I am Moshe Baran. I am 92 years old and a Holocaust survivor. I experienced a ghetto and a forced labor camp; I escaped from the Germans with stolen weapons and joined the resistance. I was with the Soviet Army when it liberated Germany.
At the end of the war I dared to dream that six years of bloodshed, destruction and unspeakable human tragedy might finally put an end to war in our world. I felt that the brutal murder of millions of Jews and other targeted groups would bring a period of tranquility and peace and a new dawn of harmony among the nations. Regrettably this was not the case. Since 1945 we have witnessed war in Korea and Vietnam, genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Kosovo in the heart of Europe, and too many other instances of hate and violence to mention.
We learned in the 1930’s that hate words can lead to hateful actions and that hateful actions can lead to genocide. Today I am alarmed and frightened when I notice speech in the media that distorts the truth in hateful ways. Such statements remind me of the time before World War II, when the media was filled with such speech. Populations who receive their news from narrowly targeted sources are particularly likely to have their perceptions shaped by the ethnically biased distortions presented to them. Such speech has already given us massacres in Rwanda and Kosovo, the use of chemical weapons on the Kurdish population of Iraq, and incidents of ethnic cleansing from Chechnya to Indonesia and beyond. Even in the Western world we see hate speech leading to the desecration of churches, mosques and synagogues and even to the murder of two children and their father in front of a school in Toulouse, France.
Silence and indifference can also be forms of hate speech. When we do not speak out in the face of suicide bombings in public places and violence by one group against another in the name of an ethnic or religious purpose, we are allowing the statements of those who perpetrate that violence to become acceptable. When a society is passive in the face of such actions and speech, that society becomes complicit in the results.
It is unacceptable for any of us to be passive in the face of public statements that incite violence. My purpose in creating this blog is to share my awareness of instances of hate speech that permeate the public arena both in the mass media and in less well-disseminated venues. What I ask of you, the reader, is that you will share this information with your own circle of friends and even with your legislators and other public leaders. I believe that when the barrage of hateful speech becomes a topic of public debate rather than indifference, the chance of such speech resulting in violent action is reduced. And such public discussion also has the potential to encourage people to take a stand against those in their communities who act on the messages they hear, condemning their actions in no uncertain terms.
Now that you are aware, I ask you to beware. And I ask you to do your small part by reading this blog regularly and sharing it with everyone you know.
We cannot change the heart of humanity on our own, but each of us can tend to our own hearts and encourage those around us to do the same. I look forward to engaging with you in an ongoing discussion of speech that leads to genocide so that we can leave to our children a world in which such a thing is unthinkable.