I was moved by this thoughtful post by Bill Poser of Language Log on extending the semantic concept of the Holocaust to reach other genocidal atrocities. There are evidently some Jews who feel a possessiveness about the capital-H version of the concept, and are reluctant to share the term with such exemplars of human devilry as the slaughter in Rwanda or the ongoing madness in Darfur. Poser argues that associating atrocities other than the Nazis' systematic slaughter of Jews with the familiar concept of "holocaust" brings them into focus. Arguing over whether any particular group's actions are deserving of a label such "holocaust" or "genocide" only diverts attention from the problem of ending such horrors and preventing them.
Poser concludes with an observation that strikes a resonant chord with my own view of what Judaism is all about:
Because the Jewish Holocaust has name-recognition, assimilating other mass murders to it by using the same term for them serves to make them more salient, more familiar, and more horrible, which, I hope, stimulates action against them. If extending the term holocaust to what is happening in Darfur brings people to equate the Janjaweed with the Nazis and the people of Darfur with the Jews and helps to overcome the attitude that what is happening is too remote and is happening to people who are too different from us for us to feel more than nominal sympathy for them, that's a good thing. Speaking from a Jewish point of view, faced with the decision whether to emphasize the uniqueness of our holocaust or to emphasize its universality, if the latter might save even a single life, there is no question as to what choice to make. This is the way in which the commandments are fulfilled.