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Lo taamod al dam reakha

by Scott Hughes

Today I became an administrator of a group on Facebook about the Jewish Holocaust, which refers to when Germany’s National Socialist regime exterminated approximately 6 million European Jews. The group’s title quotes a Hebrew biblical commandment, “Lo taamod al dam reakha,” which means, “You shall not stand idly by the shedding of the blood of your fellow man.”

Of course, even as a nonreligious man, I like that commandment a lot. I hope many people follow it whether because their religion commands it or for more secular reasons.

However, standing idly by would help more than what we do now. We fund war and genocide. As the people of the world, we choose to help facilitate war and genocide as to preserve the routine of our personal lives. We not only fail to stand up for the victims and up to the victimizers, but we also help the victimizers so that they do not disrupt the relative tranquility of our day-to-day lives.

In Nazi Germany most people in Germany behaved like that. Throughout the Native American Holocaust most Americans have behaved like that. People have behaved like that during the recent Rwandan Genocide and now during the current racial conflicts in Darfur.

The vast majority of people in those regions and times behaved like the vast majority of us behave now. We let warmongers use fearmongering to get us to not only allow but also support war and genocide.

Politicians have their own corrupt, self-serving reasons for war and genocide. For the politicians, it generally comes down to money and power for themselves and their cronies–which consists broadly of the entire ruling class in any given society. Regardless, to get that profitable war, they use that fearmongering.

Fearfully, we start to view entire groups of people as simply the enemy. An entire nation’s people could become the enemy. An entire race of people could become the enemy. All the people that practice a certain religion could become the enemy.

When we view an entire group of people as simply the enemy, then we value their lives much less than we value whatever little safety we supposedly get by their destruction, defeat, or annihilation. As a result, we support the annihilation of the enemy. We allow war and genocide and we help facilitate war and genocide. We choose to fund governments that wage war on the enemy.

Countless examples exist. Many Americans cared little about the lives of the over 200,000 Japanese civilians murdered by the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki because the Americans saw the Japanese as simply the enemy. They felt the same way about the Japanese-Americans shoved in concentration camps in the United States. Many people of various Middle Eastern nations felt the same way about the thousands of American civilians murdered in the 9/11 attacks. The Nationalist Germans felt the same way about the Jews and Germany’s other “enemies” during the Second World War. Many non-Jewish Palestinians feel that way about all the Jewish Israelis, and many Jewish Israelis feel that way about about the non-Jewish Palestinians.

In contrast, the free-thinkers in any society may not fall for the oversimplifying rhetoric of the fearmongering warmongers. Additionally, those free-thinkers may recognize and dislike the brutality and inhumanity of war and genocide. However, even the free-thinkers generally behave selfishly and shortsightedly. Even the free-thinkers among us generally offer little more than idle indignation. Like most everyone else, even the free-thinkers choose to protect the tranquility of their own lives rather than the safety of the victims of war and genocide. For example, to keep the routine of their day-to-day lives, even the free-thinkers usually pay taxes to warmongering and genocidal governments.

I would love to see the day most of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, followed the commandment, lo taamod al dam reakha. But first, at the very least, we could stop supporting the bloodshed of civilians. At the very least, we could stop supporting war, terrorism, and genocide. We could stop thinking of whole groups of people as the enemy. We could try to give up fear and shortsighted selfishness, and bravely make our personal decisions based on higher ideals such as humanity, peace and love.

What do you think? Please post a comment.

By | December 18th, 2007 | SHOW COMMENTS (6)


I am the creator of this website, which I use to post about self-defense and violence prevention. I have two children who I love so much. I want them to be proud of me, and I hope what I do here contributes to that. Please let me know what you think about my posts by leaving a comment below. I throw my opinions around pretty openly here, but I am totally open to opposing viewpoints and a productive discussion. So please post a comment. And follow me on Twitter: @scottmhughes

6 Responses

  1. Jacqueline Perkins says

    I am about to teach the memoir Night to my seniors and l have a shirt with this commandment written on it. I will wear it every day that we study this. I have included Darfur in that teaching each year for the last five years, but it never feels like enough. I would like to reproduce this post, with credit to you, and I would also like to talk to you about it, and see what we could do together now or in the future.
    You remind me of Howard Zinn, because what you say is the truth, and he was the epitome of one who acted on his every belief rather than allowing his comfort to dictate his life’s path.

  2. Cori Buraks says

    There is a strong anti-war sentiment to this post. By any chance, are you making references to the current war with Iraq? For one to claim he is “anti-war” is disingenuous. War is a necessary evil. Just think about what life would be like if the US refused to enter WW2? In some instances, war is the only way to achieve peace. If a nation is never willing to engage in war, it renders itself helpless to terrorists and imperialists. One who is unwilling to engage in war under any circumstances will never know peace. Although it sounds noble to preach about humanity, some cultures simply are not humane, and we cannot make them humane by playing “nice” with them and hoping they’ll just learn to like us and leave us alone.

  3. Scott says

    Thanks for your comments!

    Linda, I’m glad you’re thinking about it.

    Tiffany Wheller, that’s very commendable that you work with the genocide going on in Darfur. You are right that we need peace in our own lives.


  4. Tiffany Wheeler says

    I am glad that you stated all that you did. I work the genocide going on in Darfur and I realize that the world does not react the same to atrocities as they would if it someone in their immediate lives. In fact most people do not respond at all and in America I think that we have become desensitized, immune and numb to what takes place around us. I think that remembering the 6 million is a huge step in the process not to allow it to happen again. If we are able to let go of the past we will not learn from our mistakes. We need peace within our own lives so that we are able to pass that on to others!

  5. Linda says

    All I can say is that your article made me think about the way i respond to the killing of people sometimes. I guess you focus so much on the issue that u forget the humans involved.

  6. marj aka thriver says

    I, myself, have been thinking (and blogging) a lot about humanity lately. Especially when it comes to the subject of child abuse. Thanks for your interest in the BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE.


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