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What Have We Learned From The Holocaust?
|Rabbi's Corner - Rabbi\'s Corner|
May 2nd will be Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In a certain way, there should be nothing to say. We should be at this point in time, between sixty and seventy years after the whole world knew that six million Jewish people had been murdered during the smokescreen of World War II, be left with little to say that has not been said a thousand times. All these years later, we should be looking back at the murder of millions of people and be able to say, “We all have learned so much from that horror-filled catastrophe. The world is now a different place than it was then. The world has not allowed anything like that to happen since and it will never allow anything like that to happen again. The millions who were killed at least did not die in vain; their deaths woke the world up to what evil can be and what evil can do.”
That, in 2011, as we approach Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, is what we should be able to say.
But of course, so sadly, we cannot say any such thing. For example, more than five million Congolese lost their lives after the Democratic Republic of the Congo was invaded and occupied by Uganda's army in 1997. The International Criminal Court (ICC), led by the prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, an Argentine, has refused to investigate the genocide. Recently, Ocampo announced that the court will investigate alleged crimes against humanity committed by Muammar Gaddafi's forces since the conflict in Libya erupted last month. Why Libya and not the Congo? You can be sure that it’s either money or some kind of political game, but whatever it is, it ignores genocide in today’s world. Another horrible example: The Rwandan Genocide was the mass murder in 1994 of an estimated 800,000 people in the small East African nation of Rwanda. Over the course of just 100 days from April 6 through mid-July, 1994, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people, or as much as 20% of the country's total population, were murdered. On January 11, 1994, months before anything happened, the United Nations Force Commander in Rwanda notified the UN that massacres were about to happen. He told them what every step of the plan was. Remember, the United Nations has the mandate to stop genocide in this world. The UN's mandate forbids intervening in the internal politics of any country unless the crime of genocide is being committed. But the UN decided that the situation proved too "risky" for the UN to attempt to help.
In 2000, the UN explicitly declared its reaction to Rwanda a "failure". Secretary General Kofi Annan said of the event, "The international community failed Rwanda and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret."
These two examples, and they are only examples because other acts of genocide have happened since World War II, prove that the world has learned nothing since the Holocaust.
How can this be? How is this possible?
If you want to know how the Holocaust happened, you have to understand something terrible but crucial: Human beings don’t care about other human beings.
We are in a time of the year when we read three sections of the Torah, Ahare Mot, Kedoshim and Emor. Put them together and they can be translated: After the deaths, they are called holy. While they’re being killed, no one does anything. After they’re dead, everybody feels bad.
Now you can say, what do want from me? These are all huge world events, what can I do?
If you want to remember the Holocaust, you must speak out whenever and wherever genocide threatens the lives of innocent human beings.
I am a very patriotic American. I love America. But I insist that we have to question our American government about how it is incredibly inconsistent about when it intervenes in the conflicts of other nations. Why have we intervened in Libya and we did not intervene in Rwanda or the Congo or Darfur? I know I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack, but I don’t understand. I think that Qaddafi is an evil man. I want him to go down. He deserves to be destroyed. But where were we when millions were being killed in those other nations? It’s easy to say, after the fact, that we should have done something. Ahare Mot Kedoshim Emor, after the victims of genocide are dead, we declare them to be holy victims of genocide. That doesn’t do them any good, does it? Far too little, far too late.
Jewish people know all about this.
And we know a horrible little secret, and that is that there are a lot of nations, right this minute, that want to destroy Israel right now because it is a Jewish country. And the world would watch another Holocaust and see millions of Jewish people killed and then afterwards everyone would say, “Oh, what a shame, we certainly hope that never happens again.”
Which brings me to what I really want to say today.
Jewish people must support Israel. We can have all the discussions we want about internal Israeli politics but to fail to support Israel right now is to deny the Holocaust and the possibility of another.
There is a man named Richard Goldstone. If you don’t know who he is, don’t pretend like you follow current events affecting Israel and the Middle East.
Goldstone, who is Jewish, was the head of the U.N. Human Rights Council judicial panel on Gaza, a commission that wrote an infamous report that condemned Israel for war crimes in Gaza. When Goldstone came out with his report, all the enemies of Israel in the world screamed that it proved that Israel is a violent and merciless and aggressive nation that intentionally targeted innocent civilians as a matter of policy. Goldstone’s report became the poison gas with which the whole Israeli-Palestinian dispute has been made, more than ever, rancid and fiendishly immune to the truth.
Recently, Goldstone realized, based on the facts that he had not waited for the first time, that he was entirely wrong, that his first report was simply and completely wrong. He is now crystal clear in his disavowal of the report’s accusations of intentional killing by Israel of non-Hamas Palestinians: he now says that, “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” On the other hand, he now says that Hamas’s rockets “were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.” Here is the judge’s pathetic confession: “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”
When Goldstone came out with his first report, it was on the front page of every paper in the world, including The New York Times. But when Goldstone took it all back, it took the Times fully two days to publish anything in print, and, by the way, only on an inside page. At least the Times did that much. It’s amazing how very few of the human rights organizations and the magazine writers and leftist Jews in America and Israel have come out and said: We were wrong. We take it all back.
All the people who had jumped up and down about the Goldstone report, who went bananas in praise of the Goldstone Report. including Jimmy Carter, have neither been heard from on Goldstone nor have explained their silence. They should be ashamed.
And Jewish people like Goldstone who condemned Israel, thinking that they were helping the world, provided cover for the haters of Israel.
Hatred of Israel reflects a widespread contempt in the world for the Jewish people—for the achievements and contributions of our people, that embodied in the State of Israel, in modern nation-building and daring renewal.
So what I ask of you is to become informed about what is going on in this world, and whether it’s in the Middle East or Africa or Asia, ask your country what it’s doing and why. And I ask you to support Israel, for it embodies the values of humanity and courage.
So I ask again: what have we learned from the Holocaust? It seems like we have learned nothing about genocide, it seems like we have learned nothing about where hatred of the Jewish people leads.
But in a way, I’m wrong, because some of us have learned a lot, and what we’ve learned is reflected in this ceremony this morning. When the grandson of Holocaust survivors can get up on a bima in America in 2011 and sing his Haftorah right from the heart, it shows that we have learned something. For all of the wars and all of the hatred, we remain true to who we are. No one can take that away from us. So how better to remember, a few days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, than by stating loud and clear that we know who we are and who we’ll always be. We are people who care about other people, who fight genocide and hatred, and who will always work to create a better world.