Sunday, 29 January 2017

First, They Came For The Other

Jews will all have a personal Holocaust story to tell. Whether it is one of hope where relatives and/or friends escaped or one of tragedy where they did not; whether it is one of rebuilding in a new land or despair. We all have that story. For that reason, we lead the calls of never again. We all feel a personal connection to the Holocaust, it wiped out our people; it killed our Mothers, Sons, Husbands, Daughters, Sisters; it destroyed the hopes and dreams of so many. Who knows what they could have achieved, what they would have achieved. But never again must be an active remembrance. Jews, almost unique in their historic persecution, have a duty to speak louder than any in response to persecution. We know how it feels. We know what it is like to have everything taken away from us, our family, our belongings, our dreams, our dignity, even our names. Everything.

We know how it feels to be isolated and rejected. We know how it feels to see freedom but be betrayed by our sight. We learnt the hard way about humanity's capacity for utter inhumanity, whether at the hands of murderous regimes or the silence of everyone else. We should all, therefore, feel a personal connection, an empathy that perhaps no one else can feel, to every single person affected by Trump's immigration policy. And we have a responsibility to speak louder than everyone else, to fill the deafening silence with our voices. Never again is not just about Jews. It loses all meaning if it is about Jews. We may as well give up now. Never again is about everyone. It means never again will we stand by idly and allow entire nations to be destroyed by murderous dictators. It means never again will we be silent when hatred and fear of the Other allows those most in need to be turned away.

We have a chance to be on the right side of History. We have a chance to prove, unfortunately, it must be said, that when we, Jews, said never again, we meant it. That we appreciated what that meant. Our leaders lack moral courage and empathy but that does not mean we should. Our leaders disgrace the memory of never again, but we must uphold it. Recognising that what is happening in America right now has eerie similarities to Jews being turned away when we needed it most does not trivialise the Holocaust, it preserves its memory. The Holocaust demands that we act now. The Holocaust and the memory of all of its victims, not just Jews, demands that we give meaning to never again right now. Let us not betray their memory by standing by because it is not the Jews yet.

First, they came for 'the Other' and I spoke up because I remember being 'an Other'.