Opinion

As Descendant of Auschwitz Victims, I've No Interest in the Yad Vashem Laundromat

Philippine President Duterte lays a wreath at Israel's Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. September 2, 2018
Emil Salman

Yad Vashem will be holding an event on Thursday to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. The list of those invited who have confirmed their attendance – heads of state and senior representatives of most European countries, Canada, Australia, the United States and even representatives of European royal families – is the fulfillment of Viktor Orban and Jair Bolsonaro’s racist dream of a world that is white and based on Judeo-Christian identity. It is not by happenstance that there won’t be a single participant from Latin America, Africa or East Asia at the conference.

After World War II, and as a lesson from the Holocaust in which six million Jews were exterminated, the international community agreed to a list of charters aimed at protecting the recognition and defense of basic human rights, preventing genocide and discrimination, and protecting refugees. These charters weren’t perfect but provided some hope that the term “never again” would become more than a hollow slogan. 

Hijacking the Holocaust for Putin, politics and powerHaaretz Weekly Ep. 57

In effect, from the standpoint of Israel and a large number of Western countries whose representatives will attend the Yad Vashem event, citizens of the Southern Hemisphere were not intended to be fully protected by these post-Holocaust charters and human rights protections. For decades since the liberation of Auschwitz, not only have most of these countries remained silent in the face of a long list of massacres, rapes, disappearances and torture of masses, but have actively aided in the commission of such crimes. Some Western countries have continued to be ruled by colonialist and neocolonialist regimes. For economic reasons and as part of the Cold War and the war against communism, most Western nations sold weapons to and supported military regimes that perpetrated crimes against humanity and genocide.

With U.S. consent, Israel quickly became a central weapons supplier to a list of murderous regimes in Central and South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. For example, Israel’s important support for a 1951 charter against genocide was replaced by support for military regimes in Guatemala, and genocide was perpetrated against natives through the use of Israeli weapons. Israel’s support for a charter to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination and significant civilian projects for the independence of African nations transformed into massive military support for the apartheid regime in South Africa.

As opposed to the Holocaust Museum in Washington which for years offered universal interpretations for lessons of the Holocaust, documented destruction and crimes against humanity against other peoples and even established an institute to prevent genocide, Yad Vashem (with the exception of some of its researchers) refrained from dealing with anything deviating from the Jewish issue. For decades, Yad Vashem even became a compulsory place to visit for dictators, murderers, racists and fascists who visit Israel to close weapons deals and win the U.S. ally’s mantle of legitimacy and moral kashrut. Therefore, there’s no more appropriate place to collectively launder all the crimes of these countries against substantial parts of the world population than at the Yad Vashem museum.

At Thursday’s event, nobody will speak about the lessons of Auschwitz and the processes that took place in the 1930s, in view of the hatred of foreigners and Islamophobia in Western nations, the world refugee crisis and the continuing wars in South Sudan and Syria, the Rohingya stuck in refugee camps in Bangladesh, the fear of genocide in Burundi and the scorched opposition zones in Cameroon or Honduras.

Nor will they speak about the situation of the Palestinian people in occupied territories, France’s responsibility for the genocide in Rwanda, Britain’s responsibility for the disaster of partitioning India, and the detention camps where members of Kenya’s freedom movement were tortured, the American responsibility for the mass slaughter of communists and leftists in Indonesia, or the genocide against natives in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. 

Presumably the president of Armenia will not dare to raise any discussion about Israel’s refraining from recognition of the Armenian genocide and the president of Bosnia won’t dare to raise any discussion about Israeli military aid to the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs during the war and genocide that took place there.

As a descendant of Auschwitz victims and survivors, there’s nothing of interest for me in this event.

Attorney Mack is a human rights activist specializing in the issue of Israel’s arms trade.