Wednesday, December 6, 2023

OPINION AND ANALYSIS | 09-11-2023 00:29

Will you remain silent?

React. Don't be silent. There is still time.

Today, November 9, marks another anniversary of the infamous Pogrom better known by the romantic and inappropriate name of Kristallnacht.

Eighty-five years ago, the Nazis in Germany and Austria declared a liberated zone to destroy property, attack Jews and burn synagogues. They realised the next morning that the world did not react properly.

The silence that emerged gave the necessary impetus for the Nazi death machine to carry out the largest industry of ordered assassination, planned in detail and executed with mathematical accuracy, resulting a few years later in the murder of six million Jews, including one-and-a-half million children.

Years before they established laws that little by little undermined rights: no to practise professions, nor public jobs; no to buying from Jews, no to sharing places in squares; not even eligible for buying a lottery ticket. This normalised discrimination was complemented by silence from the rest of the world.

In today's commemorations, a criticism of that silence will be heard from all non-Jews. The most repeated question, asked with a heavy heart, will be: “Why did the world remain silent?” They will surely quote the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller, lamenting that when they went for him, no-one answered.

Before even starting to try and explain this, I ask you for a few extra minutes of reflection. 

Last October 7, we woke up in this part of the world finding out about episodes that we never thought we would witness. Members of the Hamas terrorist organisation entered Israeli territory with the sole objective of causing the greatest possible damage to the civilian population. Not to diminish the military capacity of their enemy, to kill civilians. To kill indiscriminately, rape, behead, burn, and upon leaving, kidnap more than 200 people of different nationalities, the youngest of all being a nine-month-old baby of Argentine origin.

The motivation is not territorial. It is inspired by an extremist religiosity that has proposed, since its creation, the destruction of the State of Israel and the death of all Jews wherever they are. With their narrative they manage to attract followers around the world who vindicate their attack. 

Faced with this, did you remain silent? When they proposed cutting relations with Israel or not trading with its products, did you remain silent? When they marched calling for a Palestinian state from the “river to the sea” (a declaration that implies the destruction of Israel), did you remain silent? When they openly call for the destruction of the “genocidal” State of Israel (an incorrect claim), literally calling for a wiping out of the 10 million inhabitants who live within it, did you remain silent? When, in your country, people call for the expulsion of Zionists (people who defend the self-determination of the Jews in our ancestral land) from universities or social life, did you remain silent? When the statements of Hamas spokesmen were published maintaining that there will only be peace in the world when everyone thinks like them, erasing those who do not from the face of the Earth, did you remain silent?

If all of those answers are yes, don't be surprised. You are doing the same thing that the rest of the world did when Nazism attacked on Kristallnacht. React. Don't be silent. There is still time. Let there be many who stand up before they come for you.

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Dr. Ariel Gelblung

Dr. Ariel Gelblung

Dr. Ariel Gelblung is the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Director for Latin America


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