I am sure many of you remember the litmus tests we did in high school chemistry. I do not remember much about them except for the fact that the litmus paper changed colour depending on the acidic or basic quality of the material being tested.
The concept of litmus tests in which we use the phrase to describe the quality of something with respect to a certain variable is one which I of course seen and have used over the years. I often talk about my litmus test for my kibbutz, as to whether it is still an intentional community I can be proud of, being the way we care for people in the community who have special needs.
Today is January 27th, seventy years since the liberation of Auschwitz. The web, Facebook and traditional media are full of wonderful stories of those who were freed and the lives they have created, filled with the memories of those who perished in that awful place and who are still remembered both by those who knew them and those who have always missed them as the grandparents they never knew or the great uncles and aunts they should have had, filled with reflections about anti-Semitism around the world today and whether there could ever be another Auschwitz.
I want to use today to talk about something else or rather, somebody else and litmus tests. A few days ago we were shocked here in Israel by the attack on a young person in Jerusalem for one reason and one reason only, he was speaking Arabic. Tommy Chason a young Druze man, a music student in Jerusalem studying piano at the Rubin Academy, until recently a soldier in the IDF, part of a community whose leadership signed the famous "Brit Damim", the Covenant of Blood, with David Ben Gurion in 1950, a self confessed Zionist, was attacked next to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station last week by a group of young men wearing kippot (yarmulkes). He was punched, spat on, kicked and beaten up. His nose was broken.
Let's be clear about a few things. It was irrelevant to include the detail that I did about him being Druze, about him having served in the IDF, a student of music, a Zionist. Even if I had written that he was a Muslim in traditional garb, who belonged to an anti-Zionist organization and had previously been under suspicion for anti-Israel activities, nobody has the right to decide to use violence against anyone for speaking Arabic in Israel.
Just imagine if in, let's say Paris, young Israelis speaking Hebrew, wearing shirts with IDF symbols on them or wearing kippot, were attacked. An outrage we would say. Anti-Semites we would cry out. Invoking the middle of the 20th Century we might ask was it not enough that they murdered us in Auschwitz!! We would be indignant and rightly so.
On this the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz I would like to make it clear: when those young men in Jerusalem attacked Tommy Chason, they were imitating the behaviour of young men in Germany in the 1930s against our people. Their behaviour is a badge of shame for us as Jews and Israelis. Their behaviour not only pains us, it also stains us.
So that we may continue to honour the memory of those of our people murdered all those years ago in Auschwitz, we need today to do what the President of the State of Israel did after the attack, to be unequivocal in our condemnation of racism when we see it. This was racism in its ugliest incarnation. It is despicable, not Jewish and cannot be part of our lives here in Israel. No ifs, buts or understanding that "we have been through so much etc, etc."
Racism is racism is racism.
May we bless their memory by working for a society based on the acknowledgement that each human life has an equal value. This must be our litmus test.