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Stop the Hypocrisy: This Self-proclaimed Racist Is a Suitable Pick to Head Yad Vashem

Gideon Levy
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Benjamin Netanyahu plants a sapling in the Golan Heights with Effi Eitam, 2009
Benjamin Netanyahu plants a sapling in the Golan Heights with Effi Eitam, 2009Credit: REUTERS
Gideon Levy

Enough with the preening and hypocrisy. Lawmaker and retired general Efraim “Effi” Eitam is a worthy and as suitable a candidate as could be for heading Yad Vashem. The protest by leftists and intellectuals against his appointment is a denial of reality, an attempt to falsely beautify it. There is no one like Eitam to reflect and represent the spirit in which Israel instills the lessons of the Holocaust, and which it exploits for its purposes.

Putting at the head of Yad Vashem an intellectual or a person of morals who would combat racism, ultra-nationalism and war crimes anywhere they exist, in the name of remembering the Holocaust, would be in total contradiction to the memorial enterprises with which Israel inundates its younger citizens. Such an appointment would also be in contrast to the ultra-nationalist message Israel broadcasts to the world, as a lesson learned from the Holocaust. Which is why the prime minister has done well in appointing a man who will represent Israel’s spirit at the head of the most prestigious memorial institution in the world.

Eitam, a self-declared racist who is suspected of committing war crimes, will tell the world what Israel really thinks: that after the Holocaust, Jews can do anything; that after the Holocaust, no one in the whole world has the right to preach to Israel, telling it what to do; that international law, established after World War II and the Holocaust, applies to all countries except Israel; that here we have a chosen people, a light unto the nations, and that here lives the only victim of war crimes in history; and don’t dare tell us about other victims. That’s why Eitam is Yad Vashem and Yad Vashem is Eitam.

The Holocaust and “Never Again” could have gone in two directions. It could have resulted in a determined moral struggle waged by Israel against expressions of racism and war crimes everywhere – or in a belief in its aggressive power as the only means of protecting it and preventing another Holocaust. Israel long ago chose the latter. Eitam will reflect this. Why complain about him when the Foreign Ministry, not General Eitam, is blatantly, insolently demanding that Christiane Amanpour apologize for daring to say that Kristallnacht was a declaration of war on civilization and knowledge in the same breath as she talked about a war embarked on by Donald Trump. Even without Eitam, Israel does not permit any mention of Nazis without mentioning Jews, or any comparison with other holocausts, or any mention of early signs of one.

This arrogant ultra-nationalism fits like a glove on the hand of the person who commanded the Givati Brigade in the first intifada, which led to two Givati-related trials. It well suits someone who was reprimanded by the army’s chief of staff for excessive violence, someone who has said that “most” Palestinian should be deported, that Arab lawmakers should be removed, that the army’s code of ethics should be changed. After all, these are the lessons of the Holocaust. Under its aegis one can be in favor of involuntary transfer, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as long as there is a danger, real or imaginary, facing the Jews.

Is Eitam the only one who believes that the world couldn’t live without the Jews, as he once said, or that Israel is the state of God? Is he the only one who sees Israel’s Arabs as a fifth column, just as the Nazis saw Germany’s Jews? Oops. That’s not allowed. Comparing anything to the early days of Nazism as a warning of what may come – that’s forbidden. With Eitam it will be even more forbidden.

But it wasn’t Eitam who established the trips by brainwashed Israeli youths to the death camps, from where they return draped in the nation’s flag, crying bitterly, believing only in power and the force of arms. It wasn’t Eitam who thought of systematically exploiting the Holocaust, something that’s intensified in recent years, to sow perennial feelings of guilt in Europe and prevent it from daring to criticize the shameful occupation. Eitam will explain to his official guests in the memorial hall that this is the state of the people who are permitted anything, such as beating to death innocent people, as its soldiers in Gaza did, or evacuating villages and deporting their inhabitants forever, as happened not far from Yad Vashem in 1948. But this is unlike anything that’s happened in history, and it’s obviously permitted – in the name of the Holocaust.

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