Statement made on 21 April 2009 by Senator Yoine Goldstein (retired)
Hon. Yoine Goldstein:
Honourable senators, the philosopher and historian George Santayana taught us that those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to relive it.
Today is Yom Hashoah, the day of remembrance of the Holocaust that witnessed the virtual destruction of European Jewry and the wanton murder of 6 million Jews solely because they were Jews.
April 21 is also the date that corresponds to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which is the twenty-seventh day of Nissan on the Jewish calendar. In English, the full name of Yom Hashoah is Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism, the commemoration of the destruction of European Jewry and a day of recognition for the heroism of those Jews who somehow procured arms and fought the Nazi murderers.
Yet, 6 million innocent lives were snuffed out; the number defies imagination. Of the 6 million people who were destroyed, 1.5 million were children. It is not hard to imagine how many artists, writers, musicians, mathematicians, doctors, geneticists, teachers, scientists and researchers would have come from those destroyed lives.
It is an overwhelming and heart-rending truth, one that led to a simple and unfortunately unobserved dictum: Never again.
However, our world continues to witness genocides again and again; and when efforts are made to bring the perpetrators of these genocides to justice, many of them are protected by their colleagues in human rights abuses.
Perhaps typically, Omar al-Bashir, the ruler of Sudan, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and a warrant is out for his arrest. However, two weeks ago, he travelled freely to a meeting of the Arab League and was encouraged by those in attendance rather than being condemned by them.
The global village seems to be unable to put a stop to genocide. Canadians pay lip service to the Responsibility to Protect, R2P, the doctrine supported by Canada that all states have an obligation to intervene when any state is unable or unwilling to protect its own subjects. Aside from a feeble effort in Kosovo, that Responsibility to Protect doctrine has remained a dead letter. As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been murdered in Darfur, and unnoticed mass murder is going on in the Congo. China continues to abuse human rights, and when it killed peaceful protesters in Tibet last year shortly before the Olympics, the world turned a blind eye.
The biblical prophets of old — Jeremiah, Isaiah and others — preached social justice and peace. They were paid no heed. Can we now examine our own consciences and at least speak out against genocide and against the abuse of human rights?
The Holocaust started with mere words, words which we find repeated in Europe and, yes, unfortunately in Canada, as barely disguised anti-Semitism. Yesterday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom I call "Ahme-genocide," in addressing Durban II in Geneva, again spouted anti-Semitic and destructive slogans. While the representatives of European countries walked out in protest, the bulk of the delegates applauded.
The dictum of Santayana is right: Those who forget the lessons of history are condemned to relive it. Are we paying attention?