Coauthored with Allyson Neville
Thursday is Yom Hashoah – or Holocaust Remembrance Day – which honors the memory of the six million Jews who perished during World War II. The remembrance of this genocide underscores that there is much more we need to do to make good on our commitment “never again” to allow such atrocities to take place.
Promising legislation that would help in this task is currently before Congress.
Unfortunately, action has stalled. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Tennessee’s own Sen. Bob Corker, has an opportunity to break the logjam and should do so straightaway.
When we read the headlines from around the world, it is easy to feel discouraged by stories of overwhelming violence and ceaseless atrocities happening today in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar, and South Sudan. There and elsewhere, unimaginable violence destroys lives, devastates families, and annihilates entire communities.
But the damage doesn’t stop there. There are also dramatic repercussions as atrocities create ungoverned spaces enabling violent extremism to flourish, disrupt economies, drive massive refugee flows, and put populations at risk for human trafficking. And if this wasn’t enough, mass atrocities cost the United States and the international community billions of dollars in response efforts.
Despite these tragic and, unfortunately, familiar scenarios, there are reasons for hope. The Trump Administration is continuing work to better initiate preventive measures and early responses to mass atrocities. There are structures set up within the National Security Council to coordinate U.S. government-wide prevention efforts that recognize the importance of responding quickly to early indicators of possible genocide.
But there is much more to be done. The Senate is working on the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2017 sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
The Elie Wiesel Act, named after the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, provides congressional authority for coordination of genocide prevention efforts throughout the U.S. government.
In addition to its broad bipartisan support, more than 70 non-governmental organizations including the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, Oxfam America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have called on Congress to act immediately.
The bill awaits committee action before it can move to the Senate floor for a vote.
Throughout his Senate career, Chairman Corker has been a remarkable champion for humanitarian causes. He can now cement his legacy by moving the Elie Wiesel Act to a committee vote.
The people of Tennessee care deeply about humanitarian issues. Over the past 6 months, according to the State Department, Tennessee has become home to 136 men, women and children arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar. For these refugees, being vetted and accepted into the United States can be the difference between life and death.
Tennesseans are to be applauded for welcoming families fleeing violence. In fact, over the years, Nashville has become home to the largest Kurdish population in the United States, many of whom arrived in the state after escaping either war or genocide.
Unless Congress passes the Elie Wiesel Act, there is a real risk that the gains of the past few years on genocide and atrocities prevention could be lost. The U.S. government will face relearning hard lessons about the necessity of prevention, and “never again” will continue to be a promise unfulfilled.
Humanitarian and national security interests converge in the Elie Wiesel Act. On this special day in commemoration of Yom Hashoah, let us do more than just remember. Senator Corker, let’s act and honor our commitment to “never again.”