Every year growing up, come May, our days became a perpetual shuffle to and from assemblies and speeches. For as long as most of us can remember we have been privileged to hear first-hand from people who suffered atrocities at the hands of the Hitler and the Nazi regime. We attended memorial services, and visited museums, be they in our hometowns, Washington DC, or Israel. I would venture to guess that many of us had the opportunity to travel to Poland, either during high school, on a summer trip, or as part of our gap year programs, in a fruitless attempt to wrap our heads around how human beings could be capable of such inconceivable barbarity.
Year in and year out we exclaimed “Never Again”--a declaration of our victory, and a vow to ourselves and to humanity that we would never allow something of this nature to happen again.
I don’t recall a year going by where the question “Where was the rest of the world while we were being murdered?” wasn’t raised.
But here we are 70 years later and somehow I feel as if “never again” was never more than a catch-phrase--A caption to accompany the picture we took in Poland, standing in a death camp, Israeli flag triumphantly draped over our shoulders.
That our propensity to place so much of the fault on western society was nothing short of hypocritical and unjustified.
Because never again is happening again.
On December 18th the Arabs Spring began. Across the Middle East, authoritarian leaders were being overthrown in favor of governments that promised democratization. In early 2011 the movement reached Syria. The Syrian protest however, was far more passive than protests had been in its neighboring countries. Inspired by the movement to westernize their political process, peaceful protestors took to the streets of Syria in an attempt to spread democratic ideals. Bashar al-Assad, the Shiite leader of a country made up of 82% Sunni Muslims, well aware of the power of the masses to overturn their government, began using violence to suppress the protests. Assad’s use of excessive force against Syrian civilians led to the rise of over 15 rebel groups, and thus a Syrian Civil War began. Although this is an enormous simplification of a situation made far more complicated by the rise of ISIS, and the nuances and intricacies of foreign relations, the point holds true.
Once again families are being ripped apart at the hands of a merciless government, this time by bombings and airstrikes. Over the past 5 years, 450,000 innocent men, women, and children have been murdered by the very government they once swore their allegiance to, persecuted for nothing more than the sect of Islam they belong to.
Innocent citizens are being murdered for sport on the very streets they grew up on. Over 12 million people have been displaced, and on any given day prior to the regime’s conquest, about 50,000 people attempt to flee from Aleppo, once Syria’s most populous city. Proper medical care is completely inaccessible, and food supply has been cut off from over 10,000 innocent children.
And here I sit, and I can’t help but consider:
Where is the world now?
Can we honestly claim to be doing anything more than the Americans were doing in the 1940’s? Or, are we guilty of the same crime we’ve indicted the world of time and time again?
Will the history books speak any differently of us than we speak of those who lived during WWII?
In the words of Elie Wiesel Z”l “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”.
We may not have the ability to solve the humanitarian crisis in Syria, or the power to bring down the Assad regime, but we definitely have the power and strength to heed the call of Elie Wiesel, and speak out in protest.
Because no matter who we are, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or Atheists, we are all human beings, we were all created in the image of God, and none of us deserve to be massacred.
If nothing more, we have a responsibility to speak out,
If nothing more, we have a responsibility to recognize that “never again” is happening again right now in our time.
And we need to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, during the Holocaust the rest of the world, looked a lot like we do right now. They may have been sitting on their beds in a small dorm room, much like ours, more concerned with their midterm grades than with genocide. They may have been more focused on their plans for winter break, than they were with speaking out on behalf those poor innocent Jews being murdered a half a world away.