21/04/2009

At Durban II: Yom HaShoah in Geneva

At Durban II: Yom HaShoah in Geneva

By Zach Novetsky

Forget about Ahmadinejad. His address to the UN on Yom HaShoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day] was the most despicable affront to Holocaust remembrance (nay, human dignity) that has ever happened in the post-WWII era. Instead, let me attempt to salvage some of the world's lost dignity by remembering the Holocaust in a way that it should be remembered, in a way that it must be remembered. At 6PM, we gathered in front of the United Nations, again at the Plaza des Nations. However, this time, we were joined by two-thousand people to commemorate the systematic extermination of six million Jews, and many millions of non-Jews. And for several hours, we stood together as a single body, simultaneously forgetting the travesty of the day's events while remembering the greatest tragedy in modern history.

Night fell upon us. A sea of candles ignited within our midst and a light broke forth from the dark, as the words of Elie Wiesel were carried in the Geneva winds: "Anti-Semitism did not perish in the gas chambers of Aushowitz, Jews did." We must ensure that these words are never forgotten, that Elie Wiesel's story and the countless story of other survivors is never forgotten. This is our most serious obligation. And we must promise, to never forget the Holocaust but most importantly, as Jews, we must never remain indifferent when human rights are violated around the world!

I cannot deny that the day was largely negative: The actions of the few were overshadowed by the inaction of the many (the UN). Here is a telling encounter I had with a man from an Iranian NGO. He assured me that the overlap between Yom HaShoah and the Second Durban Conference was no mere coincidence. And I have no reason to dismiss his claim: afterall, Iran was the Vice-Chair of the preparatory committee.

But I witnessed hope, strength and courage on this day of Yom HaShoah that far transcended the depravity of a tyrant and his fellow pawns. Remembering the lessons of the Holocaust is a task that the United Nations has yet to fully realize. Progress has been made: the Genocide Convention marks its 60th anniversary; the International Criminal Court has been formed. Yet words, charters, threats, and sanctions are inadequate when action is demanded. And as the UN session came to a close, I must accuse a great many nations, those who did not walkout in protest, of the crime of indifference - on a day that remembers the "perils of indifference."

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