Raphael Lemkin Essay

Raphael Lemkin Essay-76
I want to thank Jerry Shestack for a very warm introduction, thank Jerry Fowler for this invitation, and tell you I am going to talk about the man in bronze to our left here.I’m full of some trepidation about it because there are some people in this room who know a great deal more about Raphael Lemkin than I do.

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I mention a particular effort that we are engaged in now of a potential genocide in Sudan.

Outside of this auditorium you will see a very telling exhibit about the potential genocide in Sudan.

I want to thank him publicly for what I’ve learned about Lemkin and about the subject we are talking about tonight.

I’m also aware very keenly that this is -- I’m a Canadian, so I can say this with a certain detachment -- this is a great night in the history of your republic, and you all want to be home, either to avoid the blizzard or to watch a concession speech. Let me begin by talking about the idea of a crime against humanity.

When Claude Lanzmann, the great French film maker was filming Shoah, he asked a Polish peasant, whose fields abutted a death camp, what he felt when he saw human ash from a crematoria, raining down on his fields.

The peasant replied, when I cut my finger, I feel it. That Polish peasant’s reply takes us to the heart of the problem of genocide.About selling and disposing of persons exactly like themselves.The Romans, who are at the root of our conception of law, for example, distinguished explicitly between war waged against civilized peoples, which had to obey certain rules, and war waged against barbarians which didn’t need to obey any rules at all.He has written a series of books: The Warrior’s Honor, which deals with the ethnic destruction and issues of conscience, The Russian Album, which has won the Governor’s Prize, Needs of Strangers, Scar Tissue -- of which he has developed some of his own, in his various travels -- and a recent book dealing with the war in Kosovo.My favorite book of all those that he has written, is a diary of Isaiah Berlin, a great philosopher, human rights advocate, and animator of human rights concepts and the philosophy of human rights.When we are through here tonight I invite you to come down and see that, because it’s something that we should remember.It’s so easy to forget and have a sleeping conscience where it comes to matters of genocidal proportion that we need to be reminded of it.But this concept, I want to argue to you, comes very late in the history of mankind.To judge from the horrible century we have just been through, that concept of a common humanity is still struggling to make headway against the more evident idea that race, or color, or creed, mark frontiers -- impassible frontiers -- of moral concern.I want to publicly acknowledge my indebtedness to Bill Korey who has come from New York to hear the lecture.I’ve learned an enormous amount from Bill Korey’s work on the origin of human rights and the NGO movement.


Comments Raphael Lemkin Essay

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