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Saturday, 9 July 2011

The reality of the Holocaust and the value of human life

Watching from a distance the implosion this week of The News of the World has had the awful appeal of watching a disaster in slow motion. You can see it coming, you know you really have better things to do with your life but the appalling inevitability of events calls for your attention with a degree of hypnotic power.

The entire shenanigans certainly won't do much for the not terribly public regard for the profession of journalism. It so happened that this week I have been reading a selection of the writings of one of those journalists whose contribution reminds us that there are some who stand out through their moral sensibility and their concern with the way language is used. I refer of course to Robert Fisk, in this case to his collection of columns in The Age of the Warrior: Selected Writings.

Throughout Fisk's writings is a concern for care in the use of language and a rooted antipathy to politicians whose misuse of language and unwillingness to go anywhere the truth in their justification of war.

There is a also a deep concern throughout Fisk's journalism that human life should be respected and it was a few lines on this issue that caught my attention. In the course of his discussion of the diary of Klemperer's account of the Holocaust he quotes a comment from Khatami a former president of Iran responding to the current President Ahmadinejab who apparently views the holocaust as myth, who observed that "The death of even one Jew is a crime", While this reply starts with the specific issue of the holocaust of Jews it pushes the moral issue beyond that of the ethnic identity of the victims.

Fisk goes on to observe that "Indeed his words symbolised something more crucial: that the importance and the evil of the Holocaust do not depend on the Jewish identity of the victims. The awesome wickedness of the Holocaust lies in the fact that the victims were human beings just like you and me." (p.143)

Yes indeed, and those who have been the victims of other episodes of attempted genocide have their claim on us because they too were human beings, not because of their ethnic identity.

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