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A Shana Tova Card showing Jewish Displaced Persons who survived the Holocaust landing on shores of Israel

David Matas
photo by Rhonda Prepes

B'nai Brith Canada Criticizes CMHR: Decision to Exclude Material on Birth of Israel in Holocaust Gallery is A Serious Misstep

Human rights lessons which flow from the Holocaust include the creation of the State of Israel

by David Matas, Senior Legal Counsel August 10, 213

Winnipeg, August 7, 2013-- The decision of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights (CMHR), as stated by Dr. Clint Curle, Head of Stakeholder Relations, to exclude material on the establishment of the State of Israel in its Holocaust exhibits is a serious misstep and must be immediately corrected according to B’nai Brith Canada.

 “The question is not whether the establishment of the State of Israel is part of the historical aspect of the Holocaust, rather whether the human rights lessons which flow from the Holocaust include the creation of the State of Israel," commented David Matas, International Human Rights Lawyer and Senior Legal Counsel for B'nai Brith Canada.

According to Matas, "The answer to that question is clearly yes since to come to grips with the human rights lessons of the Holocaust means addressing the establishment of the State of Israel." 

David Matas says:

Clint Curle, the Head of Stakeholder Relations at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, has stated that the Museum "has chosen not to include material on the establishment of the State of Israel in the Holocaust gallery."[1]  B'nai Brith Canada has a response to that statement.

 In assessing this Museum choice, one must keep in mind that the Museum is not a Holocaust museum nor an atrocities museum nor a history museum.  The museum is a human rights museum.

So in assessing whether material on the establishment of the State of Israel should be in the Museum Holocaust gallery, the question is not so much whether the establishment of the State of Israel is properly part of the historical story of the Holocaust as whether the human rights lessons which flow from the Holocaust include, as a significant element worthy of mention, the creation of the State of Israel.  Our answer to that question is yes, that to come to grips with the human rights lessons of the Holocaust means addressing the establishment of the State of Israel.

The issue arises prior to, during and after the Holocaust.  Prior to the Holocaust, one can say that, if the State of Israel had existed, the Holocaust would not have happened.  One can see this both from the Jewish and the Nazi perspective.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, diagnosed antisemitism as a disease from which the Jews suffered because of their statelessness. He considered that antisemitism would be resolved "on a political basis" through the creation of Jewish state.  He predicted that, once a state was created for the Jewish people, the Jews would become like any other people.  They would have their quarrels with other nations.  But those quarrels would be no different from the quarrels nations then had with each other.  He argued in his pioneering 1896 pamphlet "The Jewish State" that the advent of the Jewish state "would put an end to antisemitism."

Britain, which before and during World War II controlled the territory of what is now Israel, imposed strict quotas on Jewish (but not Arab) immigration to that territory.  Jews beyond the quota who attempted to reach what is now Israel were sent back by the British authorities, upholding the quota system.

Before the Holocaust, the non-existence of the State of Israel did not just though damn those who attempted to immigrate there beyond the quota system.  It was a generator of the Holocaust in its entirety.

The Nazis at the beginning of World War II attempted to rid Germany and the countries the Nazis conquered of all Jews through expulsion.  The mass killings of Jews began only after it became clear to the Nazis that expulsion was not available as an option[2].  If Israel had been in existence, mass expulsion of Jews would have been possible - to Israel.  

During the Holocaust, the same British quotas prevented Jews beyond the quota from seeking refuge in the territory.  While Nazi border controls and the already determined extermination policy made escape impossible for most, there were many either who did escape to what is now Israel and were turned back or could have escaped but were stopped from ever embarking by the British quotas and blockade[3].

Immediately after the Holocaust and World War II, the community of nations adopted the Charter of the United Nations, in 1945, which endorsed the principle of self determination of peoples[4].  The adoption of this principle on the heels of the Holocaust, with the Holocaust first and foremost in the minds of the drafters, was an endorsement of the right to self determination of the Jewish people.

The human rights superstructure built after World War II, including the right to self determination of peoples, was an effort to close the barn door after the horse had escaped, an attempt

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