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HMD moving forward

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-10-31

Leslie Bunder

Leslie Bunder

A few years ago, I wrote of my concern that Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) was being perceived as a Jewish only day, a day in which only Jewish suffering was being recognised.

I called for a National Genocide Day, a day which would recognise all people who have suffered under regimes that have sought to systematically destroy them.

I was even quoted by the Muslim Council of Britain as an example of how some Jews are against the day for not being inclusive enough.

But today, while I do still have some concerns about the day and how it is recognised, I think we need to move on about the name of the day and focus on what the day is really about. A day for all people to learn about what happens when bigotry and hatred is allowed to be acceptable in society.

Renaming the day, just to appease certain groups who have boycotted it, is not the answer to this. The answer is to be involved with what is happening now and working with those involved in it.

Being het up about the name is not something we should still be focusing on. It is time to move on and actually recognise that the day, while it is rooted in Jewish suffering is not just a Jewish thing.

Over recent years, the organisers have sought to make sure that other groups and events in history have been recognised from Cambodia to Rwanda and from Bosnia to Kosovo.

Even looking at the day itself, it is not about being just a Jew thing. On the Holocaust Memorial Day website, it states quite clearly that it is about remembering all victims who suffered under Nazi persecution such as Gypsies, gay men and lesbians, disabled people and those who politically opposed the Nazis.

Sure, there are some issues that the day does not address, nor seem to recognise such as the treatment of Sephardi Jews during World War II in the Middle East. No mention of the Farhud, the day in 1941 when Iraqi Jews suffered their own version of Kristallnacht and which started the process of Iraqi Jews fleeing their country. Over 500 Jewish businesses were looted and destroyed and 180 people killed.

My concern with this is that while the day looks at the World War II, it can be selective as to how it defines the suffering of this era in history.

But a day such as HMD is constantly evolving. They may not mention the Farhud today or the suffering of Sephardi Jews, but that doesn't mean it should be boycotted because of that.

What it does mean is that people should draw these issues to the trust running the day and look to make sure that these events are also taught as part of it.

So while a few years ago I felt that HMD was a waste of a day, I think that in the present climate of hatred of people becoming acceptable in society, a day like HMD regardless of whether it focuses on Jews, Cambodians or the disabled is a day to have and mark.