When I was a young child I remember watching my dad as his headaches would start. His eyes would begin to glaze over. In those moments, my dad would regress to a terrified six-year-old boy, speaking in whispered tones in his native Yiddish, begging his sister to be quiet as they hid from the Nazis in a Belgian church.
The horror of the killing fields in Rwanda gave rise to the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine. In a word, if such mass atrocity crimes are being committed, and the state where these crimes are occurring is unwilling or unable to act -- or worse, is the author of such international crimes -- the Responsibility to Protect arises.
In July 1944, some 430,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported to Auschwitz in the space of 10 weeks -- the fastest, cruelest and most efficient mass murder of the Nazi genocide. Yet Wallenberg rescued some 100,000 Jews in six months in Hungary in 1944, demonstrating that one person with the courage to care, and the commitment to act, can confront evil and transform history.
Like all westerners, I watched in horror at the terror that was unleashed across Paris. But my horror quickly turned to frustration when, immediately in the aftermath, western leaders took advantage of the situation to reinforce a false narrative, and to justify the very policies that have brought us to such a crisis. Our governments do not want us to understand that wittingly or unwittingly (the jury is still out on what role they have really played) they created the conditions for the rise of ISIS, and they did so through exactly the same disastrous policies that they now claim are the only way to destroy it.
Unfortunately, there is a stubborn quality to the Prime Minister's current commitment to meet his election promise of admitting 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by Christmas. There is an easy solution to this current impasse between the facts on the ground today and an election promise made months ago. Set a reasonable timeline and follow the responsible policies of the American government.
Scholars, lawyers, and governments will no doubt weigh in on whether or not the residential schools experience in Canada officially constitutes a cultural form of genocide. In the meantime, it is important to create a cultural and intellectual climate in this country that is flexible and sensitive enough to recognize the depth of suffering experienced by traumatized people and their children without ranking it on a destructive hierarchical scale.
After six years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada held closing events from May 31 to June 3rd, and issued its executive summary of a report which will run to six volumes, and will be translated into six indigenous languages. The summary itself is 388 pages, and while not exactly light reading, it is incredibly accessible and well-written. Unfortunately, despite incredible media attention and a plethora of opinion articles on the issue, it has become abundantly clear that many people talking about the TRC summary have not read it.
The Admissions Committee Law, for example -- which was recently upheld by the Israeli Supreme Court -- legalizes racial segregation. According to this law, 43 per cent of Israeli residential areas are legally entitled to deny entrance to Palestinian Arab citizens of the Israeli state. Most of this land, to which the Palestinians are not welcome, was originally confiscated from Palestinian refugees.
As a Jew, I feel sorry for Palestinians. Their plight is awful. They're at the mercy of a government who would see them dead if it would further their cause. You can be PRO Palestine without being ANTI Israel. You can be against this war and not be Anti-Semitic. Try to remember that when you ask Israel to lay down their weapons you're asking them to walk right into a gas chamber.
Some of our ultimate values as a civilization have swirled around children. They have prompted our drive towards education, health, training and opportunity. What does it say about us, then, that we are willing to accept the increasing death of millions of children in conflicts in which they have had no responsibility?
For reasons which are amply documented and well-known, as a Senator Romeo Dallaire committed himself to the most serious of issues: prevention of genocide, Post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD), child soldiers, conflict resolution and investigation into crimes against humanity. He is, in other words, a champion of causes that are for most politicians quagmires to be circumnavigated. The departure of Romeo Dallaire means that there will be one less serious, hard-working and principled member in the Upper Chamber.
Ten years ago at the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide I went to Rwanda with World Vision. I knew it would be a difficult trip, but I had no idea the impact that trip would have on me going forward. Now, as we near the 20th anniversary of the horrific Rwandan genocide, my heart is still broken by the meaningless killing.
An enduring lesson from the Rwandan genocide -- not unlike the Holocaust -- is that it occurred not only because of the machinery of death, but because of state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. Indeed, as the Supreme Court of Canada recognized, and as echoed by the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda, the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers -- it began with words. As the jurisprudence of the Rwandan tribunals demonstrates, these acts of genocide were preceded by -- and anchored in -- the state-orchestrated demonization and dehumanization of the minority Tutsi populations.
In the annals of human evil, Rwanda's genocide takes a special place. With a kill rate of about six people a minute for more than three months, it's likely one of the fastest mass slaughters of humans in history. Most were hacked to death by machete, partly because the perpetrators found it cheaper than using bullets.
The years since the Arusha Accords ended the slaughter have been trying, as Rwanda made a difficult transition to democracy. Paul Kagame was elected president in the country's first-ever democratically contested multi-party elections in August 2003. Kagame was re-elected in a landslide in 2010. He is such an effective leader because he hasn't lost touch with his people.
If we Jews and all other citizens of humanity actually mean the words we speak when we say, "never again," then we must take a stand, today, and actively choose to care and to defend justice by celebrating the uncelebrated and by protecting and giving voice to the voiceless among us, and to say that hatred and intolerance, in any shape or form, no matter how small, has no place in this world.
As we remember the six million Jewish victims of the Shoah -- defamed, demonized and dehumanized, as prologue or justification for genocide -- we have to understand that the mass murder of six million Jews, and millions of non-Jews, is not a matter of abstract statistics. For unto each person there is a name, an identity; each person is a universe. As our sages tell us, "whoever saves a single life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire universe." Conversely, whoever has killed a person, it is as if they have killed an entire universe. Indifference in the face of evil is acquiescence with evil itself.
Pragmatically, there is no need for outside intervention when it comes to Syria. Yes, a lot of people are being killed, but perhaps more would be killed if outside forces were used to despose Assad. And unlike conventional war, a revolution is a personal thing for those involved. When outsiders participate, the dynamics change. And revolutions never turn out the way those who lead them expect, or even intend.