Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette visited the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in Poland on the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet forces. She also met with a small number of Holocaust survivors. The memory of the horrors of the Holocaust still haunts Jews around the world, including Canadian Jews. It also continues to fuel the idea of a “Jewish State” and its consequent dispossession and oppression of the Palestinians. “We are the victims of victims”, said Palestinian intellectual and author Edward Said. Read more….
“By drawing lessons from this horrific chapter in human history we can create a more just, equitable and inclusive future for all,” wrote Canada’s Governor General Julie Payette on her Facebook Page, just before leaving for Auschwicz, Poland.
Few would disagree that such an inhuman and horrific event should never happen again to Jews. The Nazi intent, at least after 1941, was to completely wipe out an entire people.
The Governor-General’s message has a particular resonance in Canada which harbours the fourth largest Jewish population in the world (after Israel, the USA and France). Nearly 40,000 Holocaust survivors settled in the country after the Second World War.
“Never again – to whom?”
According to the National Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., there were over 15 million deaths due to the Holocaust, of whom about 8 million were Russians, 6 million Jews and about 2 million Poles. As Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel observed, “Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims.”
“Never again” is narrowly interpreted by many Israeli leaders and advocates to mean “never again to Jews”. In a recent ceremony in Jerusalem, with many foreign leaders in attendance, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu skillfully used the memory of the Holocaust as a reason to defend the right of Jews to have their own state and, implicitly, to take over the land of Palestinians.
Of course it should never again happen to Jews. But it should also mean “never again to ANYONE” argues Dr. David Parnas in a powerful letter sent to CBC on the occasion of its Holocaust commemoration coverage. Parnas is a member of the OFIP Advisory Council.
Unfortunately, CBC did not read his letter over the airwaves. Here is the text:
To: Ottawa Ontario Today <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Auschwitz matters but it is about all human beings, not one group of human beings.
Thank you for discussing Auschwitz and its lessons.
I lost one grandmother in the Nazi death camps (not Auschwitz but does that matter?). My other grandmother, the only one I ever knew, had her life destroyed in spite of surviving. Both were Jewish, as am I. Nonetheless, I think that Mr. Netanyahu is wrong when he suggests that it “began with hatred of the Jews” but right when he says that it does not end with the Jews. There were genocidal efforts before the Holocaust, many non-Jews were victims of the Holocaust and there are genocidal efforts today that are not directed at us Jews.
There are two roots to the disease one of whose symptoms are the Holocaust. One is tribalism, the other is a corrupt exploitation of tribalism. Neither exclusively affects us Jews. Both are alive and well.
The slogan that came out of the Holocaust, “Never again” is incomplete. It should always be “Never again to anyone”. Israeli politicians tend to treat it as “Never again to Jews” but that is counterproductive because some interpret it as meaning that it is OK to treat others the way we Jews were treated.
We need to remember a simple truth: When we fight for our rights but neglect the rights of others, some of those others will oppose us; if we fight for the rights of everyone, everyone will join us and we will succeed.
Those who intone “Never again” in Jerusalem and refer exclusively to the suffering of their people need to realize that it is happening again and it is happening right there. Every day, I hear of non-Jewish Palestinians being displaced to make room for Jews. This is tribalism, the same disease that led to the death of my grandmother in a death camp. I think of those who piously intone “Never again” and shudder at how they are neglecting the tribalism that surrounds them.
Thank you, David Parnas
Never again to anyone
The Holocaust was an unspeakably horrible act of genocide committed on an hitherto unimaginable scale by Nazi Germany. It should be remembered. It should never happen again. But the memory of the Holocaust should not be invoked selectively, nor should it be used to justify and defend the expulsion and oppression of a third group of people who had nothing to do with it. They have become the “victim of victims”.
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