Monday, January 27, 2014, is the 69th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Auschwitz was built as part of the military-industrial infrastructure for the sole purpose of gathering, transporting and incinerating Jews -- for the crime of being Jewish. Commemorations will be taking place around the world.
Do we still need to commemorate an event that is 69 years old?
Ryan Mervin Bellerose is a proud Métis from Northern Alberta who grew up on what he calls a Métis colony with no electricity, running water or telephone.
His father co-authored the Métis Settlements Act of 1989, passed in the Alberta legislature in 1990. Bellerose founded a native rights advocacy group, Canadians for Accountability, and then became an organizer and participant in the Idle No More movement in Canada.
Although many native groups encourage identifying with the Palestinians, Ryan's experiences led him to identify with Zionism. He read about the horrific 1972 Lod Airport massacre (Tel Aviv) where terrorists shot dead 26 civilians, including 17 Christian pilgrims waiting for their flights. He read about the 1985 attack by Yasser Arafat's forces on the Achille Lauro cruise ship, where an old disabled Jewish man was thrown overboard in his wheelchair for the "crime of being a Jew."
Over the years he grew to "appreciate Israel's moral integrity in the face of brutal hatred." He came to believe that "the Jewish people and Israel should serve as an example to indigenous people everywhere. It is with the Jews -- and their stubborn survival after being decimated and dispersed by powerful empires -- that we have the most in common."
Can you imagine Ryan's response when he was told by a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), a man about 6'4" and 260 pounds with a smirk on his face, "I am sorry that the Nazis missed some of your family"? This was during a public Speakers Corner debate this past September in Calgary.
Ryan told me that "the saddest part was that when they found out I'm not Jewish some of them said sorry to me, but nobody apologized to my Jewish friend for something so patently offensive."
Another SPHR event October 2013 guest speaker Miko Peled is reportedt to have stated "Anybody who supports Israel is a terrorist, is a racist. You put feces in the drinking water of the Palestinians."
I want to put this in perspective. Recently Calgary United With Israel reported the hateful words of Ala'a Hamden, the former president of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, University of Calgary that she had posted on Facebook, for all to see, all over the world.
"I will soak a koffiah [Palestinian headscarf] with your blood and save it to show to your siblings...I will be named the mother of the martyr." ...
"This land will be proud that Palestinian babies are born men and women ready to spill their blood."
She called it "creative writing."
The National Post's headline writers called it "Violent martyrdom posts."
I have not been updated on a response from the police but the university responded. Ben Cannon, the University of Calgary's vice-president of student life told the National Post, "We believe in the right for a club to express their opinions and to keep the dialogue going on campus." SPHR is a pro-Palestinian organization that won an award for the best campus advocacy group.
I'd like to suggest that there are opinions and then there is hate speech.
Is this language of hate against the Jews any different in content or intent than the words of the revered Desmond Tutu: "Whether Jews like it or not, they are a peculiar people. They can't ever hope to be judged by the same standards which are used for other people." And: "The Jews thought they had a monopoly of God: Jesus was angry that they could shut out other human beings."
Or the words in the official sermon to be read in all mosques of Malaysia "Muslims must understand Jews are the main enemy to Muslims as proven by their egotistical behaviour and murders performed by them." There are no Jews in Malaysia.
Or the Christmas carol sung by the Dor Transilvan ensemble on Romanian public television TVR3 with lyrics that celebrated the Holocaust and called for the burning of kikes; the "N" word for Jews.
Or this. Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi said: "Allah has imposed upon the Jews a continuing punishment for their corruption. The last was led by Hitler. There is no dialogue with them other than the sword and the gun. We pray to Allah to kill every last one of them."
We have become inured to anti-Semitism. It passes the lips and enters the ears without shock. We don't name and shame anti-Jewish hatred. Ryan is a Métis. It didn't matter. The man who verbally accosted him thought him a Jew. Knew nothing about him and suggested it was sad he existed. This is anti-Semitism. And it has snaked its way into our speech, our institutions, especially the ones of higher learning.
It's difficult to comprehend how one hates someone or a group one has never encountered. There are 7 billion people in the world. There are only 14 million Jews. How many Jew-haters have ever met a Jew?
We need to wake up to the nastiness that pervades our vocabulary and those who speak it. From word to deed. We have lived this before. There is no excuse for a repeat in our politically correct inclusive, tolerant, accommodating culture.
And that is the reason we need to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz.
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