Saturday, April 11, 2009

On the true scope of "never again"

Fifteen years ago this week, the Hutu majority in Rwanda started a genocide that killed over 500,000 Tutsis, along with 300,000 fellow Hutus who refused to take part in the massacres. In this truly unique extermination it was the people, rather than an army, that took mass murder literally into their hands -- facing themselves death if they didn't.

As usual, the world did nothing. The UN fled according to its time-honored tradition, and the same countries that in 2003 rushed to save the Iraqis no one knows well from what didn't lift a finger for oil-poor Rwanda.

Regrettably, neither did the Jewish community, or the self-described Jewish state. No condemnation was issued by either Israeli Chief Rabbi. No letters were mass-mailed by members of the Jewish organizations to any lawmaker calling on the US or any other country to intervene and stop the killings. No grass-roots movement arose within organized Jewry, during the three months the genocide lasted, to try and do something to stop it. Was there any reason to expect them to do so? Yes, there was -- or what else is the phrase "never again," ritually chorused by Jewish organizations, supposed to mean? (I know, I know: it means "never again to the Jews." But the people at the Holocaust museums won't acknowledge it.)

Israel didn't send in troops to stop the genocide. Just 5,000 soldiers, at a time when the country didn't face any external threat, would have sufficed to save at least 500,000 lives, but not a single Israeli politician or Jewish leader from the Diaspora suggested that the State should take such a step. Israel didn't even use its advanced technology to jam the radio broadcasts that were a key factor in the incitement to genocide.

Where was the world when the Nazis were killing the Jews? In about the same place the Jews were when the Hutus were murdering the Tutsis.


Anonymous said...

This is such a false analogy and such an unfair slur on the Jewish community I don't know where to begin.

The Rwandan genocide was small and localized compared to the Holocaust, which had nearly ten times as many casualties and occurred in dozens of countries. Moreover, these countries were highly industrialzed naions of Europe, not an isolated, poor and relatively primitive outback like Rwanda.

But most crucially, the genocide in Rwanda was completely unexpected (most people didn't even know where the country was) and was over in a few months. The Holocaust, on the other hand, was 6 years in the preparation (1933 - 39) and another 6 in the execution (1939 - 1945) and there were plenty of explicit warnings about what was about to happen -- hence the inaction of the world was totally inexcusable.

So by the time the Jewish community organizations had organized their relief packages the genocide was already over! The Jewish orgs were left to clean up the mess and they did so with huge amounts of charity as well as volunteerim: the JDC alone donated several million; World Jewish Relief has been instrumental in getting the country back on its feet again; the Agahozo Shalom Orphanage (the largest in Rwanda), etc.

To accuse the Jews of not doing enough in the face of this genocide is not only to single out the Jews for opprobrium over an issue that the entire world shares responsibility for, but it is to make a mockery of the fact that the Jews did MORE than any other people in the world for Rwanda -- because the Jews believe they must show moral leadership (we are the ethical Light onto the Nations) and also because we lived through the worst genocide known to man 60 years ago.

To accuse the Jews of not doing enough for Rwanda when we did all we could and more than any other people is indeed laughable!

Anonymous said...

Here's a good post putting the actions of the Jewish community during the genocide in Rwanda in proper historical context:

Key quote:

"While the 1994 genocide in Rwanda took place over several months and garnered little attention, the crisis in Darfur is now entering its third year and has grabbed the attention of politicians and pundits such as Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times.
The organized Jewish community lobbied for Western intervention in Bosnia in the early 1990s, but most activity occurred at the leadership level, and grass-roots involvement was minor, according to Jewish officials involved at the time.
Ronny Strongin, a spokeswoman for the AJWS, said that this time around, the call for more public action actually came from the grass roots."

Anonymous said...

To compare the Armenian, Rwandan, Darfurian genocides, or the Ukrainian famine, or the Cambodian massacres to the Holocaust is possible but it will only highlight just how gigantic in scope, how complex in execution and how historically unique the Holocaust was.

Whether it's the method of annihilation, the extent of theft of Jewish property, the collaboration of dozens of nations in the exterminationist project, the legal, medical and weapons crafted by the Nazis, the ination of the world, the impact on western and indeed world civilization of trying to destroy the People of the Ten Commandments, etc. -- by any measure, the Holocaust is a world defining event.

All genocides are of course deplorable and I wish that the world -- esp. the major power (EU, USA, Russia, China, etc) had done more to save the Tutsis but blaming it on the Jews, or in the promotion of Holocaust remembrance, is ridiculous.

What you, Yusuf, is saying is "because the Jews made us remember the Holocaust we weren't prepared for Rwanda and thus allowed it to happen." I have never heard such an inane, silly and fundamentally flawed argument against Holocaust education in my life!

And as for Darfur, to begin to compare the systematic murder of over a million people by the Al-bashir Islamist regime to the accidental death of a few hundred people by the IDF during the course of its anti-terrorism operations is CRAZY. I think most people realize by now that if anything the obssessive and irrational coverage of the Israel/Arab war has substantially detracted from awareness of the Arab genocide against the black Africans taking place in Darfur.

Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf said...

how historically unique the Holocaust was

On the contrary; the only unique genocide was the Tutsi genocide, in which the Hutu people carried out the massacres with their own hands and the Hutu husband had to kill his Tutsi wife. By comparison, there's not a single case recorded of a European Christian murdering his Jewish wife.

So essentially what you're saying is

What I'm saying is that during 40 years the organized Jewish community chastised the world as eternal antisemites because they did nothing during the Holocaust.

In 1994, they had the opportunity to show the rest of the world how genocide should be confronted. Well, it turned out the rest of the world's reaction to the Holocaust had been no different from Israel's and the organized Jewish community's reaction to the Tutsi genocide.

Pope Pious XII was responsible for tens of thousands of German Catholic clergymen who would have been killed if he had excommunicated Hitler. Israel had no similar concern; there was no Jewish community in Rwanda to speak of. Yet Israel didn't intervene. For God's sake, it didn't even jam the Hutu radio broadcasts.

I never held the organized world Jewry to impossible moral standards. I'm only asking them to stop sermonizing the rest of the world over their attitude during the Holocaust.

Anonymous said...


Your twisted brain thinks that the 90 day genocide of the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda is comparable to the six year industrialized slaughter of Europe's entire Jewish population that had lived on the continent for thousands of years. It is not.

Ten times the number of Jews were killed, billions of dollars in property was looted, hundreds of thousands of Jewish villages and synagogues and businesses were destroyed. And it did not happen in some barbaric outback in Africa but at the heart of the modern, supposedly Christian & Enlightened Western world with all the trappings of law and science and using all the advanced techniques and technologies of European civilization. This is what made the Holocaust unique. Brutal massacres have been happening since time immemorial -- there are even genocides recorded in the Torah -- but the Holocaust is unique in human history for all the reason sketched above and more. This is not to mitigate the brutal assault on the Tutsis of Rwanda, but put things in perspective and you'll see why it is so crucial to continue educating the entire world about what happened during the Holocaust. Its not a matter of sermonizing, just constantly retelling the story of how the Jews were destroyed by the Europeans due to the sickness of their antisemitic fantasies.

Your analogy based on a Christian man murdering his Jewish wife is not only pointless in this argument but slightly deranged.

Your moral compass is clearly broken. You deplore Holocaust remembrance and try to blame the Rwandan genocide indirectly on the Jewish People. This is insane and will not work. On the contrary, it is imperative that we continue to educate the youth of the world abotu the Holocaust to teach them the mortal dangers of antisemitism and racism, as well as to prevent genocides from happening again anywhere in the world -- the true moral meaning of the great Jewish phrase NEVER AGAIN.

Your Jew-obsession merits a visit to a psychiatrist. Or maybe you should just turn your energies to promote the massacres in Darfur at the hands of the Arab militias. That -- and not Jew-baiting or Israel-bashing is a truly worthy cause.

jewbonics said...

Love this gem: "To compare the Armenian, Rwandan, Darfurian genocides, or the Ukrainian famine, or the Cambodian massacres to the Holocaust is possible but it will only highlight just how gigantic in scope, how complex in execution and how historically unique the Holocaust was."

Thank you, anonymous. It's close to bed-time over here, and thank god, because I was pretty anxious about whether it was "possible" to compare those genocides to the Holocaust until you settled the point for me.

EVERY genocide, EVERY event, is "historically unique," so asserting that the Holocaust was so proves nothing. Test question: did the Armenians marched through land that was rife with roving bands of rapists and murderers that had been released from the Turkish prison system for the express purpose of heightening Armenian suffering suffer "less" or "more" than the Jews who perished in the gas chambers? Was the industrialized German genocide worse than the non-industrialized Armenian or Rwandan genocides, or worse than the hyper-industrialized politicide in Vietnam?
Do you realize that you're parochially privileging Jewish suffering, and thus demeaning others' suffering? Have you even thought about it, or what it means to assert that ONE type of suffering is worse than another, or to assign different moral values to one people's suffering as opposed to another's? Think about it a little bit, and report back to me.


Anonymous said...

All deaths are equally horrifying. No one's murder is better or worse, no one's is more or less important.

But to compare any other genocide to the Holocaust in terms of numerical size, geographical spread, international scope, technical sophistication, philosophical bankruptcy and historical impact is to deny the Truth for the sake of political correctness.

But that;s not really the point of the post, is it? The point is that Alberto Yusuf is falsely trying to blame the genocide of Rwanda on the Jews and equate the supposed (and falsely characterized) inaction of the Jewish communities and Israel over 90 days of murder in the middle of the jungle to 6 YEARS of inaction by all the major powers, who failed to even bomb the rail links to the death camps.

In other words, he is trying to absolve the Western world retroactivel by saying "the Jews were no different in Rwanda."

Obviously, as anyone who has read Phillip Gourevitch's landmark history of the slaughter knows, this is a retarded and ridiculous equation -- it is one rooted not in historical reality but in Yusuf's antisemitism.

andrew r said...

Putting aside how you're not just missing HB's point, but dodging it like a stuntman dodging a blank...

philosophical bankruptcy - What, pray tell, is this supposed to mean? Does the fact that the architects of the Nazi genocide knew how to paint and play piano somehow make their actions more shocking? Holy shit! There's no way Europeans would commit mass murder. They're too cultured. So what if Europe conquered half the earth's surface between a few kingdoms, each conquest was accomplished with TL-Sodding-C. So what if Europe waged more bloody wars on itself than a typical high schooler can count.

Any one with a cursory knowledge of colonization knows the Nazis innovated no new acts of post-conquest depravity other than a specific method of killing.

historical impact - The only impact I've observed my whole life is feigned shock and a moral legitimacy card for America's various 'interventions'.

And I must say, there's no shock that "the advanced techniques and technologies of European civilization" could be applied to mass murder. The industrial revolution itself was conducted with lack of respect for human life. And barbarity usually brings out the most cutting edge technologies.

I don't know what dividing line you think exist between "some barbaric outback in Africa" and Europe but it sure ain't there.

Anonymous said...

Yusuf: "Its failure to do so proves that a Holocaust education exclusively oriented to preventing a technically impossible 2nd genocide against the Jews is worthless."

So educating children about the Holocaust is worthless? And a second genoicde against the Jews in "technically impossible"? What planet do you live on? Sheesh.

"And you know, bombing railroad lines is expensive, while jamming radio stations is relatively cheap and easy to do. Israel didn't even do that."

You don't know what you're talking about: it would be "technically impossible" for Israel to have jammed the Rwandan radio stations unless they somehow managed to land their jamming unit in Kigali. But most importantly, it is not and should never be Israel's responsibility to do this by itself: it is the responsibility of the international community, through the UN, OSCE, NATO, an other international organizations.

To think that Israel could have acted alone even if it wanted to is to deny the realities of history. But then again we are all very much aware of Yusuf's historical denials.

Anonymous said...

Conrad Barwa,

I agree with pretty much everything you said and your interesting critique of my previous posts are welcome. Point taken about my having fallen into the trap set by Yusuf regarding taking "the Jews" as a bloc that somehow acts in concert rather than as distinct individuals and organizations.

The only thing I have to take issue with is this sentence:

"Deeply racist to say that somehow genocides are less preventable because they occur in "primitive" countries or that they should have less impact"

It is absolutely the case that genocides happening in poor and isolated parts of the globe are less preventable -- it is also difficult to raise awareness and empathy in such circumstances, as is evinced by the present case of Darfur.

And I NEVER said that the genocide in Rwanda *should* have less impact than the Holocaust, just that it does for a myriad of reasons, especially since the Holocaust happened in Europe at a time when Europe had essentially succeeded in colonizing and spreading Western values and ideas throughout most of the rest of the world. ou have to look at the specific historical situation as well as the historical impact of both the victims (Jews, Gypsies, etc.) and the perpetrators (European Christians) in order to assess the impact of the event as a whole. If you look at the number of books written about the two events, it is obvious that the Holocaust has had a much farther reaching and deeper historical impact on almost every country in the world than the genocide in Rwanda has had. This is not to diminish the latter and it's not necessarily fair but it is certainly the case.

Medical Blog said...

No letters were mass-mailed by members of the Jewish organizations to any lawmaker calling on the US or any other country to intervene and stop the killings.