It's not enough to just remember the Holocaust
February 12, 2021
(JNS) — International Holocaust Remembrance Day is meant to serve two purposes: to memorialize the victims of the Nazi genocide and help prevent future genocides. Last week, on Jan. 27, the day designated by the U.N. General Assembly for this annual commemoration, both purposes were insufficiently served.
I’ll give credit where it’s due. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres made an appropriate statement: “Today, we honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of others who were systematically murdered in the Holocaust by the Nazis and their collaborators.”
He added a factual statement: “The Holocaust was the culmination of two millennia of discrimination, attacks, expulsions and periodic mass killings of Jews. It should have ended anti-Semitism for good. But it did not. Anti-Semitism, unfortunately, remains alive and well.”
So, what’s lacking? Acknowledgment that there is one country in the world with a Jewish majority, that it’s called Israel, and that it is threatened with genocide by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its collaborators, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad among them.
For more than a decade, Irwin Cotler — a distinguished international human rights lawyer, a former Canadian member of parliament, justice minister and attorney general — has been calling on the international community to hold Iran’s rulers accountable for their state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, a crime indisputably prohibited under the Genocide Convention.
Examples of such incitement are not difficult to find. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called for “the annihilation of the Jewish state.”
He has claimed that there is a religious “justification to kill all the Jews and annihilate Israel, and Iran must take the helm.”
Shihab-3 missiles draped with the slogan, “Wipe Israel off the map, as the Imam says,” have been paraded down the streets of Tehran.
Other Iranian leaders, “moderates” among them, have referred to Israel as “a cancer that must be removed,” and to Jews as “filthy bacteria,” language that echoes that used by the Nazis.
All this comes within the context of what the Iranian American Forum’s Hassan Dai terms “regime-sponsored anti-Semitism” that is “relentless, widespread, expanding and increasingly more shameless.”
Cotler has written: “Silence is not an option when states threaten genocide, especially when they are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and even boast that they can thereby bring about a Holocaust ‘in a matter of minutes.’”
Yet, year after year, even on International Holocaust Memorial Day, the United Nations and its affiliated organizations are not merely silent about such genocidal incitement. They also spend enormous amounts of time and energy demonizing Israel, sending the message that the extermination of the last viable Jewish community remaining in the Middle East — Jews having been expelled from most Arab lands following World War II — would be amply justified.
The most recent slander: that Israelis are responsible for providing coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians and are failing to do so. In fact, Israeli citizens, including Israeli Arabs, have been receiving vaccines expeditiously. But under the Oslo II Accords of 1995, it is the Palestinian Authority that is responsible for “the sphere of health” in the West Bank and Gaza. The agreement specifically states that the P.A. “shall continue to apply the present standards of vaccination of Palestinians.”
Nevertheless, going beyond what is required under Oslo, Israel transferred thousands of vaccines to the P.A. this week, earmarked for Palestinian health-care workers. As for Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005, it’s ruled not by the P.A. but by Hamas, which has pledged to “totally exterminate” Israeli Jews and frequently lobs missiles at Israelis as a reminder of its genocidal intentions. That tends to limit Israel-Hamas cooperation.
As noted above, the second express purpose of International Holocaust Remembrance Day is to prevent future genocides. So, you might expect there to be some mention at the United Nations of the plight of the Uyghurs, a Turkic and Muslim people whose central Asian homeland, Xinjiang, is ruled by Beijing.
Eugene Kontorovich, director of the Center for the Middle East and International Law at George Mason University’s Scalia Law School, noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week that there is bipartisan consensus that China’s Communist rulers are committing genocide against the Uyghurs.
Joe Biden took that position back in August, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made that his official determination just prior to the change of administration. The State Department concluded that Chinese Communist authorities “have conducted forced sterilizations and abortions on Uyghur women, coerced them to marry non-Uyghurs, and separated Uyghur children from their families.” Millions are believed to be incarcerated in re-education and/or forced labor camps.
Tony Blinken, the new secretary of state, has agreed that China’s rulers are engaged in “ongoing” genocide.
Nevertheless, officials at the United Nations, the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court have turned a blind eye.
Nor is this an urgent concern for the Organization for Islamic Cooperation and the leaders of most of the world’s many Muslim-majority nations (those in Tehran most emphatically included). And by what logic do the many entities claiming to champion “corporate social responsibility” and “ethical investing” ignore genocide?
The international community has responded fecklessly also to Beijing’s destruction of Tibet’s unique culture, its crushing of Hong Kong’s autonomy (guaranteed by a treaty signed by China’s rulers) and its accelerating threats to the people of Taiwan.
Following the extermination of Europe’s Jewish communities, world leaders vowed that “never again” would genocide be tolerated. Such resolve, if it ever existed, has dissipated. This year, particularly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, that reality should not go unnoticed, unremarked and unregretted.
Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and a columnist for The Washington Times.