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APRIL 2006

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News and Op/Ed

The Relevance of the Holocaust
Satar Jabar standing on a box with wires connected to his body
Satar Jabar standing on a box with wires connected to his body   

Just what is meant by "Never Again?"

Just how long are Jews going to retread the narrative about the Holocaust? How long will it be treated as so unique as to have no relevancy to the present, and to have no parallels in the present? Just what is meant by "Never Again?" Is it never again are Jews to suffer genocide and the indifference of the world to that genocide? Or is that Jews have no interest in present genocides and present egregious violations of human rights? 

After the revelations of the concentration camps and Nazi horrors, there were international laws to protect humankind against such heinous crimes. The Nuremberg laws made planning executing and crimes against humanity punishable. The United Nations made aggressive war illegal and that body passed a resolution entitled the Declaration of Human Rights. The Geneva Convention of 1949 made the horrors of World War II crimes. There also was a covenant against torture. 

All of these were ratified by the United States and as such became as our Constitution states "supreme law of the land." 

What has happened? 

The US has attacked Iraq without an imminent threat. The US has created a category of prisoners without any status or rights and incarcerated them denying any due process or any protection of the Geneva Convention. The US has established prison camps where tortures are inflicted that are similar to those practiced at Dachau-the use of vicious dogs, nakedness, deprivations of food, clothing, water, sanitation; the use of electric shocks denial of contact with friends and family, humiliation and degradation. 

Protests by the Red Cross, lawyers in the Judge Advocate General's Office, even the FBI and human rights organizations are ignored. AIPAC is indifferent to all this and honors the Vice President, a major player in these international crimes. The Jewish organizations are quiet. The rabbis and synagogues are silent, just as the Christian religious community was silent during the Holocaust. Yet huge amounts of Jewish money are expended for Holocaust education, Holocaust museums and Holocaust books, revisiting only the past horrors. It is business as usual in the Jewish community. 

The purpose of the Torah is to act as a moral guide. Where is the moral outrage? One slight burst of light is that some young people are protesting the genocide in Darfur (After all this time). 

Most Jewish organizations are practicing only one half of Hillel's dictum: If I am not for myself.." Jews have had a history of playing an outstanding role in promoting social justice. We need to follow the other half of Hillel's dictum: If we are only for ourselves what are we? If not now, when?

Philip Rosen Ph.D. 
Dr. Rosen was the former direction of the Holocaust Museum at Gratz College and is the author of two books on the Holocaust and one on anti-Semitism.