Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The day commemorates the genocide and tragedy of WWII which is not that far back in our past. It also serves as an opportunity for both the Jewish and Gentile populations to reflect on what lessons there are still to learn.
Recently, I have been greatly disturbed by revelations made in Israel and reported in publications like Haaretz concerning the medical treatment of Ethiopian women. A treatment they receive because of their skin color. It has been revealed that groups of Ethiopian women have been sterilized without their knowledge and under false pretense by medical officials in Israel. For me this is horrifying and goes against what this day is supposed to symbolize.
As if that isn’t enough the Health Minister in Israel yesterday acknowledged that Ethiopian women were injected with long-term birth control shots without being told or informed of the health ramifications. These women are mostly Jewish but because they are black, the government wants their birth rate controlled. I find it remarkable the Israeli government can’t see the tragic irony in these practices.
On the other side there is a willingness to forget what WWII did to us. Former Italian PM Berlusconi praised Mussolini and managed to doze off at a Remembrance event. There is a neo-Nazi party fighting for the streets of Greece. Even in the U.S.A. I can take you down to the local pub and introduce you to a couple of neo-Nazis.
Part of this is ignorance. It is always easier to blame a minority, especially one not that well understood, for current social ills. Part of this though is self-inflicted. I can only speak to as an American but it doesn’t help those who wish to support Israel when Netanyahu insults Obama and the country. It doesn’t help that the Jewish Lobby in D.C. is neck-deep in political corruption and when people attempt to clean it up they are labeled as anti-Semite for wanting to change it. It reinforces stereotypical images.
Sometimes it feels like we have made progress. Nobody is running a pogrom and groups who suffered in the Holocaust like homosexuals and Jehovah Witnesses, while still facing uphill struggles, aren’t being systematically hunted down. Yet, Israel seems to have less intimate contact with the West than it did just 20 years ago (one reason I feel for the constant miscalculation in its dealings with the West) and the West is willingly allowing itself to push the events of that era to the background where it is often forgotten or at the least not fully realized.
There are still a lot of lessons to learn on this International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There are a lot of changes to be made and still a lot of the history from those nightmare years to uncover. I hope we take a moment today to reflect on our own lives and re-acquaint ourselves with the phrase “never forget”.