Friday 24 April 2009

120 Years and Little Has Changed

In something of an ironic twist of fate, three significant events came together this week. The 120th anniversary of the birth of Adolf Hitler fell on 20th April. This was also the same day that the UN anti-racism conference (so-called Durban II conference) opened in Geneva, and was addressed by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The third event fell on 21st April, this being the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day which is marked across Israel and in some countries outside of Israel.

Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel is marked according to the Hebrew (lunar) calendar on the 27th day of the month of Nissan each year. Although the date does not have any significance in itself, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising took place over this period and it is a week before the celebration of Israel's Independence Day. This year, it has coincided with 21st April in the Gregorian calendar and the holding of the Durban II conference which lasted until 24th April.

As the sirens wailed across Israel for the 2 minute silence on the morning of Holocaust Remembrance Day in deference to the 6 million Jews who were mercilessly butchered, I could not prevent my mind from considering the coincidence and the absurdity of the events taking place this week. Adolf Hitler must surely rank as one of the most grotesque humans of all time. It was he who orchestrated the only genocide of its type in the history of mankind. This was a genocide that was perpetrated by creating a massive purpose-built national infrastructure with the sole objective of murdering innocent men, women and children who committed only one sin - that of belonging to the Jewish nation. Never before was such a horrendous crime seen, and we pray that it will never be seen again.

And yet, my mind was forced to connect this with the events of the day before, at the so-called anti-racism conference. Here, the platform was handed over to the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He proceeded to launch one of his now familiar tirades against the west, and against Israel in particular. Although his speech produced nothing less than could be expected from a racist bigot like Ahmadinejad, it was somewhat ironic that it was delivered at an anti-racism conference. It seems that the tone of the conference was clearly set when Libya was elected to chair the committee running the conference, with Iran and Cuba the other two main representatives on the committee. These countries can surely not be regarded as "beacons of anti-racism". And the fact that the conference was hijacked, as in the case of Durban I, to castigate Israel seems to hide the real problems of racism around the world. I suggest that the racist countries of the world have succeeded in getting together to direct insults against Israel in order to divert the attention away from themselves. The UN should be ashamed for allowing such an event to take place.

The fact that there was a mass walkout from Ahmadinejad's speech is a good thing. Unfortunately this is not enough. The walkout was, at least, a public sign of the growing revulsion of the enlightened world against the form of politics practiced by the Iranian leader. But public signs will never stop him. And where will this end? How can we trust Iran under his leadership, especially in light of the now well-developed nuclear industry that it is building? Surely, there can now be no doubt as to what Iran's nuclear plans are, despite their adamant assertions that this serves only a civilian purpose.

This situation is a stark reminder of the events that took place during the rise of the Nazi Party to power in Germany during the 1930s. Then as now, words of condemnation were not enough to stop the course of events. Then as now, we could not rely upon the "silent majority" to reverse the actions of the extremists. And like then, the international world, other than public signs of disagreement, is not taking any action to prevent the spread of unjustified hatred against targeted peoples. Fortunately, there is one difference in the current times. Now we have Israel and a Jewish army. It is not a coincidence that we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day a week before Independence Day. Not even Ahmadinejad will be able to repeat the evil actions of the holocaust.

It seems to me as if 120 years have not taught the world anything about preventing the spread of hatred and discrimination. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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