I write this as I come away from the elementary school where I serve as rabbi. To the sound of the siren heard all over Israel at 10:00 on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we joined the nation in standing still for two minutes of silence.

It is altogether fitting that the International Holocaust Remembrance Day is commemorated on the 27th of January, as per a U.N. resolution, whereas Israel has a separate Holocaust Remembrance Day – the 27th of the Jewish month of Nissan, close to the date that marks the opening of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

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It is fitting because the Israeli day of remembrance was inaugurated in 1953, while the U.N. day wasn't established until more than fifty years later.


It is fitting because the Holocaust of the Jewish people was possible due to three major factors:

1] European Anti-Semitism, especially German but not only;

2] World apathy, without the world doing anything concrete to save Jews, not so much as bombing the train tracks of Auschwitz despite flying over them more than once, an apathy also partially fueled by anti-Semitism but also by the indifference expressed so well by former British Prime Minister Chamberlain in regards to the Czech people: "How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing";

3] Weakness and indeed almost total helplessness of the Jewish nation.

Anti-Semitism has continued to wax strong especially in the form of anti-Israel prejudice and hatred. In spite of the resolution concerning the Holocaust – the U.N. and its organizations are a center for anti-Semitism today.

World apathy continues while watching millions killed in faraway countries, whether Cambodia, Biafra, Rwanda, Darfur in the Sudan or Syria today.

Perhaps the only thing that has changed since the Holocaust is that the Jewish people are no longer as weak and helpless as they were then. My mother would finish relating the story of her WWII experiences by pointing out that now we have the state of Israel and therefore things are different today.

The U.N. resolution also "rejects any denial of the Holocaust as an historical event, either in full or part". Yet Holocaust denial lives and thrives in the Arab world and in Iran. The leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, wrote a book claiming that the Zionists created "the myth" of six million murdered Jews, which he called a "fantastic lie". He further claimed that those Jews which were killed by the Nazis were actually the victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot. Of course – the book is published in Arabic and is accepted "gospel" in the Palestinian Authority; any disclaimers by Abbas are evasive and at any rate proclaimed only in English.

Holocaust denial in the Arab world works something like this:
a) There never was a Holocaust,
b) "six million" is an exaggerated number,
c) Whatever happened was a Zionist-Nazi plot,
d) we – the Arab world – will continue the blessed work of Hitler and we'll do it better!

However, to my mind the worst type of denial is the type that says that it was because of the Holocaust that the Western world forced the Jews on the Arab world, giving the Jews a state at the expense of the indigenous people. This is a denial of historical facts on so many accounts, but foremost in the denial of the existence and the history of the Jewish people.

For this is absolutely clear – the Jewish people had started to return to its land, the Holy Land, the land of Israel, the land that Europeans had called Palestine (but not its original owners and inhabitants, the Jews) long before WWII and the Holocaust. The League of Nations had already recognized the intrinsic morality and justice of restoring the Jewish Homeland to the Jewish People, before there was a Nazi party, before the Holocaust. This recognition was an acknowledgement by the world of the truth and justice of eternal connection between the Jewish people and its homeland.

The state of Israel arose despite the Holocaust, not because of it. Denying this truth is not "Holocaust denial", it's not denial that Jews were killed; it's denial that the Jewish nation has a right to live.

Remember the past, look to the future, build it in every moment of the present.
 
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