UNESCO’s theme for this year’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, occurring January 27, is “From Words to Genocide: anti-Semitic Propaganda and the Holocaust.” The goal of the debates on this day is to “examine the roots and consequences of hate speech.”
UNESCO’s page announcing this memorial day states that “The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust was established … to ‘urge Member States to develop educational programs to instill the memory of the tragedy in future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again.’”
The organization also quotes Director General, Mrs. Irina Bokova, from September 27, 2015: “The prevention of genocide starts on the benches of schools…Education can help prevent hate speech and undermine prejudice.” These truthful words of Mrs. Bokova coincide with the spirit of the words I had heard from her when we met in Paris a few years ago.
However, these words also underline the real danger of another holocaust happening in the foreseeable future. When you consider the unbridled hate speech against Israel taking place in campuses all over the US and the UK, the biased and often false or twisted “facts” presented there, and compare it to the anti-Semitic atmosphere that prevailed in Nazi Germany, you cannot help thinking that what is happening today is the exact opposite of Bokova’s vision for education.
There is bashing of Israel on campuses from California to New York, and “Professors harangue and mock Jewish students in class, and give them bad grades for presenting a diverse view of the Middle East conflict.”
In the UK, “Hundreds of British academics have sparked outrage by declaring they will boycott all Israeli universities,” and the UK Media Watch reports that “Guardian publishes pro-BDS ad by privileged Britons hostile to Israel’s existence.”
Jews feel unsafe throughout Europe, especially in the more liberal countries. Just as in prewar Germany, freedom of speech is being used to spread unsubstantiated statements that fuel the hatred toward Israel and toward Jews.
I have already written why I think that Jews have no future in Europe. But I need to be clearer: We Jews have no future anywhere, at least not one that we would like to deem desirable, unless we do our job.
What is our “job”? It is to unite. One of the comments to my just referenced post, “Why Jews Have No Future in Europe,” was “Chosen people…how arrogant is that!” I can understand this comment, but we must remember that we were not chosen to be rulers of the world; we were chosen to offer the world a way to unite above all differences so that people will be able to love one another as themselves.
But to do that, we have to go first. We achieved it before, when we first became a nation, and the task we were given, to be a light for the nations, entails just that: bring the light of unity, since the world is sinking into the abyss of ego wars and pathological narcissism. If we avoid it the world will blame us for the next world war that will result from humankind’s ruthlessness and apathy toward our fellow humans.
We are a nation that was forged around the ideology of mercy and brotherly love when strangers agreed to unite and bond as equals. We became a nation when we pledged to be “as one man with one heart.” Since then, it has been our duty to keep this connection, this modus operandi of the nation, and this is also when we were given the task to be a light for the nations—not out of enfranchisement, but out of servitude! The service of the Jews to the world is to execute and set an example of loving others as themselves.
Over time, we have abandoned the unique connection we had cultivated and became self-centered. The problem is that now that humankind has discovered that we are all interdependent, it is seeking a way to live together peacefully, but cannot find one. We had it but abandoned it. Until we learn how to be as united as before, the world will not learn how to do this and will continue to blame us for its woes. This is why if we want to prevent the next holocaust, we, Jews, must show the light of unity to the world.
It may sound arrogant, but we are already blamed for everything that’s wrong with the world, from Ebola to climate change, so it stands to reason that we can also undo what we are accused of doing. All the problems in the world are created, or at least aggravated, by a lack of good will and alienation among us. If we could transform alienation into connection we would solve most every problem in our lives. But as long as we Jews do not set an example of unity and mutual responsibility, there will be no such thing, not to the level of mutual responsibility required to transform our lives. The result will be continued tragedies, and holocausts … until we learn what we must do, and do it. But now that we are educated, at least we have a choice.