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Op-ed: Holocaust demands we speak up when someone questions Jews’ commitment to U.S.

West Columbia woman gives children killed in Holocaust a voice with her sketches

West Columbia's Mary Burkett says draws the sketches of children killed in the Holocaust so they won't be forgotten. They have a name and a family, even though they were killed so young.
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West Columbia's Mary Burkett says draws the sketches of children killed in the Holocaust so they won't be forgotten. They have a name and a family, even though they were killed so young.

It is very hard for me to understand the necessity to debate the obvious: “Anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated.” This is in reference to a recently passed (March 7, 2019) U.S. House resolution condemning all hatred, not just anti-Semitism. So what does a resolution really mean when it includes everyone, everywhere, and everything? Nothing!

Anti-Semitism is not new. The hatred of Jews can be traced for centuries including the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Holocaust. In 1903, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fabricated anti-Semitic text purporting to describe a fictitious Jewish plan for global domination, was published, alluding to dual allegiance. What is new is overt actions of some Americans to use their positions to try to resurrect these conspiracy theories in the 21st century.

When a U.S. Congresswoman accuses American Jewry of dual alliances and doubts the commitment to the United States of America, we must not be silent. The tensions and geopolitical policies of the Middle East might be complex, but the commitment to the survival of Israel is not. Israel asks only to be recognized as a sovereign and only democratic Jewish state, amid the calls for annihilation from most of the Arab world.

Israel accepts all Jews from all lands at any time via “The Law of Return.” If there had been an established state of Israel in 1938 during the Evian Conference when Hitler “warned 32 countries” that he was “getting rid of all Jews,” perhaps the Holocaust catastrophe would not have occurred. Israel safeguards the holy places of all religions, through the Mandate for Religious Freedom. The contributions of Israel to the U.S. and around the world in agriculture, water management, the digital economy, medical devices, pharmaceuticals and disaster assistance are a few reasons that Jews and non-Jews alike invest financially and intellectually in the Israeli society.

Anti-Israel remarks often are used to “soften” the anti-Semitism which is the core of the remarks. The remarks made by the representative were veiled threats and comments from those that claim they are “not anti-Semitic,” yet speak in tropes and innuendos. They are clearly speaking against American Jewry. Israel can make its own sovereign policies, but do not doubt the integrity or allegiance of American Jews to the United States.

There was an attempt to draw a false equivalency between concentration camps and refugee camps. This should not be a competition of “worse traumas,” but is a lack of understanding of history, sociology and psychology. As the oldest child of Holocaust survivors, I saw the everlasting scars of my parents as my mother cried out nightly with nightmares, and my father had to have medication to silence his memories. Living without grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, or pictures and family heirlooms is a sadness that can only be understood when experienced. All genocides and trauma are reprehensible; they should not be compared.

What can happen when anti-Semitism is not condemned? It led to a Jewish massacre during the Middle Ages, and their expulsion from Spain. It led to the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust. Are we on the same path as Germany in the 1930’s — a threat to all democracies, dissolution of a constitution and judicial system, the brainwashing of masses, and corruption of politicians? God help us all if our elected leadership cannot unanimously denounce anti-Semitism.

Look for the 2019 “Holocaust Remembered” supplement in The State on Friday, April 26. Check www.thestate.com/holocaust for past editions.

Dr. Lilly S. Filler is co-chair of the Columbia Holocaust Education Commission.
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