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Breyer, in Holocaust commemoration, urges rule of law

JTA

May 17, 2011 | 4:33 pm

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer commemorated the Holocaust with an appeal to uphold the rule of law.

“Justice and law are the foundations of your throne,” Breyer quoted the Psalms as saying in his keynote address Tuesday at the Days of Remembrance commemoration in the U.S. Capitol, an event organized by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Holocaust commemoration also requires remembering the just application of the law, he said, citing as positive examples the Nuremberg trials conducted by the Allies after World War II and Israel’s trial of Adolf Eichmann.

“The book of Exodus frightens me and it frightens us when it says about a king—perhaps about an entire new generation—that it grew up and it knew not Joseph,” said Breyer, who is Jewish. “We need only to look around today’s world to understand that rights, rules, the obligations that the law sets forth—all of them are no more powerful than the human will to enforce them. The legal cloth that we weave during the day is unraveled during the night.”

Breyer, a member of the high court’s liberal minority, has pushed back against attempts by the Bush and Obama administrations to expand executive powers and strip some captives of legal protections.

Also addressing the event was Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, who said the lesson of the Holocaust was that nations should be vigilant in facing down evil with actions and not mere statements.

“Merely saying ‘Never again’ will not suffice,” he said. ” ‘Never again’ means shunning all passivity and blindness.”

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