‘Never Again,’ Again and Again: Irwin Cotler, National Post, Apr. 7, 2016— This week marks an important moment of remembrance and reminder, of bearing witness and public warning.
Putting Anti-Semitism on the Radar at the University of California and Beyond: Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, Jewish Journal, Apr. 1, 2016
Bewildered Britain Still Doesn’t Get It: Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2016— What is that unfamiliar rustling in the British cultural undergrowth? It’s the sound of people suddenly acknowledging a problem with anti-Semitism.
The Nazi's Table: Robert Sussman, Jewish Life, Mar. 1, 2016— Norman Eisen met Barack Obama as law school classmates at Harvard University, where they became friends, remaining in touch even after their school days ended.
Hillel Neuer Interview from "Beyond Paranoia: The New Anti-Semitism”: UN Watch, Mar. 25, 2016
The German Bellwether: Michael Sussman, National Post, Mar. 30, 2016
Terror as a Fact of Life: Robert Fulford, National Post, Mar. 26, 2016
Angela Merkel’s Unpopular Goodness: Daniel Kehlmann, New York Times, Apr. 1, 2016
National Post, Apr. 7, 2016
This week marks an important moment of remembrance and reminder, of bearing witness and public warning. For it marks the 22nd anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide – an unspeakable atrocity where one million Rwandans were murdered in a three-month genocidal onslaught that began April 7, 1994. Indeed, what makes the Rwandan Genocide so unspeakable was not only the horror of the genocide itself, but the fact that it was preventable. No one can say that we did not know – we knew, but we did not act.
Eight years ago, the Canadian Parliament – by a unanimous motion – designated April 7th as a National Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide. We are invited to remember not only the horrors of genocide, but as the Canadian Parliamentary motion called for, to reflect and act upon its lessons. For while the world vowed “Never Again” after the unprecedented horrors of the Holocaust, “Never Again” has happened again and again, symbolized by the international community as bystander in Rwanda.
As former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, lamented on the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, “Such crimes cannot be reversed. Such failures cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life. So what can we do?” The answer is that the international community will only prevent the killing fields of the future by heeding the lessons from past tragedies. What, then, are these lessons, and, what is it that we can do?
The first lesson of the Rwandan Genocide – not unlike the Holocaust – is that these genocides occurred not simply because of the machinery of death, but also because of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. Indeed, as the case law of the Rwandan Genocide demonstrates, these acts of genocide were preceded by – and anchored in – an orchestrated dehumanization and demonization of the minority Tutsi population in Rwanda. This included invoking epidemiological metaphors of Tutsis as “inyenzi” – “cockroaches” – as prologue to and justification for their extermination.
On this 80th anniversary year of the Nuremberg Race Laws the international community must bear in mind – as the Supreme Court of Canada also affirmed in the Léon Mugesera case – that incitement to genocide is a crime in and of itself. Taking action to prevent it, as the Genocide Convention mandates us to do, is not a policy option; it is an international legal obligation of the highest order. Indeed, this is what the Responsibility to Prevent – the centerpiece of the Responsibility to Protect – is all about.
The second lesson, dramatized by the Rwandan Genocide, is the danger of indifference and the consequences of inaction – hence the Responsibility to Act and Protect. Simply put, while the United Nations Security Council and the international community dithered and delayed, Rwandans were dying. Accordingly, as we remember Rwanda, we must recommit ourselves to prevent and protect the victims of mass atrocities in our time. Indeed, while urgent protective action was so needed in Syria, appeals for help these past five years fell on the deaf ears of the international community, a bystander once again. We must break this cycle of indifference and inaction if we are truly to learn the requisite lesson.
The third lesson is the danger of a culture of impunity – that repeatedly emboldens those intent on committing mass atrocities – and the corresponding responsibility, therefore, to bring these war criminals to justice. Indeed, if the last century – symbolized by the Holocaust and the genocide in Rwanda – was the age of atrocity, it was also the age of impunity. Few of the perpetrators were brought to justice. Just as there must be no sanctuary for hate, no refuge for bigotry so there must be no base or sanctuary for the perpetrators of the worst crimes against humanity.
And that is why as minister of justice, I initiated the first-ever prosecution under the War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Act of Rwandan War Criminal Désiré Munyaneza, who was convicted of such crimes by Canadian courts. Yet the culture of impunity continues to abound. Consider Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who continues to evade justice and accountability for his role in the Darfurian genocide; or the impunity of the Syrian leadership for its ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, aided and abetted by its Russian and Chinese enablers who vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to refer Syrian criminality to the International Criminal Court.
The fourth lesson is the persistent danger of violence against women during mass atrocities, of rape in particular, as a weapon of war. Indeed, evidence from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda dramatizes the systematic use of sexual assault during the genocide as a means of continued degradation, humiliation, and torture, while rape in Syria emerged not just as a consequence of atrocity, but as an instrument for pursuing it…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jewish Journal, Apr. 1, 2016
Last week, the Regents of the University of California unanimously approved a landmark Statement of Principles Against Intolerance containing the following language: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.” Although the statement has been widely hailed within the Jewish community for its unprecedented acknowledgement of anti-Zionism as a source of anti-Jewish hostility, many have overlooked an aspect of the statement’s language every bit as significant when it comes to ensuring the safety and well-being of Jewish students: the Regents’ clear call for anti-Semitism, in all of its forms, to be treated like every other kind of discrimination at the University of California – no more, but certainly no less.
Why is this so significant? Because for far too long the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry has not been on the radar at the University of California. In 2010, when UC launched the Advisory Council on Campus Climate and satellite working groups on each campus with the goal of “enhancing and sustaining a tolerant, inclusive environment…so that every single member of the UC community feels welcome, comfortable and safe,” Jewish student concerns were conspicuously absent from these groups’ agenda. This, despite the fact that Jewish students were already reporting an alarming incidence of anti-Jewish bigotry on several UC campuses.
Furthermore, when attempts were made to put anti-Jewish hostility on the UC radar, they were aggressively and successfully suppressed by the very groups most responsible for creating that hostility. For example in 2012, within days of the publication of a Jewish Student Campus Climate Report commissioned by then UC President Mark Yudof, which found that “Jewish students are confronting significant and difficult climate issues as a result of … anti-Zionism and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)”, anti-Zionist student and community groups viciously attacked the report and demanded it be withdrawn.
To this day the 2012 report’s findings and recommendations have been ignored by UC administrators, who have shown themselves unwilling to acknowledge let alone address acts of blatant anti-Semitism. Instead, they engage in a discriminatory double standard, tolerating hateful language or behavior when it is directed towards Jewish students but promptly and vigorously challenging it when directed towards other racial, ethnic or gender minorities. It is precisely this inequity that the Regents Statement Against Intolerance sought to redress. Indeed, it is only against the backdrop of the long-standing and discriminatory treatment of Jewish students that the UC statement and its curious emphasis on anti-Semitism can be understood at all.
And the Regents statement is historic, both for California’s Jewish students and for Jewish students nationwide, who have also fallen victim to an alarming growth in campus anti-Semitism and campus administrators who turn a blind eye to it. The University of California is our country’s most prestigious public university system. Now that its governing board has unanimously acknowledged the serious and growing threat faced by Jewish students and called on its Chancellors to provide appropriate protection, it will surely encourage other university leaders to follow suit…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Mar. 31, 2016
What is that unfamiliar rustling in the British cultural undergrowth? It’s the sound of people suddenly acknowledging a problem with anti-Semitism. For years, anti-Semitism in Britain was the prejudice that dared not speak its name. The hostility toward Israel endemic in educated circles was emphatically declared to have nothing whatever to do with hatred of Jews. Anyone who claimed a connection was denounced as “waving the shroud of the Holocaust” to silence legitimate “criticism” of Israel.
Jewish students have long run the gauntlet of vicious Israel- and Jew-hatred. “Israel apartheid” weeks, BDS motions and campus conferences declaring Israel is a “settler-colonial state” have morphed into intimidation, stigmatization and discrimination against Jews at university. Virtually no one outside the Jewish community has paid this any attention. Now, though, unease has begun to seep into British national consciousness. The reason is a shift in perspective. Israel is no longer seen as the world’s major flashpoint. The TV news is instead pumping images of Syrian atrocities and floods of displaced migrants into the living rooms of the nation. Security officials repeatedly warn of the likelihood of coordinated Islamist attacks in Britain. The terrorist atrocities last year in Paris and most recently in Brussels have ratcheted up anxiety levels.
After the Paris attacks, though, something else changed. Many, from Prime Minister David Cameron downward, expressed their shock when British Jews said they no longer felt safe in Britain, specifically as Jews. How could this be, Britain asked itself in blinkered bewilderment. With the election of the far-left Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labor Party, moreover, two further things happened to propel the issue of Jew-hatred to center-stage. First, people became aware that this potential future prime minister had been “honored” to host members of Hamas and Hezbollah, and supported people who had promoted blood libels or 9/11 conspiracy theories against the Jews. At the same time, however, Jew-bashers became bolder as the far-left started to dominate the Labor Party. As a result, the party has become engulfed by more and more revelations of anti-Semitism, which Corbyn has been unable or unwilling to put to rest.
Vicki Kirby, a former Labor parliamentary candidate, was suspended for tweeting that Jews had “big noses,” Adolf Hitler was the “Zionist god” and Islamic State should attack Israel. She had her suspension lifted and became vice chairwoman of a local party branch before exposure of these events forced Labor to suspend her again. Another Labor member, Gerry Downing, who has extolled “Hamas heroism” and demanded that the “Jewish question” be solved, was expelled from the party but then readmitted. He was expelled again only after Cameron raised the case in Parliament.
Meanwhile, the issue of campus Jew-hatred exploded when Alex Chalmers, the non-Jewish co-chairman of the Labor Party-affiliated Oxford University Labor Club (OULC), resigned with a devastating account of the Jew-bashing in such circles. “Whether it be,” he wrote, “members of the executive throwing around the term ‘Zio’ (a term for Jews usually confined to websites run by the Ku Klux Klan) with casual abandon, senior members of the club expressing their ‘solidarity’ with Hamas and explicitly defending their tactics of indiscriminately murdering civilians, or a former co-chair claiming that ‘most accusations of anti-Semitism are just the Zionists crying wolf,’ a large proportion of both OULC and the student Left in Oxford more generally have some kind of problem with Jews,” he wrote.
The Chalmers statement received huge attention from the British media. For the first time, non-Jewish commentators started expressing horrified concern about the swell of anti-Semitism. Many, though, still don’t get it. Where did all this come from, they ask – unable to comprehend that, for the answer, they need to look within themselves. The former archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, now master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, has said he is shocked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents at British universities and criticized the “muted” official response.
However at Christmas 2006, while Williams was in charge of the Church of England, he preached that Christians were being driven out of Bethlehem by Israel’s policies and its security barrier. Yet it is Bethlehem’s Muslim administration that the town’s Christians have fled, while Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians are safe. In a similar vein, Chris Bryant, Labor’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, has warned against “anti-Semitism by proxy” in his party, and observed: “Questioning the very existence of the State of Israel is a not-too-subtle form of anti-Semitism.” Yet he also wrote: “The Israeli settlements are illegal and must stop. All too often, the Israeli government has made it impossible for the Palestinians to build homes, develop infrastructure or even have access to basic utilities.” Like Williams’ comments about Bethlehem, these charges by Bryant are false, grossly unfair and part of the demonization of Israel that leads directly to Jew-bashing.
Anti-semitism is not merely one of many prejudices. It has unique features, the same ones that characterize the demonization of Israel. Both are irrational obsessions consisting entirely of grotesque lies and libels. Both accuse a group of people of a conspiracy of evil of cosmic proportions. Both accuse those people of committing abuses of which they are not only innocent, but are, in fact, the victims…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jewish Life, Mar. 1, 2016
Norman Eisen met Barack Obama as law school classmates at Harvard University, where they became friends, remaining in touch even after their school days ended. When Obama eventually won the US Presidency, he appointed Eisen, in 2009, to serve as his Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform. Only a couple of years later, in 2011, the president tapped Eisen to be the US ambassador to the Czechs. It was no coincidence that Obama chose Eisen to be ambassador in Prague of all places: “The president thought it would be a remarkable thing for the son of a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor to return and represent the US… No one from my immediate family had returned since my mother fled Communism in 1949, and the symbolism of [returning there] was just too unique an opportunity to pass up.”
In 1944, Frieda – along with her parents, siblings, and other family members – was sent to Auschwitz. Although she and two siblings miraculously survived, their parents and other relatives weren’t as fortunate. On his first day as ambassador, following all of the formal greetings and arrival ceremonies, Eisen sat alone in the library of his new home reflecting on the events of the day. The head of the ambassador’s household, Miroslav Cernik, came into the room and informed the ambassador that there was something Cernik wanted to show him. Cernik led Eisen to a small, ornate table and asked Eisen to look underneath the table. The ambassador, who thought it a rather unusual request, complied nonetheless, and got down on his hands and knees, crawling under the table.
Nothing could have prepared Eisen for what he found there: a sticker with the clearly discernable image of an eagle and a swastika, the formal symbol of the Nazi party, emblazoned upon it, thus marking the table as former Nazi property. Cernik explained that he had not wanted Eisen to make the upsetting discovery for himself by chance. Eisen, who had envisioned carrying out the many responsibilities of his office, was unprepared for such a thing and described seeing the sticker as “a punch in the gut”, hitting him on an emotional, as well as a physical, level. In an ironic twist, Eisen would later use that very table during his tenure as ambassador as the stand for his Chanukah menorah.
The Nazis were not the original owners of that table or that house. The US ambassador’s residence in Prague, named Petschek Villa, was originally built by a wealthy Jewish industrialist by the name of Otto Petschek in the late 1920s. Petschek, who made his money from coal mine holdings as well as banking, was one of the wealthiest men in Czechoslovakia, before his untimely death in 1934. With Germany’s designs for Czechoslovakia clear and the threat of an invasion on the horizon, Petschek’s family fled the country in 1938. The property was subsequently seized by the Germans and commandeered for use as the headquarters of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) commander of Prague, General Toussaint, his staff, and other Nazi officials and aides during their seven-year occupation of Prague. Occupied afterwards briefly by the Russians and then the Czechoslovak General Staff, the US leased the property in 1945 before eventually buying it from the Czechoslovak government in 1948.
On his arrival at the Petschek Villa, Eisen had the home returned to its Jewish roots and made suitable for a Torah-observant Jewish family to live in, kashering the kitchens and affixing mezuzos to the doorposts of the residence where he and his family would be staying. The kitchen staff “went into overdrive mastering the Jewish dietary laws”, learning to make traditional Jewish foods like challah and matzah ball soup, and sourcing kosher products, especially a variety of kosher meats, which were unavailable in Prague and had to be ordered from either Berlin or Vienna. Eisen and his family kept Shabbos in their new Czech home each week, sometimes in the company of various dignitaries and dining in a room and at a table that were once in the hands of the Nazis. As Eisen describes it, “It [was] mind-blowing, eating on kosher State Department china where the commander of the Nazi Wehrmacht used to live.”
Frieda opted not to return to her homeland, even when her son was there serving as the ambassador. She passed away in 2012, during her son’s tenure in Prague, but not without a “tremendous sense of triumph” at the fact that her son had returned to the country of her birth as the representative of the most powerful nation on earth. Frieda was fond of telling people, “The Nazis deported us in cattle cars and my son flew back on Air Force One,” a reference to a trip that Eisen made to Prague with Obama in 2010 for an international treaty signing ceremony.
Joe Lieberman testified regarding Eisen’s appointment in the US Senate: “It is indeed a profound historical justice…that the ambassador's residence in Prague, which was originally built by a Jewish family that was forced to flee Prague by the Nazis, [which], in turn, the Nazis took over…as their headquarters, now 70 years later, is occupied by Norman and his family. And I might, on a point of personal privilege, add that they observe the Sabbath there every Friday night and Saturday. So if you need any evidence that there is a God, I offer that to you.” Eisen ended up serving in Prague for almost four years, one of the longest tenures of any recent US ambassador there.
CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters: Shabbat Shalom!
Hillel Neuer Interview from "Beyond Paranoia: The New Anti-Semitism”: UN Watch, Mar. 25, 2016—In this new documentary film, UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer tells his personal story and feelings about being at the UN and speaking out. “When I walk into the Human Rights Council, I feel the glares of hatred, of enmity directed at me. I see it in in their eyes, and it's from dictatorships, it's from Arab states, it's from others — sometimes even from some democracies."
The German Bellwether: Michael Sussman, National Post, Mar. 30, 2016—I was recently visiting a friend in Germany as local elections took place in before national elections next year. In her region, not far from sophisticated Frankfurt, the neo-Nazi NPD party won 17 per cent of the vote, taking its place as the third largest party.
Terror as a Fact of Life: Robert Fulford, National Post, Mar. 26, 2016 —Absorbing the grim reality of Islamic terrorism, many of us have found ourselves changing our ideas about the menace our civilization faces. The atrocities in Brussels on Tuesday, coming so soon after the November bombings that killed 130 people in Paris, have heightened the meaning of jihadist violence. We knew the world was in trouble. Now we have an appalling sense of how bad the trouble is.
Angela Merkel’s Unpopular Goodness: Daniel Kehlmann, New York Times, Apr. 1, 2016—When I returned to Berlin recently after a few months away, a friend asked me to try a new Chinese restaurant in Kreuzberg, a hip multiethnic neighborhood in the city. “It’s close to the subway station Kottbusser Tor,” he texted. “But take a cab, otherwise it’s too dangerous.”