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The devastating loss of “Never Again”

Screenshot from Instagram - credit to @veganrabbi/@elizabethyounger
Screenshot from Instagram - credit to @veganrabbi/@elizabethyounger

In the shadow of history’s most atrocious genocides, the phrase “Never Again” emerged as a solemn pledge – a collective commitment by the global community to prevent the recurrence of such unspeakable horrors. It was a promise made in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the mass killings in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, and other dark chapters of human history. Yet, despite the vow embedded within these powerful words, the world continues to witness atrocities that starkly contradict the foundational principle of “Never Again.” This devastating loss of promise not only signifies a failure to uphold a moral obligation but also reflects a deeper crisis in international solidarity and action.

The echoes of past atrocities

The origins of “Never Again” lie in the collective shock and revulsion following the Holocaust, where six million Jews, along with millions of others, including Poles, Romani people, Soviet POWs, LGBTQ+, and disabled individuals, were systematically murdered by Nazi Germany. The world, in hindsight, pledged to remember and learn from this unparalleled tragedy to prevent its recurrence.

For 78 years, we proudly shouted “Never Again” from every corner of the world.

But on October 7th, 2023, everything changed forever. That very dark day was, unfortunately, our “again.” Twelve-hundred people were killed in a single day. That is almost as many killed during the entire Second Intifada, but all in a single day. October 7th, came without a single warning, and the current wave of antisemitism is a warning for our survival.

The persistent shadow of genocide

Despite these promises, the 21st century has not been immune to the scourge of genocide and mass atrocities. The early 2000s witnessed the Darfur genocide, where ethnic cleansing and killings continued for years, drawing international condemnation but limited effective intervention. More recently, the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar, targeted by military forces in a brutal campaign of violence since 2017, has been described by the United Nations as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” with some leaders and human rights organizations labeling it a genocide, as well the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims in China, which has been happening for a decade.

The failure of international mechanisms

The repeated occurrence of such atrocities highlights a troubling gap between the aspirational rhetoric of “Never Again” and the practical mechanisms in place to prevent genocide. The United Nations, despite having the prevention of genocide as a core mission, often finds itself paralyzed by political divisions within its own Security Council, limiting its ability to act decisively in the face of emerging genocides. The International Criminal Court, established to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, faces challenges of jurisdiction, political will, and the cooperation of states.

The amount of silence from the United Nations, along with their refusal to condemn October 7th, along with the mass murders, rapes, and hostage crisis, is nothing but a slap in the face to Jews.

A call for renewed vigilance and solidarity

The loss of “Never Again” is not just a failure to prevent new atrocities but also a failure to remember and honor the victims of past atrocities through action. It calls for a renewed commitment to vigilance, the strengthening of international mechanisms for prevention and accountability, and a revitalization of the global community’s commitment to human rights and dignity. Solidarity must be transformed from a passive sentiment into active engagement: supporting civil society initiatives, bolstering humanitarian interventions, and ensuring that diplomatic and economic tools are wielded more effectively to prevent and respond to signs of emerging genocides.

As the saying goes, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.”

The devastating loss of “Never Again” as a fulfilled promise is a stark reminder of the complexities and challenges in preventing genocide. It underscores the necessity for the international community to reassess and strengthen its approach to foresee, prevent, and respond to such atrocities. Only through collective action, unwavering vigilance, and a genuine commitment to human rights can the world hope to turn “Never Again” from a recurrent epitaph of failure into a reality of prevention and justice.

When we say “Never Again is now” – we mean it.

About the Author
Perri Schwartz is an activist and writer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a 2021-2022 alumnus of the Young Judaea Year Course gap year. She interned with the Israel Daily News Podcast while on Year Course. She is also on the autism spectrum and is super passionate about making the world a better place. You can follow her on Instagram, @thezioprincess.
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