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November 29, 2015 / 17 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘genocide’

R. Shmuley and Rwandan FM Discuss Holocaust Denial and Israel

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

On Friday, “America’s Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach hosted a press conference with Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo for a discussion of holocaust and genocide denial and its peril to human rights worldwide. The discussion came on the morning following a vote to include Rwanda on the UN Security Council for 2013-2014.

The meeting touched on how much Rwanda has progressed economically, agriculturally, and technologically, as well as on women’s rights in the 18 years since the 1994 ethnic cleansing of the Tutsis by the Hutus in Rwanda.

The two ethnic groups are actually very similar – they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions. But the Tutsis are often taller and thinner than the Hutus. When the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916, they considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus. The Tutsis enjoyed better jobs and educational opportunities than the Hutus.

Resentment among the Hutus built up, and when Belgium granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis. The decades of officially promoted hatred ended up in the mass genocide that started in 1993.

The meeting between Boteach and the foreign minister revealed how holocaust and genocide denial have become a political tool over the years and how the newly-voted seat on the Security Council will help the Rwanda enter into a positive new phase in its history.

The two also stressed the deep-rooted connection between the Rwandans and the Jewish people, given their tragic histories and their commitment to “a hopeful future absent of hate or recrimination.”

Mushikiwabo stated that when Rabbi Shmuley had met with President Kagame and her in New York a few weeks ago, Shmuley had spoken passionately of the importance of solidifying a closer relationship between Rwanda and Israel by having Rwanda open a permanent embassy in Israel. Mushikiwabo noted that Kagame had turned to her on the spot and said how much he agreed with Rabbi Shmuley about the establishment of an embassy. He asked the Foreign Minister to work on its creation as soon as possible. Mushikiwabo thanked Rabbi Shmuley for the role he played, saying Rwanda now plans to open an embassy in Israel within the next six months.

Rabbi Shmuley said, “As someone who is deeply committed to the connection between the Rwandan and Jewish people, I was so grateful to hear from my friend, Foreign Minister Mushikiwabo, that she and President Kagame have now taken the decision to open an embassy in Israel. Having witnessed firsthand this summer the pain and the rebirth of the Rwandan people, I was incredibly inspired by their warmth and their ability to come together as a unit in times of hardship, much in the way that the Jewish people have done for centuries.”

As We Care For Survivors, Don’t Forget The Damage Done To Their Descendents

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

The words “Never Forget” have become synonymous with the Holocaust, but as the actual horror of the Holocaust starts to fade, it’s time we add to the mantra an addendum: “Never Ignore.”

As the events of 60 years ago start to slip into history, the suffering of those who survived the Holocaust has been a steadfast reminder of the atrocities of which humanity is capable if we do not keep ourselves in check. Their scars are front and center, their tattooed arms impossible to ignore. And helping them heal will be our cause even as they enter the last stages of their lives.

Yet as we focus on that generation, often lost are those whose pain will endure long after the last survivor is gone – the generations of their children and grandchildren who have been traumatized by growing up with the pain their families endured during the Holocaust and scarred by the trauma of growing up with those in post-Holocaust shock.

The tales of some survivors are certainly famous, but most suffered in silence, refusing to discuss their terror as they tried to protect their children from pain. Their children grew up with parents who never dealt with their own trauma, and the silence was often deafening and painful.

Some have been able to deal with the silence constructively, teaching about the Holocaust, not letting the world forget what happened. Some fight it by being vocal about genocide. Others research the genocide in attempt to understand what happened to their parents.

Yet thousands more simply suffer from psychological disorders such at PTSD, low self-esteem, and hoarding, according to such publications as the Cambridge Journal.

Take for instance “Anna,” a 35-year-old architect and grandchild of survivors, who suffers from a hoarding disorder.

Her apartment is packed with things she will not throw out. Every counter space is covered and every draw is bursting forward. She keeps a pair of shoes that she swears she threw out 26 months ago. Walk into her apartment, and you’ll find one thing: stuff. The more that is available, the more she keeps. She just can’t escape the need to hold on to stuff.

Yet she can’t let go of things that even she knows are meaningless junk, and she can tell you. Why? Because that is how her parents acted – and how can she throw away an old pair of shoes, when her grandparents would have died for a pair of shoes?

It’s time we begin paying attention to the thousands of children walking around today with these disorders.

That’s why Yeshiva University students who are third-generation Holocaust survivors, and who still live with the repercussions of the Holocaust, have created a forum in which we can address some of the unique challenges our generation faces, and learn how to finally move forward.

We are hosting a conference that will discuss in scientific and medical terms what many of us still endure because of the Holocaust. We want to ensure that our generation is informed and sensitive about how the pain of the Holocaust lives on even today.

On October 21, we will bring our issues to the forefront and publicly grapple with them at a forum at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus that will include such speakers as Dr. Michael Grodin of Boston University, Irene Hizme, a survivor of Mengele’s experiments on twins, and renowned psychologist Dr. David Pelcovitz.

As descendents of survivors, we have are responsible for remembering the six million of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation who were needlessly killed. We know that we need to keep alive their message. After all, it is we who have been privileged to hear their first-hand accounts, and we must inform our children of what happened.

But with that responsibility comes a price that many of us have paid. It’s time that we teach about that as well.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society. Learn more at www.yumedicalethics.com.

U.N. Head Rejects Calls for Israel’s Annihilation

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

What’s wrong with that title? Why does it fill me with anger?

What do you mean he “rejected” the call for Israel’s annihilation? UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon attended the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran. That’s right – Ki-Moon went to Tehran, a nation calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map…to tell them that he rejects this?

Honestly, that message could have been delivered from New York.

I guess what really bothers me, what I reject, is the word “reject.” It is a relatively passive voice compared to the genocide it discusses. No, Tehran is not planning on asking Israelis to politely leave the region. What he wants to do – what he will do if he manages to cross the nuclear barrier, is try to blow Israel up; to erase us; to murder us – all of us.

He will aim missiles at my home, my children, my land. He will fire those missiles and really not care where they land – even if it obliterates my Palestinian neighbors, Ahmadinejad will be happy so long as we join them.

I’ve written about this before – but I’ll write it again. Thirty years ago, and I still remember the exact words written in the New York Times. I remember the feeling deep in the pit of my stomach; the shock of going outside and seeing the sun still shining.

Israel had offered to host a conference on genocide – who better than the Jews, who were the victims of Hitler’s genocidal “final solution.” It was to be a conference on not just the Jewish Holocaust, but other historical acts of injustice – including the Armenian massacre that claimed the lives of 1.5 million people.

Turkey was enraged – you see, the perpetrators yet live. There was no Armenian genocide, claim the Turks, and to prove it – they threatened the Jewish community of Turkey. According to the New York Times – some thirty years ago, “Turkey cannot guarantee the lives, nor the livelihoods of Turkey’s Jewish community.”

Those were the words – burned into my brain. I was sitting in the dining hall, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper – I can even tell you where the article appeared – front page, lower right hand corner…I stared at it. I read it again. I heard the noise around the room and everyone was talking and I was in shock.

They just threatened tens of thousands of people – what is WRONG with you all? I wanted to shout. I took a deep breath, left my food where it was, and walked outside. Surely, the cars would have stopped in the street – everywhere, people would be rallying. The world would not be silent again!

I went outside and stood in the street and watched as people walked past me, the sun shining brightly. The cars moved; the lights changed. What was WRONG with these people?

It is happening now – Iran IS threatening Israel. We are prepared, this time, to defend ourselves. We are protecting our own – we even have gas masks for our babies. A new design, isn’t that wonderful – better, longer lasting, whatever.

Ban Ki-Moon “rejects” calls for Israel’s annihilation? He REJECTS them? I do not for a moment believe it will happen. I do not believe missiles will rain down on Israel but that is because I believe in God, a God who has chosen my people long ago. He brought us to this land; promised it to us. He has returned us to Israel and He has returned Israel to us.

No, God won’t allow Israel to be annihilated. I know this – but Ban Ki-Moon does not; Obama does not; the presidents and prime ministers of the western world do not know this great secret of the Jewish people. God will stop the missiles – and it is likely that His Hand will be the Israeli army, our sons.

But Ban Ki-Moon’s “rejection” is too mild for the words, for the threat. To be worthy of his post, he should be slapping Ahmadinejad in the face – in the wallet, and in the face. “Who do you think you are?” He should be demanding. “Do you think that the world will stay quiet this time? Never again will we allow genocide such as you are threatening. If you dare, it will not be Israel that will be annihilated, but YOUR land, YOUR country, YOUR life, YOUR government.”

Why I’m Traveling to Rwanda in the Middle of My Congressional Campaign

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I always promised myself that if I ever ran for public office I would highlight anti-genocide legislation as one of the principal planks of my platform. As such, I’m traveling to Rwanda this week where I will visit the main locations of the mass slaughter of the Tutsis by the Hutus in 1994. My trip is being organized by James Smith, my old friend from the UK who runs a genocide remembrance center in Rwanda. In addition, Samantha Power, President Obama’s principal advisor on Human Rights and Multilateral Affairs and the foremost anti-genocide advocate in the world has been very helpful in introducing me to the staff of the American Embassy in Kigali with whom I will also meet. Unexpectedly, my daughter Chana, who serves in the Israel army, was also helpful when her unit hosted the Rwandan Chief of Staff and she shared with him how much her father has read and written about the genocide, leading the Chief of Staff to kindly invite me to Rwanda.

The Rwandan genocide of Tutsis by Hutus happened at a rate even quicker than the liquidation of Jews at the hands of the Germans. The best estimate is that 800,000 were killed in a hundred days, which translates to 334 murders per hour, or about six murders per minute. Most of these were low-tech executions by machete. Tens of thousands of others were horribly maimed but did not die.

And why would a would-be Congressman from New Jersey travel across the globe in the Middle of his campaign to highlight the slaughter? Because Rwanda represents one of the lowest points in American foreign policy where the mightiest, richest nation on earth did not lift a pinky to rescue almost a million of the poorest people on earth.

As Phillip Gourevitch explains in his definitive account of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will Be Killed with Our Families, President Clinton, still haunted by the murder of American soldiers in Somalia, chose to take no action in Rwanda. Worse, his administration obstructed the efforts of other nations to stop the slaughter.

On April 21, 1994, the Canadian UN commandeer in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, declared that he required only 5000 troops to bring the genocide to a rapid halt. In addition, a single bombing run against the RTLM Hutu Power radio transmitting antenna would have made it impossible for the Hutus to coordinate their genocide. But on the very same day, the Security Council, with the Clinton administration’s blessing, ordered the UN force under Dallaire reduced by ninety percent to a skeleton staff of 270 troops who would powerlessly witness the slaughter to come. This in turn was influenced by Presidential Decision Directive 25, which “amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in UN peacekeeping missions,” even though Dallaire did not seek American troops and the mission was not peacekeeping but genocide prevention. Indeed, Madeleine Albright, the American Ambassador to the UN, opposed leaving even this tiny UN force. She also pressured other countries “to duck, as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands… the absolute low point in her career as a stateswoman.”

In the end, eight African nations, fed up with American inaction, agreed to send in an intervention force to stop the slaughter provided that the U.S. would lend them fifty armored personal carriers. The Clinton administration decided it would lease rather than lend the armor for a price of $15 million. The carriers sat on a runway in Germany while the UN pleaded for a $5 million reduction as the genocidal inferno raged. The story only gets worse from there, with the Clinton State Department refusing to label the Rwanda horrors a genocide because of the 1948 Genocide Convention that would have obligated the United States to intervene.

All this could be dismissed as something that happened 18 years ago and does not much matter now. But as we’ve learned, history is always destined to repeat itself.

Every day innocent men, women, and children die in Syria with the world scarcely giving a damn. Russia has blocked every UN effort to merely censure Bashar Assad for the slaughter, yet the United States has not even removed its Ambassador from Moscow to protest this protection of a head of state butchering his people.

Israeli Vice PM: Syrian Assault is Genocide

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, is calling Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against opposition a “genocide”, and said Israeli support is behind efforts to overthrow him.

“A crime against humanity, genocide, is being conducted in Syria today, and the silence of the world powers is contrary to all human logic,” Mofaz told Israel Army Radio on Sunday.

The comments come as a continually severe crackdown on a 15-month uprising brought the death toll to approximately 16,200, with 52 civilians killed across the country on Saturday, according to the Voice of America.

Mofaz also chastised Russia for selling arms to Syria, calling their involvement anything from “irresponsibility” to “partnership in the slaughter”, and called on the western world to assist rebels in overthrowing Assad’s regime.  “We need to enlist the West. We need our voice to be heard. This slaughter is being carried out not far from Israel’s border,” Mofaz said. “We cannot get involved, for understandable reasons. But I think that the West, led by the United States, has an interest in safeguarding the threshold (so) genocide does not take place.”

Mofaz is the chairman of the Kadima party and joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on March 27, as part of a new coalition maneuver which brought Kadima into the government.

Leftist Campaign Against Purim Hits the Web

Monday, March 5th, 2012

A leftist campaign making the rounds in Israeli cyberspace is telling Israelis to think twice before celebrating Purim because Megillat Esther promotes genocide by Jews against its enemies.

The internet pamphlet plays on a popular Purim greeting, ‘Sameach u’mevadech’ (happy and humorous), and asks rhetorically if people really know what Purim is about. It proceeds to list verses from Megillat Esther that seemingly implicate the Jewish people in genocide. It ends by asking readers if they too think that genocide is “happy and humorous.”

To dispel any idea that it was a hoax, prominent Israeli blogger Yossi Gurevich posted it on a Facebook page titled ‘החברים של ג’ורג’ with text in Hebrew saying “let’s leave Purim to Bashar Assad and celebrate festivals that are a bit more human.”

Anti-Purim Internet Pamphlet

Beyond taking self-loathing to a height that only radical left-wing Jews can reach, it’s clear that the campaign organizers are neither masters nor students of Torah exegesis.

How come the Left always manages to take the fun out of everything, anyway?

If You Don’t See Where You’re Going, You Might Not See Where You End Up

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Purim is my favorite holiday, and I love to share the joy. I have spent previous years wandering around my neighborhood in costume. This year, I fully intend to celebrate with full cheer, and I want everyone to know why I plan to spend the day in costume, singing Shoshanat Yaakov at the top of my lungs.

Last night, as I was telling my enthralled neighbor the story of Esther, I realized that there was a tremendous hole in the plot. Haman is the all-powerful viceroy to the king. He has the King’s signet ring and he has the power of life and death over everyone around him. As he walks through the streets, trumpets sound and knees hit the ground in homage. Basically, he is the man in charge with the power of life and death, freedom and captivity, poverty and wealth over every person he sees. He has it all.

And yet, one person doesn’t cower before him and Haman goes berserk. The most powerful man in the country stops his busy schedule and decides to engage in a single-minded campaign of destruction against one man with absolutely no power. He most likely could have Mordechai executed on the spot, but even that wasn’t enough.

For comparison purposes let’s take Aishwarya Rai of India who has been called the most beautiful woman in the world by many different magazines. Can you imagine that she would go crazy with anger and revenge if one person didn’t find her the most beautiful? I imagine that she would confidently walk past him, convinced of her own beauty and self worth.

The viceroy here has no internal self worth and confidence. A single powerless person has defied him and he is utterly consumed by this defiance. The only thing that can make Haman feel better about himself is to commit genocide. That is more than using an elephant to crush an ant; I would argue this is using an atomic weapon to destroy the ant.

And in pursuit of that goal, he’s willing to give ten thousand talents of silvers to the king. For those of us in the modern world, a single talent is 67 pounds. That’s more than three tons of solid silver. Silver is around 33 dollars an ounce. At my calculations, that’s more than 35 million dollars. There’s a lot of people I dislike, but I’d much rather have the cash than trash them. So why did Haman flip out in such a self destructive way?

The answer came to me today as I cried on the shoulder of a friend. For the past two years I have been working in Israel advocacy. Dealing with bureaucratic board members, hostile organizations and just nasty people can wear on a person.

Sometimes, I would fantasize about letting out my anger in a vicious tirade. At desperate times, I would dream of getting some sort of revenge by going to the Dean or prominent organizations to get them into trouble. I knew I was right and I wanted the people who impeded the rightness of my cause to be held accountable and apologize for the damage they had wrecked upon the Jewish community. And yes, I know it would have gotten me nowhere – and that is my point. Revenge turns a logical feeling of distaste for injustice into a futile and ridiculous tilt at windmills.

At best, revenge is a distraction from your real goal, and at worst, it becomes a trap that ensnares and destroys those caught in it. Haman may have been a sociopath, but that wasn’t his fatal flaw. He just didn’t seem to know what his real goal was. Although I don’t know the man well, I imagine his goal was to achieve power.

Haman started out right. He had managed to survive the whims of a drunken and capricious king; he admits he has everything in the world. The sight of one measly person refusing to bow should have been annoying to him, but not something worth more a few moments of irritation. There was definitely no intelligent reason to go on the warpath like he did and we all know how well that ended. Once the most powerful man in the empire, he is today best remembered for a dessert that resembles his ears.

Haman’s fatal flaw of hubris made him unable to see past his own ego. It didn’t matter how much power he had, any slight flaw in his tapestry of life could not be tolerated. He could not see anything but his own dignity and missed the big picture, instead reverting to genocide as the revenge on one man. He was too ego-driven to realize that power is not something that is only external, but must be matched by an internal dignity.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/if-you-dont-see-where-youre-going-you-might-not-see-where-you-end-up/2012/03/01/

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