We should feel comfortable using the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a tool where appropriate, but not push for it to be codified into foreign governmental laws in a way that will harm our commitment to liberal democracy, or undermine our efforts to form strong partnerships that benefit Israel and the Jewish people.
In a democracy, freedom of expression is an essential value. Legislation limiting this freedom should be avoided as much as possible. However, demanding non-abusive discourse and self-restraint is completely justified. We must be mindful that words can be offensive and lead to discrimination, especially of minorities and vulnerable groups.
I look forward to [the day] when my country is a land with freedom of expression, where the speech of every citizen will be treated equally well; where different values, ideas, beliefs, and political views … can both compete with each other and peacefully coexist; where every citizen can state political views without fear, and where no one can under any circumstances suffer political persecution for voicing divergent political views. I hope that I will be the last victim of China’s endless literary inquisitions and that from now on no one will be incriminated because of speech.
Most rescuers when asked what prompted them to respond positively to the call for help find it hard to come up with reasonable explanations. None quote statements by the world’s great philosophers, but simply state that it was the most natural thing for them to do, to help out a fleeing Jew, or the Jew’s entire family.
Raphael Lemkin’s Convention marked a new beginning: International Criminal Tribunals were set up to try criminals of Bosnia, Rwanda and Cambodia; the principle of humanitarian intervention (Responsibility to Protect) to come to the aid of threatened populations was affirmed; discussions started at the United Nations on an early warning system to inform the world when there are grounds for genocide. If all this is implemented, remembrance of the Shoah, a paradigmatic genocide of the 20th century, will impact on the whole world, which the Polish Jewish jurist aimed at achieving.
As a student of former president Shimon Peres, I am a hopeless optimist, so I will end with a positive scenario. Despite the horrific events on Capitol Hill, on the very same day we also witnessed some hopeful signs of an opposing trend: Republican Party leaders finally distanced themselves from Trump. In Georgia, a Black senator and a Jewish senator were elected for the first time in history and the exciting alliance between them reminded us of the friendship between Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heschel.
Hitler chose not to take power through an armed coup and others in this century around the globe have followed his method of taking power through the people’s institutions that they subsequently destroy. Tyranny arrives step by step, often with a smile and in the guise of trusted institutions. History rhythms, or repeats itself without us recognizing the repetition, if we are not paying attention and if we are not ready to see the worst of history as a challenge to ourselves.
Remembering the Holocaust and its legacy is crucial for Israel and the world. Fittingly, Israel gives the education about the Holocaust high priority. However, often the way we treat the Holocaust is detrimental to this precious memory, to preventing anti-Semitism and xenophobia. This attitude fixates us in a state of trauma, rather than opening us up to learning which may help prevent repetition of history...
Regardless of what form the future takes, it may be too much to hope that future individuals will be judged by their behaviour instead of their social category. However, I hope the future includes a “memory of good” in the sense of individuals making selfless acts of kindness toward other individuals.
When, in the very first days of war, the Armenian government started to describe the Turkish-Azerbaijani attack on Karabakh that began on 27th September as an attempt of genocide, I make no secret that I felt a hint of irritation. Since I have dealt for years, as a journalist, with some of the historical applications of the intuition of Polish Jewish jurist Raphael Lemkin, I do not like it when this term is misused. I admit I was wrong.
Dear Liliana, the first thing I would like to tell you on your 90th birthday is thank you. Thank you so much. You are a great teacher of remembrance. Remembrance is an art because we not only need to remember, but also to convey a clear and accurate idea that can suggest new behaviours. When you visit schools and let your words be heard, you always send a very clear message.
The memory of Shoah, when it was born, had a specific and universal character. The theme of never again seemed to be the great issue on which everyone was called to reflect. Remembering Holocaust meant stating vehemently that what had occurred to Jews should not be repeated for any human being. Today, however, we see how that ideal charge seems to fade away...