April 23, 2009

Tell that to the Pilgrims of Victimhood

Before those nearly lethal winter weeks in Ravensbrueck and some months spent “working”— “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free), do you remember?—in Auschwitz, Esther, Sara’s grandmother, was a bright, active young woman with bad hay fever, living somewhere near the Czech border. A small town, a big house with an orchard and a vineyard. A large, warm family. All of which, says Sara, have since “vanished, literally, into thin air.” Except the allergies… and grandmother Esther.

She lost sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, and her parents. They all came with her into Auschwitz but not out. A story like many others, countless others. But even though nearly 70 years later it is still hard for her to watch the programming for Holocaust Remembrance, says her granddaughter, “she has never lost her sense of humor or her dignity or her ingenuity or her sense of morality and purpose.” And above all she did not teach her children to hate, but, as she herself puts it, “to be somebody in the world. Hate doesn’t help anybody. It just spoils everything.” Tell that to “the Pilgrims of Victimhood” at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva.

By the way, when I heard about the speech Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave at the the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (!), I must confess that perhaps I have never felt more proud of being a citizen of one of the few countries in the world which, in the light of the preparatory negotiations ahead of the so-called Durban II meeting, had previously decided to miss such a “memorable” event.

But this is not a matter of being Italians, or Americans, or Canadians. It’s a matter of what does it mean to be Human. That’s why I think the best answer we can give Mr. Ahmadinejad is that of this well-brought-up young woman:

Why give your sons a gun, a black mask, and a suicide belt, when you could give him, instead, a hug and a ticket to study in Dubai? Why build bombs when you could have built a university, a hospital, or a hi-tech park? Why dig smuggling tunnels when you could instead build a subway system to take you to see relatives in Cairo? Why is there no Palestinian or Somali or Pakistani version of the JNF or Hadassah? There would certainly be enough Euros in aid and Saudi oil dollars coming in to fund them, if anyone local cared to organize those efforts, instead of blaming You-Know-Jew (again!) for all of the earth’s problems.