Sen. John McCain speaks out against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the following remarks this week at the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Annual Commemoration of the Tom Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial, a collection named in memory of Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the United States Congress, distinguished Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and one of the world’s leading voices on human rights:

John McCain 1

“Thank you very much, Katrina. It’s a privilege to be with you today to speak at MEMRI’s Annual Commemoration of the Tom Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial. This vitally important institution stands as a fitting memorial to a great patriot who knew the dangers and cruelty of despotism, and dedicated his life to fighting tyranny and promoting the enduring values we hold dear. I had the honor of serving in Congress with Congressman Lantos, and his tireless efforts in defending human rights across the world had an indelible impact on me. I will always be thankful for his leadership and example.

“This is a momentous time to be speaking on anti-Semitism. As we look around the world, we encounter upheaval and conflict like never before. I have often said that the United States and our allies in the international community are facing a more diverse and complex array of crises than we have witnessed since the end of World War II. Many of the threats emerging from these crises are new and unprecedented; but, sadly, some we know all too well.

“From Paris to Brussels and back to the very heartland of Germany, we see the specter of anti-Semitism re-emerging throughout Europe. The kosher-grocery store massacre in Paris; the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse; attackers throwing Molotov cocktails at a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany; and the terrorist attack that killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels are just a few of the most prominent attacks in a long list of growing violence directed towards the Jewish community.

“While the horror of these attacks have rightly shocked the world’s conscience and drawn the condemnation of many world leaders, there have also been smaller, less-noticed incidents that suggest that, perhaps, anti-Semitism never really left us: small protests in Germany where marchers yelled, ‘Gas the Jews’; a shop owner in Belgium who posted a sign saying he would serve dogs but not Jews; and a conductor on a Brussels commuter train who announced a stop at ‘Auschwitz’ and jokingly ordered all Jews to debark.

“These incidents make clear that an insidious anti-Jewish bias seems to be creeping back into mainstream thinking. Broader social and economic resentments related to immigration, unemployment, and limited resources in Europe and elsewhere have begun to express themselves in terms of anti-Semitism – terms that seem to be more socially acceptable than ever before. In France, for example, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Front Party and a popular politician, has frequently used anti-Semitic language and puns in her speeches.

“In Germany, Lutz Bachmann of the anti-immigration Pegida Party was photographed posing as Hitler. In Hungary, the rise of the Jobbik Party under the charismatic leadership of Gabor Vona – who has called on the government to draw up a list of Jews in the country who pose a national-security risk – has made anti-Semitic rhetoric en vogue. And in Greece, a recent survey found that nearly 70 percent of adults hold anti-Semitic views which are openly expressed by the country’s Golden Dawn Party. Such rhetoric and behavior from many of Europe’s far-right parties reveal just how deeply ingrained anti-Semitism remains.

“While it would be wrong to compare 1933 with today, there is indeed a sense of familiarity here. After so many years of expressing regrets and pledging ‘never again,’ could it be that we are witnessing a resurgence of anti-Semitism in our political and economic discourse and that such remarks and actions are becoming increasingly acceptable? For a millennium, a poisonous hatred of Jews – including persecution, expulsions, and massacres – was common practice in Europe and elsewhere around the world. Only after the shame of the Holocaust did anti-Semitism become intolerable.

“But I fear that perhaps our historical memory is fading – that ‘never again’ has become another empty phrase. This is all too evident in Syria where the world has watched the brutal massacre of over 300,000 people, but increasingly we see it elsewhere too. And the fact that many within the Jewish community are openly questioning whether it is time for them to leave Europe suggests just how deeply we have forgotten our sense of ‘never again.’

“Expressions of outrage and promises to fight against anti-Semitism with all means at our disposal, while necessary, bring little comfort. We all know that we cannot be silent, but we cannot allow words to replace action either. Moral outrage means nothing without the force of action to back it up. This means that all governments, including our own, must be bold in our outrage when we see anti-Semitism and categorically condemn its expression, even when doing so is inconvenient or unpleasant.

“We must, moreover, fully investigate and prosecute incidents of anti-Semitic violence, publish accurate data on attacks, and work with Jewish communities to assess their security needs and provide protection against violence – including training police and prosecutors, and forging productive relationship between law enforcement and affected communities. Such measures will help address anti-Semitic, racist, and violent ideologies, but this is only a start. The need for a broad engagement strategy is urgent, and we must do more to challenge these purveyors of hate.

“Make no mistake: there are powerful reasons for America and Europe to prevent the spread of virulent anti-Semitism in the name of our collective national security interests and the preservation of our democratic values. We are deluding ourselves if we believe we can be complacent about rising anti-Semitism and its propagators without witnessing a weakening of democracy and security around the world.

“Put simply, these attacks should not just be a source of heartbreak and sympathy to us. They should be a source of moral outrage and a call to action. History has taught us that anti-Semitism is not just a threat to the Jewish community; it is a threat to who we are, and who we aspire to be, as a people and a nation. Failure to meet the threat posed by rising anti-Semitism risks unravelling the incredible progress we have made in the wake of World War II towards building a just and peaceful world order based on respect for inalienable human rights and dignity.

“Education is the first step. And this is where the Tom Lantos Archives on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial plays such an invaluable role in disseminating vital and accurate information to create an informed public. But as we recall the horrors of the past, we must recognize that remembrance and awareness are only the start – not the end – of our responsibility to confront evil, defend truth, and unite in the face of threats to our peace and security.

“There is a real and present danger posed by the growing strength of anti-Semitic forces in Europe and other parts of the world. When we saw the horrors of the Holocaust, we said never again and promised that it would finally be the end to the saddest chapter in world history. Shame on all us if we let facile pledges of ‘never again’ replace moral outrage and real action. With the assistance of this institution and the continuing memory of Tom Lantos, I remain hopeful that we will not let history repeat itself.”

John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican presidential nominee in the 2008 United States presidential election.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable. Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the arrow in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment