Op-Ed by Moshe Kantor in the Daily Telegraph: As the Holocaust fades from living memory, it is more urgent than ever to teach its lessons

In the early 1960s John F. Kennedy paraphrased John Stuart Mill, observing that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” At that time the Holocaust remained fresh in the memory and the incalculable cost of 1930s inaction in the face of creeping extremism was still being counted through the testimony of those who survived. In the decades that followed, successive generations were schooled in the consequences of under-estimating extremist views.

Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and likely the last commemoration where Holocaust survivors will be in attendance. The memory of one of humanity’s most horrific events fades with the passing of those who endured it. At the same time, antisemitism and the proliferation of extremist views are re-emergent.

The controversy surrounding the British Labour Party and its apparent lack of urgency in rebutting sustained and credible charges of anti-Semitism has been a consistent feature of the past few years. In a recent poll, more than 80 per cent of European Jews admitted to feeling unsafe. A new strain of latent anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist opinion is being allowed to germinate. Views that would recently have been regarded as abhorrent are greeted in too many quarters with a resigned shrug.

The rise of digital communication has complicated the danger. Social media has a chilling ability to connect the disaffected with extremist views that offer a focus for their anger. The post-truth era, a widening gulf between rich and poor and the asymmetric threat of online disinformation offers fertile soil for those preaching hate and assigning blame to the Jewish community or other similarly maligned groups.

The middle classes, often the rational opponents to extremist tendencies have been distracted by their own economic struggles, eroding their ability or willingness to act as an effective force for social stability. But now, more than any time in the past 75 years, there is a fierce urgency to rearticulate the lessons of the past.

The weapons we have at our disposal are threefold. First, we must continue to educate people of every colour and creed on the consequences of standing idly by while erroneous slurs are manufactured and develop into frightening prejudice. We must work particularly hard to relate these lessons to those generations who have never known war, much less the need to actively oppose extremist tyranny.
Second, we need laws that empower communities to meet ever more complex extremist methodologies head on. The asymmetry and cowardice of modern hate campaigns, particularly in cyberspace, require a more sophisticated legal framework.

Second, we need laws that empower communities to meet ever more complex extremist methodologies head on. The asymmetry and cowardice of modern hate campaigns, particularly in cyberspace, require a more sophisticated legal framework.

Third, we must invest security and law enforcement with the powers and tools they need to identify and neutralise antisemitic and extremist hate campaigns well before they establish any momentum.

Antisemitism fundamentally equates to extremism and extremism is a threat to us all. When we allow these forces to shake the pillars of our communities, society as a whole is imperiled. We would do well to remember that while the Holocaust claimed six million Jewish lives, close to 50 million non-Jews died in a war inspired by a political movement that adopted the extermination of global Jewry as a founding principle. Any resigned acceptance of extreme prejudice will fuel other hateful philosophies emboldened by the absence of serious resistance.

The relative peace we have enjoyed for the past 75 years has lulled us into a false sense of security. Generations given no choice but to fight for their freedom and beliefs are dying, and the world is now largely governed by those who have never experienced the price of tolerating false ideology. As we embark on a new decade, nationalism is in the ascendant and global institutions borne out of the post-war consensus face challenges.

Last week we convened 46 world leaders at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, to renew a joint commitment to the rejection of antisemitism. It can be done if we all recognise that we can never drop our guard. Put simply, it requires good men and good women to act.


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