We Are All Guilty
On January 13, 1898, Emile Zola wrote an open letter in response to the Dreyfus affair, accusing the French government of being complicit in the wrongful jailing of Dreyfus and perpetuating antisemitism. J’Accuse: I accuse those that are responsible for their wrongdoing. Zola stood up for what was right. He refused to remain silent. And this will forever go down in history as one of the most powerful statements made by man in an outcry against human injustice.
After the Holocaust, when millions of lives were brutally taken, the world stood up and announced, “Never again.” Never again will we stand by while innocent people are being massacred. And never again will we remain silent to horrific Hitleresque atrocities.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in an unprovoked and baseless attack. For over a week now, Ukraine is being mercilessly bombed, innocent civilians killed, millions more stranded and fleeing in fear of their lives. A country and its people are being torn apart.
And we are at loss: Where are our leaders? Where is the outrage? Where is the Zola of our times? What has become of “never again”?
I find it completely incomprehensible and frankly, despicable that despite the many protests, our leaders in every area – be it in business, academia, politics media – are utterly silent.
We as a people, we as Jews specifically, MUST cry out. We cannot remain silent. The world must stand up against any atrocity perpetrated upon men, women and children. Sanctions and condemnations are not enough. We must have zero tolerance for such outrageous cruelty. An attack on one person is an attack on us all. Our brothers and sisters are being murdered for no reason at all. How can we stand by? If you witness someone being attacked with a knife, would you stand by idly? Would you simply sanction and condemn the act of violence, or would you do everything within your power to stop the attacker?
Now is the time to rise to the occasion. To stand up for what’s right. To make difficult choices. To protect lives. To save a world.
“It’s only when the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.” The tide is now out. And what are we left looking at? We see a western world that is being exposed for its weakness and hypocrisy. For its moral ambiguity. What do we stand for? Ask the average Western teenager or a college professor: what values are you ready to fight for? You may be surprised at the ambivalent answers you will receive.
We see a failing leadership in our political arenas. We see a spineless morality and non existent ethics. Our comforts and easy state of living has produced apathy and complacency. We take our blessings for granted. Our vacuous standards are glaring. Just pay attention to how the media is covering the story. After streaming a steady diet of shallow and frivolous content for years, often stooping to sensationalism, our media outlets are either inept or just plain juvenile in their coverage. They’re proving themselves to be without the ability to address the seriousness and depth of a war.
While the tide is out, one man is left standing, with a solid, unwavering voice of courage and hope. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, himself a Jew, has risen to the occasion as a hero of our times. The president of Ukraine refused to abandon his people and refused to surrender. He has mobilized a country with a spirit and courageous fight that will go down in history as one of the greatest testimonies to human dignity. President Zelenskyy is a testament to the human spirit – the Jewish soldier. We never accept barbaric atrocities, we never succumb to hatred. We will do whatever it takes to stand up for what’s right. The President is making us proud: here is a Jew that did not and will not retreat.
Zelenskyy has stepped up. But where are the others? Will our leaders have the strength to rise and say enough is enough?
History will look back ferociously at this fateful time. We will be judged by how we behaved. Were we paralyzed or proactive? Will we have the inner strength to declare J’Accuse – we accuse those of their crimes and hold them responsible. We will do whatever it takes to stop and prevent these unforgivable horrors.
This is a time where each one of us has to be unequivocally vigilant for what is right and what is wrong. We must all ask ourselves: Will we be the Zola of our times? Will we make sure “Never Again,” remains never again?