Australia/Israel Review

The Last Word: Reflections On Genocide

May 1, 2006 | Jeremy Jones

Jeremy Jones

Reflections on Genocide

On April 23 this year, I attended the annual ceremony at the Martyrs’ Memorial in Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery, to recall and honour the memory of the victims of the Nazis.

With a mixture of speeches, poetry and prayer, the gathering brought together survivors of the Shoah and relatives of those who did not survive, spanning generations.

The commemoration, and the week in which it occurred, gave rise to reflection on Nazism, as well as on the persistent evils of antisemitism, racism and genocide.

Homage to 6 million victims in Sydney

At the inaugural Anglican Jewish Australian Dialogue, which met at the Great Synagogue in Sydney the day after the Rookwood commemoration, Rabbi John Levi led discussion on “Theological consequences of the Holocaust”.

Jewish and Christian philosophers and theologians continue to grapple with the fact of the Nazis’ genocide of Jews.

One tangent in the following discussion was how we, today, respond to crimes against humanity, including genocide.

Paul Rusesabagina, whose story was portrayed in the brilliant and confronting movie Hotel Rwanda, penned a passionate piece in a recent issue of the Wall Street Journal’s on-line Opinion Journal.

Mr Rusesabagina wrote, “History shows us that genocides can happen only if four important conditions are in place. There must be the cover of a war. Ethnic grievances must be manipulated and exaggerated. Ordinary citizens must be deputised by their government to become executioners. And the rest of the world must be persuaded to look away and do nothing. This last is the most shameful of all, especially so because genocide is happening again right now in the Darfur region of Sudan, and the world community has done precious little to stop the killings.”

He argued that “A detachment of well-equipped peacekeepers, made up of less than one-twentieth of the American troops now stationed in Iraq, could have easily stopped” the genocide in his own country, Rwanda, “But this simple act was deemed, then and now, to be somehow beyond the power of the United Nations, the United States, NATO… and everybody else with the real power to stop another holocaust.”

He noted that the peacekeepers in Sudan have no “sense of purpose”, let alone firepower or clear rules of engagement. By September, when they will most likely end their involvement, there will be “likely half-million dead, or more”.

His sad conclusion was “When modern genocide has loomed, the United Nations has shown more concern for not offending the sovereignty of one of its member nations, even as monstrosities take place within its borders. Yet ‘national sovereignty’ is often a euphemism for the pride of dictators.”

By a cruel coincidence, al-Jazeera broadcast the latest recording purported to be by Osama bin Laden at the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Week. Bin Laden sided with those committing genocide in Sudan and also Hamas, which broadcasts its own genocidal intent through its published Charter.

The insanity, extremism and brazenness of Islamist genocidal antisemitism should be obvious to any observer, but far too many in the West turn a blind eye to this evil lest they be considered too sympathetic to Zionism.

During Holocaust Remembrance Week, a visitor to Sydney’s south western suburbs went to bookshops which sell literature to Muslims and those interested in Islam.

At one of the largest and best-patronised bookshops, the most notorious antisemitic hate literature of all-time, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, was clearly displayed and available at a very affordable price. At another, Henry Ford’s infamous version of The Protocols, The International Jew, was available in different editions to suit the taste and budget of customers.

Racism, antisemitism and genocide are as real today as at any time in world history. How the international community responds to Darfur and the Australian community to the reality of Islamist antisemitism in this country, will reveal how far we have progressed since the darkest days of the Shoah.




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