembly, and a cantor chanted El Maleh Rahamim, ending an historic special session that commemorated the victims of the Holocaust. 
 
At the same time, speaker after speaker wondered why the vow “never again” was not enough to prevent the genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur.

 

Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Laureate, was the keynote speaker, a rare appearance by a non-statesman or diplomat to speak from the podium of the body that was created in the wake of the horrors of World War II.

 

“If the world had listened, we may have prevented Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia and naturally Rwanda,” Wiesel said. “We know that for the dead it is too late. For them, abandoned by God and betrayed by humanity, victory did come much too late. But it is not too late for today’s children, ours and yours. It is for their sake alone that we bear witness.”

 

He ended his poignant speech with a dramatic moment, a silent stare out at the diplomats and TV cameras watching, and then asked, “But will the world ever learn?”

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism is still going strong, perhaps buoyed by the emergence of the concept of “anti-Zionism.” There are those who use criticism of Israel to mask their hatred of Jews. Even more so, there are those who callously and disingenuously link Israel’s actions to those of the Nazis. 

British Muslims will boycott a state ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz unless it also commemorates the “holocaust” of the Palestinian intifada.

 

The ultimatum was issued in a message to Home Secretary Charles Clarke from Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 400 Muslim organizations.

 

“We have expressed our unwillingness to attend the ceremony because it excludes ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world and in the occupied territories of Palestine,” said Sacranie.

Leaving aside, for a second, the absurdity of claims of genocide by Israel, if this belief was truly the motivation of the British Muslims, then the following seems out of place: 

Muslim legislator Khalid Mahmood opposes the boycott because, he said, “People who were exterminated in the Holocaust were not just Jews – there were Romany gypsies as well.”

In other words, the boycott would be valid if only Jews were killed.

 

In Germany, the country from where the Holocaust was born, anti-Semitism continues within the corridors of power.

A top leader of Germany’s main Jewish group called on Germans to fight more strongly against far-right groups on Saturday, a day after legislators from a nationalist party walked out of a state parliament to protest a tribute honoring victims of Nazi aggression.

 

All 12 members of the National Democratic Party stood up and headed for the door of the eastern state of Saxony’s parliament Friday after parliament president Erich Iltgen called for a moment of silence to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz next week.

 

The presence of a far-right party in Saxony’s parliament shows “that anti-Semitic and xenophobic ideas long ago became presentable again,” said Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews.

And in Russia, banning Jews is an idea being openly expressed.

Russian lawmakers want to outlaw Jewish organizations

 

A group of nationalist lawmakers is calling for an investigation aimed at outlawing all Jewish organizations in Russia, accusing Jews of inciting ethnic hatred and provoking anti-Semitism.

 

In a letter dated January 13, about 20 members of the lower parliament house, the State Duma, asked Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov to investigate their claims and, if they are confirmed, to launch proceedings “on the prohibition in our country of all religious and ethnic Jewish organizations as extremist.”

 

Arguing that Jews were to blame for anti-Semitism, the authors of the letter want Jewish groups outlawed based on legislation against extremism and fomenting ethnic discord.

 

“The negative assessments by Russian patriots of the qualities and actions against non-Jews that are typical of Jews correspond to the truth, indeed these actions are not random but prescribed in Judaism and have been practiced for two centuries,” says the letter, faxed in part to The Associated Press by the office of lawmaker Alexander Krutov.

 

“Thus,” it says, “the statements and publications against Jews that have incriminated patriots are self-defense, which is not always stylistically correct but is justified in essence”.

Anti-Semitism even runs rampant in so-called “more civilized” countries.

Anti-Semitism in Great Britain skyrocketed last year, with almost twice as many anti-Jewish incidents taking place in 2004 as in 2003 and a near 50 percent spike in violent attacks, according to data released by the government Sunday.

 

The UK, still reeling from international condemnation provoked by Prince Harry’s dressing up as a Nazi at a costume party, well outpaced France in the number of anti-Semitic incidents (304 to 277), despite having a Jewish population less than one half the size.

 

France, with 96, continued to lead in violent attacks, but the number was the same as 2003’s, as opposed to Britain, where violent attacks increased from 55 to a preliminary total of 77.

Meanwhile, the extermination of the Jewish people remains a possibility as long as countries like Iran are allowed to continue implementing the means to achieve this end.

 

However, us Jews will not lie down. Thanks to the State of Israel, we have the means to defend ourselves. And I think that this is the exact reason why so many people object to Israel’s existence.

 

* It just so happens that this is a very apt time to commemorate victims of the Holocaust, since today, in the Jewish calendar, is Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shvat. Tu B’Shevat is the “new year” for trees, and trees symbolize rejuvenation and life. Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the Jewish people live on, and the state of Israel was born.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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