1/28/2016 Holocaust Day in US and Europe- Im Tirzu oversteps
Yesterday was International Holocaust Memorial Day, which commemorates the liberation of survivors from Auschwitz, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp. Israel’s official day set aside for Holocaust commemoration takes place in the Spring, and is timed with the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Yesterday, was also the day Israelis watched images of Italy’s enthusiastic reception of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, head of state of a country that is holding its annual contest for the best cartoon poking fun at the Holocaust. Now that the sanctions surrounding Iran’s illegal nuclear program has been removed, Europeans have been tripping over themselves to do business with this murderous regime, whose behavior has not been tempered by the newly signed P+5 agreement. In contrast, Israelis woke up this morning to hear the story of President Barack Obama’s participation at the event commemorating International Holocaust Day at the Israeli Embassy. To those in Israel, particularly those on the right who do not like Obama, it was a moment of cognitive dissonance to hear the U.S. President say:
Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, antisemitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it. When we see some Jews leaving major European cities — where their families have lived for generations — because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses — when we see all that and more, we must not be silent.
The President went on to say: When any Jew anywhere is targeted just for being Jewish, we all have to respond as Roddie Edmonds (a U.S. vet who was honored for saving Jews during the Holocaust) did — “We are all Jews.”
Obama ended the night by saying, “God bless the State of Israel.”
Obama’s words were a soothing counterpoint to the remarks of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who while condemning violence and terror, seemingly justified terror against Israelis by saying, due to “the stifling occupation of the Palestinians”, it is “human nature" to protest occupation.
While most Israelis realize there is some connection between the occupation and terror, they also know that terror started before the 1967 Six Day War, and in fact, even before the establishment of the state. The most recent heinous attacks have taken a different turn, as the the knifings have been directed at women, and has resulted in the death of two. For the past few days Israelis have been seeing photos of the smiling faces of Dafna Meir and Shlomit Krugman, two young woman cut down in the prime of their lives. It is hard to understand how the U.N. Secretary-General can find any excuse that justifies knifing two unarmed women in or near their homes.
Moreover, Israelis sense of personal safety has not been enhanced this week by the latest disclosures of confirmed information related to the Dizengoff terror attack three weeks ago. First, was the announcement that the shooter was clearly influenced by ISIS. Evidence of the shooter’s intentions were made clear in footage from selfies he filmed immediately before the shooting, in which spouted several ideological rants similar to those of ISIS. It also has become clear the terrorist had hoped to execute a second attack.
Second, it came to light that the Israeli police ignored key statements from witnesses who told the police they had sat next to the shooter on a bus on which he was headed back to his home community in Wadi Ara. This report, combined with other recent events, gives Tel Aviv residents the unsettling feeling that local police have more in common with the Keystone cops than with the elite army units Israelis rely on for their defense.
Against this security backdrop, there has been an intensified campaign by right-wing politicians – both inside and outside the government – railing against all alternative views. The newest edition of the national Civics textbook has elicited strong criticism on the part of many, who have seen excerpts. That criticism spurred Minister of Education Naftali Bennett (from the Bayit Hayehudi, ‘Jewish Home’ religious party) to call his opponents “left-wing agitators”. At the same time, Likud’s Minister of Culture & Sport Miri Regev has introduced new legislation which she hopes will guarantee only institutions that steadfastly support the state will receive cultural backing from the government.
Finally, the very right-wing organization, Im Tirzu, (“If you will it”) has initiated a campaign against some of Israel’s leading literary figures and cultural icons, such as Amos Oz and Gila Almagor, labelling them foreign moles. The term “McCarthyism” is now being uses as a regular part of everyday political discourse. Israeli Parliament member Benny Begin from the Likud, the son of Prime Minister Menachem Begin referred to Im Tirzu, as a fascist organization, adding this morning that their funding sources must be made public. By the end of the day, ministers Bennett, Regev and even PM Netanyahu condemned Im Tirzu’s campaign.
In keeping with the icy political climate, residents of Tel Aviv are suffering unseasonably cold weather. It’s clear to most that the cold wind blowing is not limited to the weather, but find it unsettlingly that frigid gusts seem to extend externally to the rising tide of antisemitism in the world, to our continued conflict with the Palestinians, and possibly even more disturbing, to a deepening internal intolerance.