On the eve of every Holocaust Remembrance Day, the TV channels replace their regular programming with specially commissioned features. Sunday was no exception, but there was one fundamental difference from previous years.
On prime time, both on Channel 2 and Yes-Docu satellite, the bad guys this year were not the Germans, nor their Polish and Ukrainian henchmen, not even the perfidious allies who refrained from bombing Auschwitz. The accused were all Jews - mostly Israelis, faceless bureaucrats, crafty lawyers and uncaring politicians who had conspired together to cheat the elderly Holocaust survivors out of the funds needed for their health and dignity.
The investigative documentary Reparations Morality, which claimed that 80,000 survivors are living in Israel beneath the poverty line while hundreds of millions of dollars are lying in the coffers of the Claims Conference, exemplified what this day has become.
More than anything, it has been dedicated, in the public spheres of media and politics, to the living conditions and rights of the survivors. In such an atmosphere where our national conduct is depicted as being so despicable, it's almost not surprising that one of the main news items relating to the memorial events was about Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson missing the March of Living in Poland this year.
Although he is the founder of the event, it just wouldn't have been appropriate for him to attend during the ongoing investigations into his alleged embezzlement from NGOs connected to him.
Thankfully, the March of Living organization isn't one of them. It was disbanded in Israel a few years ago due to financial mismanagement and reestablished in the US. But the allegations of the minister pocketing millions, coupled with reports of the Finance Ministry panel's
humiliating treatment of survivors trying to prove their eligibility for a disablement pension, were almost as discomforting.
The Holocaust is always a dangerous political game, but few can resist the urge to try and reap some PR benefit. Isaac Herzog, who barely has had time to learn the intricacies of his new job at the Welfare and Social Services Ministry - which has enough troubles of its own after years without a minister - was already demanding on Sunday that the survivors' welfare be transferred from Finance to his ministry.
Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the press, "Now that the state treasury has enough money, we have to make sure the survivors are allowed to live in dignity."
Of course, we all know who we have to thank for those full coffers.
Netanyahu has been using much Holocaust imagery in his speeches on the Iranian threat. "It is 1938, and Hitler is preparing a nuclear bomb" has become his constant refrain.
But Netanyahu has a point. Israeli society is not living up to the the challenge and obligation of learning the lessons of the Holocaust and caring for the survivors.
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