Opinion

Netanyahu's Party Puts the Holocaust in Perspective

Likud held a weekend bash on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In a sense, that's a welcome change in the way an Israeli institution treats the Shoah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an event marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, January 26, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

There’s actually something refreshing about Likud activists’ approach to Holocaust Remembrance Day, especially the international one meant more for the world, not for us who mark it a week after Passover.

For decades our governments have turned the Holocaust into an event that’s the reason or justification for us being alive and well in the Jewish state and only democracy in the Middle East. So it’s an event that will always remain topical – witness Iran, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, Hamas, France, Sweden and Barack Obama. So at last things are returning to some semblance of normal size.

Yes, I know the Holocaust is without comparison by any measure, an event that must never be repeated anywhere. But the Holocaust business is thriving, something cynically manipulated by politicians on both sides of the aisle. The central stage it has taken in our lives and in the formation of our worldview has yielded no benefits other than stoking our paranoia.

And it lets us use exorbitant aggressiveness (and sell weapons to the world’s worst countries), ostensibly in the name of historical justice. But at the same time, we degrade the survivors and their families.

The secular glee (the Holocaust had long been a religion for all intents and purposes) shown by Likud members, whether they’re aware of the date or not, is a welcome change. It’s a change that augments the new Israeli national character – sure of itself, happy, occasionally vulgar.

It’s a national character that challenges the older Israel, the heavy one – state-oriented ad nauseam, always seeing itself as a victim, equating Arabs with Nazis and opponents of Israel to anti-Semites. It’s the one that claims that we get attacked only because we’re Jews, and not, heaven forbid, because we’re occupiers and oppressors robbing another nation for whose people this land, what can we do, is their homeland too.

Culture Minister Miri Regev is right when she accuses the peace camp – or in her words the left and the Meretz party – of hypocrisy when it expresses extreme shock at the ostensibly hapless timing of Likud’s weekend party in Eilat. After all, the left’s operational branches – the media, the culture gurus and academia – are demonstratively ignoring the international day, opting for entertainment and rubbish while celebrating the mundane as if there were no tomorrow.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Warsaw memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, January 27, 2017.
Alik Keplicz / AP

Of course, what’s permitted for the Zionist left is forbidden to Likud. The left would have undoubtedly treated such an event with a peace-dove pin on lapels and a dull, ornate speech by its chairman on the lessons of the Holocaust, the resurgence of the nation and the land, and the strengthening of the old values, supposedly the all-Israeli ones. But this is forbidden to Likud, which is perceived as Mizrahi, almost anti-Israeli, even though its entire essence, leadership and vision are purely Ashkenazi.

Apropos Likud’s leaders, who are also the country’s leaders, in case you hadn’t noticed: Holding their weekend party on International Holocaust Remembrance Day is like poking a finger in Benjamin Netanyahu’s eye. He’s the one who made the Holocaust his middle name and himself the leader of all Jews everywhere because of that catastrophe.

Okay, he probably approved the event – after all, his son had once gone fishing there. His dear wife was honored with an impressive and saccharine salute. On the other hand, the Holocaust’s magic carpet, the ultimate Open Sesame, seems to have fallen by the wayside amid a bit of derision.

This may be an indicator of Netanyahu’s weakening, another sign of his losing his grip and the impending end of the battle by the most powerful person in Israel. To borrow from what they say at the market, “Two for the price of one, only today, only at Likud!”