Flag of Ireland.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The State of Israel will be mentioned at a controversial Irish Holocaust memorial ceremony, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced following the release of a letter instructing the event’s master of ceremonies not to make reference to the Jewish state.
Jews worldwide expressed shock and anger over the missive by Holocaust Education Trust Ireland board chairman Peter Cassells who wrote that “it was decided in future, the MC of Holocaust Memorial Day will not refer to the Jewish state or the State of Israel during any part of the ceremony.”
Yad Vashem, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee and the Holocaust Survivors Foundation- USA all issued statements decrying what was perceived as the decoupling of Israel and the Holocaust.
In response to the public outcry, Cassells issued a press release backtracking on the policy and stating that he had “reassured the Jewish community in Ireland that Israel will be referred to in Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations.”
On Monday, Cassels further backtracked, issuing another statement in which he declared that “there is is no ban on mentioning Israel at the Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration in Ireland.”
“Israel will be referred to and the Israeli ambassador has attended and participated in the ceremony since its inception in 2003 and will do so again in January 2015. Holocaust Education Trust Ireland (HETI) has this week reassured the Jewish Community in Ireland of this.”
“Israel will of course be mentioned,” an MFA spokesman told The Jerusalem Post, confirming that Ambassador Boaz Moda’i will attend the event as an official guest.
“We would always like a higher profile and believe we warrant a more central role but the distance from that to [descriptions of a ban] is very far.”
According to the Israeli embassy in Dublin, until three years ago it was HETI policy not to invite the ambassador to the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, a policy changed following Israeli lobbying.
“This year the ambassador will be reading a text provided by the organizers of the event. Although the Israeli dimension and the conditions of the embassy’s participation in this event are less than what we would ideally desire, we consider it preferable to participate in the event than not to do so,” embassy information officer Dermot Meleady told the Post.
“The embassy of Israel in Ireland has requested that the text to be read by the ambassador at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in Dublin will include reference to the indelible connection between Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel as the refuge of the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.
The embassy is awaiting a reply to this request,” he added.
Cassels’s statement did not mollify all of HETI’s critics, however.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews on Monday condemned the organization, calling it “totally inappropriate for the commemoration of the greatest crime against the Jewish people to have an edict prohibiting mention of the Jewish state.”
“Israel was the aspiration of so many of the victims of the Holocaust and provided refuge for survivors. Had it existed earlier, it could have been the refuge of so many more.”
In an interview with the Algemeiner, Yanky Fachler, the longtime host of the event who recently was terminated and to whom the letter was addressed, said he did not think “anything has changed at HETI.”
“They came to an absolutely unacceptable decision and someone must be held accountable for it. I don’t know how they did it or why they did it, but we need to know how they got to this decision,” he said.
HETI did not reply to a request for comment from the Post nor did the organization, in either of its statements, elaborate on its reasons for opposing their event’s MC mentioning Israel.