The Daily Californian newspaper
University of California at Berkeley
Friday, May 6, 2005
Holocaust Remembrance Day
‘Never Again’ Over Again
- by Joseph Anderson
Berkeley, California, city councilperson Kris Worthington’s letter to the Daily Californian (“Lurking Legacy of Discrimination,” May 3) deals with Holocaust Remembrance Day and the very profound tragedy European Jews suffered under the Nazi regime. We are called again to learn the lessons of history. But have we?
The primary lesson was supposed to be “Never again!” But, a very sad disappointment — and even for many Jews, including some Holocaust survivors — is that we really have not learned. For, as I grew up seeing the horrors revealed in Holocaust documentaries and movies, I thought that “Never again!” meant never again for all humanity — not just never again for European Jews. Where is remembrance day for the Native American, the black slave, the Filipino, the Armenian, in effect the Vietnamese, and the U.S. Vietnam war expansion-triggered Cambodian holocausts?
Blacks were also victims of Nazi Germany's holocaust machine that consumed other ethnic minorities like the Roma, in addition to the mentally handicapped, and before that blacks were genocidal victims of Germany's colonizations in Africa — as with genocidal Western European colonizers (there and in the Americas).
As a member myself of an often oppressed minority whose religious traditions have identified with the Biblical legend of the Jews’ oppression, it saddens me to see many pro-Israel Jews oppress others via a foreign state that would claim to embody Jewish values. For African American ideals, “The Promised Land” is not a land to be "reclaimed" after hundreds, or even thousands, of years, citing God as the real estate agent. The Promised Land doesn’t echo the injustices of the past by, in part, replicating them upon others. The Promised Land is the creation of a just society with an appreciation for the diversity of all humanity and equality for all.
I appreciate Worthington’s letter, but I object that it makes it seem like Berkeley has become a bastion of Jew-hatred: “In Berkeley itself, Jews have far too frequently been victims of hate crimes,” he wrote.
California criminal-justice statistics show that hate crimes for all minority groups have gone down — except for indigenous Middle Easterners and Muslims.
Kris writes that overt prejudice, discrimination and institutionalized exclusion are unacceptable. But, that’s exactly what Jews who commemorate the Holocaust — yet who also ideologically believe in an exclusionary Jewish state — support every day for Israel.
Others, like many of us, like “the good Germans” of another era, turn our heads away from this human rights catastrophe against, in turn, another 'despised' minority: the Palestinian people. Their resistance to brutal ethnic cleansing — something any people would resist from any other people — is, ironically, labeled “anti-Semitic.”
To paraphrase Worthington, Holocaust Remembrance Day should cause us to reflect, to learn that the horrors of all these catastrophes did in fact happen, to support the oppressed everywhere, and to join in the activism to say, “Never again!” — for all humanity.
Joseph Anderson is a Berkeley resident, an occasional
contributing columnist/essayist to various newspapers,
political and literary publications, a grassroots progressive
political activist, and an occasional interview guest on KPFA's
Hard Knock Radio in Berkeley.
(the above is the slightly longer, original version
of the word length-constrained version published at
Joseph Anderson, Berkeley, California, USA