The Man Who Coined the Term “Genocide” and His Poem about the Holocaust

April 9 2021

A Russian-born lawyer and committed Zionist, Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) is best known for coining the word genocide in 1933, and for his role in laying the legal groundwork for the Nuremberg trials. He also wrote Hebrew verse, much of which has been lost. But James Loeffler and Leora Bilsky recently discovered a poem (translated here) he published in an Israeli newspaper in 1957. They write:

In a prefatory note to the poem, . . . Lemkin said that “the world had begun to forget the great crime against the Jews.” [The] poem takes the form of a classic Hebrew lamentation over the tragic losses suffered by the Jewish people, whose names had been blotted out by their persecutors. In language echoing the Israelite prophets, medieval Ashkenazi liturgical elegies, and the modern Hebrew poet Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik, Lemkin evokes the classic imagery of the ruined Jewish cityscape. In his verse, dogs and pigs defile half-buried Jewish bones as a terrible silence reigns in the empty streets. Like Bialik’s Kishinev in pre-World War I Russia and Isaiah’s Jerusalem millennia before, the ransacked, desolate city symbolizes the vanquished Jewish people, who, to paraphrase Isaiah, live on only in the form of “a sign and a remembrance.”

Lemkin’s anguished text also explains why the world had already begun to forget the Holocaust. Genocide represents more than a large-scale physical assault on human bodies, he suggests; it is also an attack on the very existence of minority cultures. In a genocide, books are burned and memories are extinguished. Lemkin describes a silent piano and a muted violin, whose owners have been disappeared and whose songs will never be heard again. “In the school, where you once taught,” he wrote, “Your gifted student will be punished,/ For praising your name.”

Lemkin’s lost poem reminds us of something valuable. When we remember the Holocaust only as a universal parable of racial hatred and religious stigmatization, we miss its full import as an attack against Jews as Jews. If we likewise condition the memory of the Holocaust on its relevance to contemporary political issues, we risk distorting the crime itself and dishonoring its Jewish victims once more.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Genocide, Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Hebrew poetry, Raphael Lemkin

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela