Why Israel Should Not Support Chinese Totalitarianism

Upon learning that Israeli PM Netanyahu visited China on a state visit, I wanted to vomit.  I reflected on the ugly parallels between the Nazi Olympics of 1936 and the Beijing Olympics of 2008  Both Olympics celebrated totalitarian and genocidal regimes.  The Nazis targeted the Jews.  Today the Chinese Communist regime targets Tibetans, North Koreans, Darfur, and Chinese political dissidents.

I am not surprised that the U.S. and Europe place profits over people and support the genocidal Chinese regime.  I remember the world’s celebration of Chinese totalitarianism during the Beijing Olympics and began to understand how such cruel indifference to human suffering made the Holocaust possible. But I was disappointed that American Jews and Israelis joined the wider Western world in endorsing the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and condoning the Chinese regime’s crimes against humanity. The Jews were painfully isolated when the world celebrated the Nazi Olympics in 1936.  Yet the Jews chose to collude in tyranny and genocide in 21st century China.

By visiting China, PM Netanyahu continued a shameful Israeli and American Jewish pattern of condoning the following crimes against humanity:

  • the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 in which 2,000 unarmed Chinese students and workers were barbarically slaughtered because they peacefully demonstrated for human rights and democracy.  I was just 13 years old when this massacre occurred, but I will never forget it as long as I live.
  • The ongoing Chinese occupation and genocide of Tibet.  At least  1.2 million Tibetans have been murdered, and China is systematically torturing and imprisoning Tibetan monks and destroying Tibetan culture.
  • The Communist totalitarian regime in North Korea.  This regime keeps at least 200,000 people in concentration camps in which mass murder is a regular occurrence. Millions of North Koreans have been deliberately starved to death under horrific conditions.  Christians are systemically tortured, imprisoned, and even murdered for practicing their religion in brutal violation of the basic right to religious freedom
  • The ongoing Darfur genocide. The Chinese regime is primarily responsible for the Darfur genocide which has killed hundreds of thousands of African Muslims in Darfur.
  • the horrific practice of gendercide documented by Women’s Rights Without Frontiers.  Chinese women are subjected to forced abortions under often barbaric conditions which violate their right to reproductive freedom.  Many Chinese pregnant women also suffer grave bodily injury and even death during these forced abortions.
  • the systematic persecution of brave political dissidents such as 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo.

I am disappointed with my fellow Jews for standing with Chinese tyranny and oppression and for failing to support the brave Chinese democrats who are standing up for freedom under impossibly difficult conditions. The lack of Jewish compassion and solidarity for the victims of Chinese totalitarianism is appalling. These crimes against humanity violate Jewish and universal human values and should not be condoned.

Mr. Liu participated in the Chinese pro-democracy movement in 1989 and witnessed the Tiananmen massacre during which he tried to save lives.  Following the massacre, he was imprisoned for 20 months.  He was imprisoned for three years from 1996 to 1999 in a ‘re-education camp’ for co-authoring a declaration with Wang Xizhe which endorsed the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.  In 2008 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping to draft Charter 08, a declaration challenging the Chinese regime’s political repression and affirming the Chinese people’s right to human dignity and freedom.

Every year Mr. Liu wrote a memorial poem on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989.  This atrocity took place on June 4, and so the poems are titled June 4th Elegies.  They are beautifully translated by Jeffrey Yang, who provided Mr. Liu’s biographical sketch in an afterword to his poems on page 216-221.

I cancelled my plans to learn Chinese after the Tiananmen Massacre.  The poems were so moving, heart-rending, and beautiful that they made me wish I had learned Chinese so I could have translated the work of brave dissidents like Mr. Liu.

His haunting memorial poem in 1994 draws a connection between Jewish and Chinese suffering.  He writes on page 37:

A mother’s womb becomes an inferno

amniotic fluid-feeding inferno

becomes an executioner’s paradise

Auschwitz and Jerusalem

passes through the smelting furnace

wailing wall’s stone remains

so hard

to pierce ancient history.

Surely a man who shows such incredible empathy for Jewish suffering and who understands the connection between the Holocaust and the destruction of the Second Temple deserves Jewish support.  Chinese democrats are fighting for human dignity, and they should be receiving active Jewish support rather than silent indifference which condones their suffering.

About the Author
Rachel's educational background includes a B.A. in international relations from Brown University; she has been an independent scholar, analyst, and researcher about Middle Eastern affairs for 12 years; Her focus has been on Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Egypt.