We are approaching that time of year when people of many faiths and none come together in unity to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, which serves as a stark reminder of how genocidal regimes throughout history have crushed communities by “othering”, marginalising and ultimately murdering minority groups. This year not only marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, where more than one million Jews were exterminated by the Nazis, but also the 25th anniversary of the Serbian genocide of Bosnians in Srebrenica.
The cries of “Never again” are linked indelibly to the Holocaust, which witnessed the ideological and systematic industrialised mass murder of millions of European Jews — as well as Gypsies, disabled people, dissidents, trade unionists and homosexuals — by Germany’s Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945. And yet here we are, in the second decade of the 21st century, witnessing the genocidal ethnic cleansing of millions of Muslims by a number of emboldened regimes around the world.
In Bangladesh, refugee camps are holding around one million Rohingya Muslims who’ve fled over the years from neighbouring Myanmar. Almost three-quarters of a million fled from the Burmese army between October 2016 and January 2017 alone.
In China, government-run concentration camps hold more than a million Muslim Uyghurs who are being punished, tortured and abused. We know this thanks to undercover filming, brave journalists and the work of human rights groups.
Meanwhile, eight million Muslims in Kashmir have been under siege by the Indian government since last August. Draconian measures have been imposed by New Delhi, including blocking the internet and a ban on protests. Beatings are commonplace, and live ammunition has been used against unarmed demonstrators.
It is difficult for local and foreign journalists to get access to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh while interviewing Rohingya still living in Myanmar, or Kashmiris or Uyghurs is virtually impossible thanks to a crackdown by Naypyitaw, New Delhi and Beijing respectively. Despite the media blackouts, however, the world knows that genocidal regimes are ignoring “never again” while the so-called civilised world conveniently looks the other way.
Of all the countries on this planet that you would think would take a principled stand against genocide wherever and whenever it raises its ugly head, you would expect it to be Israel. The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre is, after all, based at Yad Vashem on the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem. However, the Israeli government is on the point of signing a multi-billion dollar trade deal with China and is proving to be a useful trading partner for Myanmar and India by supplying weapons and military hardware, all field-tested on the Palestinians in the occupied territories, of course. The fact that Yad Vashem stands a couple of kilometres from the site of the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin, where Zionist militias massacred “hundreds” of Palestinians in April 1948, provides us with an insight into the real nature of the Israeli regime.
Human rights, it seems, get pushed into the background when it is financially convenient for Israel to do so. The violations against Rohingya refugees and Kashmiris are not dissimilar to the treatment that Israel dishes out to the Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, which has been under an Israeli-led siege for 13 years and basically cordoned off for decades. Training provided by the Israeli security forces appears to be paying off for the rogue regimes.
Someone who has broken his silence, though, is the Chief Minister of Punjab in India, Amarinder Singh. He has described the country’s new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as being against its secular fabric. “What happened in Germany under Hitler in 1930 is happening in India now,” said Singh. “Germans did not speak then, and they regretted it, but we have to speak now so that we do not regret later.” Singh is seeking the immediate repeal of the CAA. Pointing to the omission of Muslims and other minorities, including Jews, from citizenship under the CAA, his resolution asks for a repeal of the Act “to avoid any discrimination on the basis of religion in granting citizenship and to ensure equality before the law for all religious groups in India.”
The Kerala state government passed a recent resolution against the CAA and also moved the Supreme Court against the Act which grants Indian citizenship to refugees from Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Parsi communities fleeing religious persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before 31 December 2014.
Since the theme for 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day is “Stand Together”, perhaps this is something that Western leaders should do, and speak out collectively against tyranny and oppression wherever it takes place. If that means challenging their counterparts in China, India, Myanmar or Israel, they should have the moral and political courage to do so; they certainly have international law on their side.
In Europe’s dark years leading up to the Holocaust, Nazi policies and propaganda deliberately whipped up feelings amongst the Germans to see themselves as superior beings, which enabled more open anti-Semitism and the persecution of their German-Jewish neighbours. Today, we see similar demonisation of Muslims across the West, as well as in Kashmir, China, the occupied Palestinian territories and Myanmar.
Genocide — the Sequel is playing out before our eyes, with Muslims as its target, but this is no movie. The cry of “Never again” is, in reality, too late. We should be shouting “Stop it now!”
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.