I grew up in a home where the Holocaust was omnipresent. I am not Jewish but my grandmother, a Kerry republican, had taken into her Dublin home a Polish Jewish refugee who survived physically but never emotionally, and nursed her until her death. I went to a Jewish school and was part of the minority population of non-Jews in a school subjected to anti-Semitic attacks in Catholic 1970s Dublin.
The burning message of “never again” and the critical importance of international legal norms which took on states that made the unconscionable legal were values I learned with my alphabet.
In my adulthood I have learned that this was post-World War II idealism. But yet I cling to its promise that the minority and the weak will be protected by international standards of humanity.
In the past number of weeks we have been reminded of the carnage of Gaza last summer. I recall the almost sickening lurching from news report to latest Twitter posting which brought more news of violation and unyielding cruelty.
Sadly following last summer, I am no longer in contact with my childhood friends who tried to explain how living in fear in Israel made what was happening in Gaza an unhappy necessity. Despite my yearning to find humanity or understanding, their justification of the unjustifiable and the underlying racism that accompanied it, was too much for my conscience.
Gaza has not been rebuilt. More Palestinians have been killed with impunity. Israel continues to assert its legitimacy in the face of all international norms. Without accountability the possibility that the people of Palestine face an unrelenting form of long-term modern genocide is very real. International law has failed.
And I ask myself about Syria and the carnage on those streets. And beautiful Iraq apparently once again on the cusp of a nightmare of conflict. And Libya. And Somalia. More conflict, more deaths.
Words like Isis and terror get in the way of us being allowed to understand the extent and causes of conflict in those post-colonial regions. It is a form of Censorship which we did not see in Palestine.
What I do see are tired, impoverished, dignified and peaceful evacuees from those countries pouring into Europe. And the official response apart from pulling bodies from boats and the sea, is to contest who takes how many. Rather than asking what is happening in the countries from where they fled? What about those left behind? Instead we are diverted to the nonsense of EU leaders’ racist positioning over the heads of human desperation.
And I feel future generations, much like those proceeding the world wars, will ask how, in an age of instant messaging and satellite link ups, we allowed this degrading of humanity to develop. Did we honestly learn nothing from the Holocaust? Is it race or colour that prevent us from acting? Surely the promise and imperative of “never again” was never more important.