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Israel Sold the Memory of the Holocaust to the Interests of Foreign Nations

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin pose for a group picture with world leaders during the FWorld Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin pose for a group picture with world leaders during the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, January 23, 2020.Credit: AFP

Seventy-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we are left with no choice but to admit that Israel, the state of the Jews, is willing to sell the memory of the Holocaust to the highest bidder. The last time it was Poland, now it’s Putin.

It’s regrettable, albeit unsurprising, that neither historical accuracy, the memory of the victims nor even the lessons for the future drive Israel’s policy. Narrow, momentary, political and diplomatic interests determine its agenda, even regarding the tragedy of the people it claims to represent.

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Israel, which was founded three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, has been revealed as spineless, and as being forced – or consenting – to bend to the interests of other nations and leaders, and to sell the memory of the Holocaust as it does so.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in his addresses in Jerusalem on Thursday frequently invoked “the truth,” forgot to mention that truth is an elusive, capricious concept, and that historical reality isn’t always black or white, good versus evil. It is true that the Soviet Union liberated Auschwitz 75 years ago, but the Soviet Union also signed the pact with Nazi Germany that paved the way to the outbreak of World War II six years earlier, a war of which Auschwitz was one result.

Anyone who wants to talk about “the truth” cannot only praise and exalt the Soviet Union for its heroism. In this context it can also be admitted that the decision – whose exactly is unclear – not to allow Polish President Andrzej Duda to address the gathering at Yad Vashem, prompting him to snub the event. If no other representative, including the two Israeli leaders who spoke at the ceremony – President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – saw fit to note that the Soviet Union wasn’t only a liberator but also an occupier, not only a freedom fighter but also an oppressor, at the very least they should have let the Polish president “dirty himself” in this historical truth.

But Poland also fails to see the entire “truth,” as has been noted more than once in these pages. In September, when Poland commemorated the 80th anniversary of the start of the war, the narrative that ran through all of the ceremonies and public gatherings was one of victimization. None of the speakers, including the foreign dignities who were invited, mentioned the collaboration of Poles with the Germans. Everyone, without exception, talked about Poland’s having been the first and the greatest victim of the Nazis.

In this respect Netanyahu was correct when he said in his address at Yad Vashem that Israel cannot count on anyone else. It’s regrettable to discover that it can no longer count on itself, either.

Two years ago, in the controversial “joint statement” of Israel and Poland, Netanyahu agreed to forget the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941, in which Poles murdered hundreds of their Jewish neighbors, signing a document that blurred that part of many Poles in the persecution of the Jews. On Thursday Netanyahu totally ignored in his speeches the Katyn massacre, in which the Soviets murdered tens of thousands of Poles in 1940. These two events occurred during World War II. Ignoring them is a distortion of history.

One final point. It was difficult to ignore the over-the-top flattery the Israeli politicians heaped on the leader from Moscow. One would think he had opened the gates of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945 himself. If the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and World War II meant something to anyone, they should have modulated somewhat those pathetic gestures of respect, recalling that Putin was not invited to an awards ceremony or tribute to himself, but rather to a commemoration of struggle.

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