Reflections of an Israeli diplomat on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

This indifference to the suffering of our people is the same indifference which allowed the world to look away 80 years ago.


Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations and international organizations in Geneva, issued the statement below about International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is held on Jan. 27 this year. JNS edited the statement lightly for style.

Today is a day we stand together in solemn reflection, honoring the memory of the millions of innocent lives taken during the Holocaust, the darkest chapter of human history.

Today is a day we remember the unprecedented genocide of the Jewish people, total and systematic, perpetrated by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

We stand together not just to remember the horrors of the past but to reflect on unimaginable courage displayed by those who suffered, those who met unspeakable cruelty with unwavering strength. We stand together united in the need to confront the past, in order to shape a better future.

The Holocaust did not start with industrialized mass killings. It began much earlier, with pogroms around Europe. It began when the dehumanization, the beatings, the killings of the Jewish people became normalized.

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The Hamas massacre of Oct. 7 brought us back, for a moment, to those dark times.

At dawn, terrorists entered Israel, and by dusk, more than 1,200 people lay dead, hundreds were taken to Gaza and 136 remain.

And once again, the Jewish people are being told that their lives do not matter. That their suffering is to be contextualized. That their rape is not worth global condemnation.

This indifference to the suffering of our people, as Hamas burnt entire families alive in their homes, is the same indifference which allowed the world to look away 80 years ago.

Unfortunately, this indifference plagues the very halls I speak in today; the very organizations that preach human rights, the very institutions born out of the ashes of Birkenau, Sobibor or Treblinka, established on the premise of “Never again.”

Today, we are once again witnessing a sharp and dramatic rise in antisemitism. Let me be clear, this rise occurred on Oct. 7, the very day Israelis were dying in their homes.

As Jews were being murdered in their beds, Jew-hatred spiked around the world. We must urgently act to ensure that the Jewish people can live safely, and Jewish life can thrive, be it in Kfar Aza or Geneva, New York or Kibbutz Be’eri.

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It is why testimonies of survivors such as Martha Raviv, which we will hear later today, are so important.

The horrors of the Shoah are too big to grasp, but the testimony of one is powerful to understand what took place.

Martha is a symbol of hope, a symbol of light, a symbol of how one can overcome such evil, with such fortitude.

And it is by her example which the Israeli people must now act.

With her courage with the strength and resilience of the survivors of the Shoah as an example, we must overcome the evil from which we have suffered.

We must look at history as a lesson.

The atrocities of the Holocaust were a revelation of the depths to which humankind can fall. It was an abyss of darkness, a stark reminder of the consequences of prejudice, hatred, and indifference.

Yet, those who came out of this abyss, did not just survive. They thrived. We, the Jewish people, as well as the descendants of all victims of Nazism, will forever carry this with us, as a lesson for generations to come.