A Holocaust survivor shows his tattoo.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Commemorating the genocide of European Jewry as we will on Holocaust Remembrance Day – which begins Wednesday night and continues through Thursday – is not just a show of respect for those lost. Actively remembering the past should also have relevance for us today.
Yet looking around the world, we can easily reach the conclusion that the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned.
An annual Anti-Defamation League report surveying antisemitic incidents in the US in 2017 released in February found the number of antisemitic incidents was nearly 60% higher than in 2016 – the largest single-year increase on record. There were 1,986 incidents, including 1,015 cases of harassment, 952 of vandalism and 19 physical assaults.
Europe, meanwhile, has become an inhospitable place for Jews. A recent survey by the World Zionist Organization conducted before International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, found that half of European Jews said they do not feel safe being in public using a Jewish name, or seen with Jewish symbols such as a kippa or Star of David.
And it is not just a subjective feeling.
Last month, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, was hacked to death and burned in her home, evidently by a young male Muslim neighbor. France’s President Emmanuel Macron said that Knoll was murdered “because she was Jewish.”
Other incidents include the murder last of year of Sarah Halimi, 65, by Kobili Traore, who reportedly shouted “allahu akbar” as he carried out the murder.
Sarah Halimi apparently is a distant relative of Ilan Halimi, the French-born Jew who was kidnapped and murdered in 2006 by a gang of Muslims. Four Jewish hostages were murdered in the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris two days after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
In Germany, police recorded 1,453 antisemitic incidents in 2017.
Antisemitism can be found both on the Left and on the Right. In the US, according to an ADL survey from a few years ago, the American subgroups with the highest proportion of antisemitic opinions – African Americans, first-generation Hispanic immigrants and Muslims – also happen to vote disproportionately for Democratic candidates. And politicians such as US Rep.
Keith Ellison (D-MN) cooperate with groups that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
In Europe, the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has become a haven for Israel-bashers.
And it is true in varying degrees of left-wing parties on the continent as well, particularly those that cater to a Muslim vote.
In Europe, the Right is more worrying. Poland has passed legislation that seeks to distort the memory of the Holocaust by making it a crime to claim that the Poles as a nation were in any way complicit in Nazi crimes. And Hungary’s Victor Orban, who has generally avoided antisemitic remarks, last month gave a bizarre speech in which he attacked not only Hungarian Jew George Soros but also “an enemy that is different from us; not open but hiding; not honest but base; not national but international; does not believe in working but speculates with money; does not have a homeland but feels it owns the whole world.”
In a broader sense, the lessons of the Holocaust have not been learned.
In Syria, Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons yet again against civilians, including little children. Autocratic rulers such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, who have protected the Assad regime from UN sanctions in the past, will undoubtedly do it again. Meanwhile the US, Europe and other nations do not stop the killing.
All of these developments are indicators that although World War II ended 73 years ago, the lessons have not been learned. All should serve as a warning and a reminder that we in Israel must educate while remaining vigilant and ready.
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