Monday, January 27th, 2020, was International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the end of a dark era which gave birth to the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and turned “Never Again” into a worldwide commitment to the primacy of international humanitarian law.
When I worked in Ramallah in the Palestinian West Bank, from 1994-1998, I read the minutes from the 1948 debate about the Universal Declaration. As representatives of countries around the world debated each article of the UDHR, literally everyone referenced the Holocaust. That was the blinding light of context in which the debate took place.
“John Humphrey, a Canadian professor of law and the UN Secretariat’s Human Rights Director, authored its first draft. Also instrumental in the drafting of the UDHR were [United Nations Commission on Human Rights chair, Eleanor] Roosevelt; Chang Peng-chun, a Chinese playwright, philosopher, and diplomat; and Charles Habib Malik, a Lebanese philosopher and diplomat.” (Britannica Online)
We wouldn’t have had the leveling ideals provided by the international human rights legal framework without the context of the Holocaust. Members of my family served in WWII. As teenagers, my parents used to have to flee Nazi bombs in the middle of a night to a shelter in their back garden.
This is one of the reasons that it is an utter tragedy that the State of Israel has been a gross human rights violator, that Israel milks the Holocaust to deflect from its gross, present day, violations of human rights, and an international shame that its supporters accuse people who call out Israel’s violations of being “antisemitic”.
There is no way I would have spent the last 30 years of my life working with human rights organizations, nonprofits, and media organizations that cover war without the deep, instilled, foundational revulsion at the Holocaust and other WWII actions of Nazi Germany and its collaborators.
The whole point of law is to offer an objective plumbline of accountability for bad behavior that respects no persons. That is why Lady Liberty is blindfolded.
Israel and its Holocaust deflections serve only to undermine the lessons of that era, reminiscent of Trump’s terming any factual reporting he doesn’t like as “Fake News”. But reality is reality. Until the Palestinians whom Israel continues to violate and oppress are free, the intended protection of the international human rights legal framework is daily undermined.
And that has to come to an end for all of our sakes.