yad vashem 311.
(photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski)
About 17 years ago, an American visitor to Jerusalem decided that his
11-year-old daughter was mature enough to be told about the Holocaust. Not a
Jew, he was in Israel to express his love for the nation and introduce his
children to the Holy Land.
He gently guided her through Yad Vashem,
explaining the unthinkable history, standing in silence, musing. When
they concluded this personal journey into the savagery of genocide, the father
asked his daughter if she would like to sign the “memory book” at Yad Vashem’s
exit. She did.
He asked if he could read what she wrote. She agreed. She
had written: “Why didn’t somebody do something?”
The story was so indelibly
etched in the father’s mind that he retold it occasionally to emphasize the
short memory of mankind when it comes to hatred and mass murder. Even more, he
felt his young daughter’s intuitive understanding spoke eloquently of the sacred
duty of accountability, contrasted with inaction and collaboration in the face
of horrific crimes.
TWO WEEKS ago, Mike Huckabee – who in the past two
decades has become a respected US governor, presidential primary candidate and
immensely popular TV personality in the US – was moved to recount this special
story inter alia in his address on the American economy and the national debt
crisis at the annual National Rifle Association convention.
have to look long and hard to find anyone in Israel who would not find this
poignant episode moving. Not every American Christian visits the Jewish state,
or brings his family, or accepts the personal mission of conveying the lessons
of the Shoah to his offspring.
Incredibly, unfathomably, one leading
Jewish organization put aside all other problems of the day to respond sharply
to Huckabee’s comments. Its statement did not laud the man, who happens to be
one of the strongest Republican “pre-candidates” for the 2012 presidential
In fact, the ADL shrilly lambasted Huckabee, saying the
Holocaust “should never be used as political talking points,” and sternly
advising him to “weigh his words more carefully.”
I am a big fan of the
ADL and the vital work it does, but artificially stretching its perspective to
criticize a man who is undeniably one of Israel’s staunchest and most effective
supporters is not only wrong and foolish. It actually trivializes the
I am a friend of Mike Huckabee. We have spent treasured time
together in Israel and America. I can honestly tell you that I have never met a
more sincere friend of our cause. He ponders the Holocaust and its dark legacy
more than many Jews do. For him, it is a dark stain that man can only attempt to
understand on some level, but must definitely act to prevent from recurring in
any way, shape or form.
The ADL subsequently retracted – sort of – its
initial statement after the public had some time to absorb it, penning a letter
to Huckabee: “Based upon our conversation and after having listened to your full
speech, I now understand that you never intended to make any direct comparison
between today’s issues and the Holocaust. Indeed, it was clear from our
discussion about the impact of your visits to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust
Museum, and your strong commitment to Israel, that you understand why the
Holocaust must always be remembered as a unique event in human history.
Reasonable people, listening to the story of the words your daughter penned at
Yad Vashem – ‘Why didn’t somebody do something?’ – followed by a reference to
the national debt, could interpret that as drawing an analogy. We are
pleased to know that this was never your intention.”
Who knows if that
second statement would have been issued had not sharp protests been voiced?
WANT our Christian friends to visit Israel, to teach their children about the
Holocaust and yes, to share their experiences and concerns with the widest
possible audience. No one should dare assume the authority to censor such
individuals, for whatever reason. No one has been elected judge or jury,
empowered to stifle the kind of message uttered not once but continuously by
This episode should never have happened. Our mission
must be to work more closely with our friends, not to criticize them.The
writer serves as deputy speaker of the Knesset and is Chair of World Likud.
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