As a 21st-century Jew, it is especially important to stay informed about the current atrocities of the world. Our people’s history of enduring targeted oppression, which have threatened our very existence requires us to be proactive agents of positive growth. Our parents and grandparents survived the camps of Europe, the Farhud of Iraq and too many other attempts to eradicate us while the world stood staring with apathetic eyes. Unfortunately, we are behaving no differently than they were.
In the Xinjiang region of China, the Uyghurs, a Turkish Muslim minority are struggling beneath a surveillance state meant to subdue and ultimately eliminate their identity. Their phone calls are monitored, they are watched by cameras placed on every street and corner, they are subject to voice and facial recognition, as well as nonconsensual seizure of their DNA constituting an enormous breach of their privacy and human rights.
China insists these severe measures are meant to prevent extremism and radical elements from committing attacks against the state. In reality, it is the Uyghurs’ belief in God that drives the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to such extremes. Any ideology or cultural expression that ascribes power greater than that of the CCP to another entity is seen as a threat to China’s sovereignty. And so, history repeats itself. An ethnic cleansing is developing in full view of the world as an estimated 28 “re-education” camps have already witnessed over 1 million prisoners go through “vocational training.” Parents have their children ripped from their hands, their privacy and dignity molested, and the survival of their collective heritage violently threatened with extinction.
In a testimony given before a Congressional committee, a first-hand account is given with wails of despair as this young woman describes being tortured, abused, and the eternal pain of her five-year-old son dying after being taken from her. The Uyghurs are living a frightening Orwellian nightmare, mirroring our own past. They are experiencing an existential attack on their future that we as Jews are all too familiar with. It should come as no surprise that we have the responsibility to speak up to help bring this to an end.
Like the righteous few who took a stand by risking and sacrificing their lives to protect our families from the gas chambers, are we not obligated to do the same? It’s no secret we have always found it easy to speak our minds and take action when someone suffers; our traditions have always preached empathy. Indeed, we say ‘to save a life is akin to saving the world.’ When so often we lament to the world their disregard of our Holocaust, of our suffering, and our loss, we too must act as righteous among the nations.
When such extreme abuses of human rights are brought to light, the politics of change should be one directional. Our democracy, this shared political sphere that reaches across the globe, is our tool. Yet the norms established after WW2 through the treaties on human rights, the agreements on civil rights, the fundamental and universal values we have all agreed to are being butchered and stripped of their power. “On Oct. 14, the United Nations Human Rights Council confirmed China’s membership, though with fewer votes than when it last stood for election to the council in 2016. Beijing has served as a council member for 12 of the last 14 years, despite having an appalling record of human rights abuses.”
This is a canary in the mine. The red flag is being raised for us to respond to, not ignore. We determinedly pronounce to the world “never again,” so let’s hold ourselves accountable and speak words that carry weight. It takes but a few minutes to exercise our capacity and firmly declare this is unacceptable! We do not want this for us nor for the nations of the earth. We call on our leaders to take significant action to prevent genocide from being normal and tolerable in the international sphere. Because if not now, when? Tomorrow? When more die? When it gets closer to home? Will that be too late?
Below are links for you to learn more and to act more: