African migrants protest in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: LAUREN IZSO)
Ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I have a dream. I have a dream that Israel will inject ethics, morality and values into its foreign and security policy.
Israel, which was created and emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust, aspired in its early days to be a role model for others, the shining light of Zion unto the nations, an inspiring beacon to be seen from every corner of the world.
But Israel quickly forgot its mission – or perhaps, in order to survive, was forced to forget. It turned its back on the true lessons of the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Jewish people.
It formed alliances with the worst regimes on earth – South Africa, under the Apartheid system, is the most extreme and troubling example. It sold weapons to ruthless dictators in Africa, South and Central America, and trained the praetorian guards in those countries, who were torturing and killing their own people.
It turned a blind eye to the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators in the Baltic states and in Central and Eastern Europe, in exchange for diplomatic support trade and arms sales.
On one hand, Israel assigned its intelligence community to a unique mission, never performed by any other spy agency in the world: sending Mossad operatives on manhunts after Nazi war criminals such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele. On the other hand, the same Mossad recruited SS officers to serve as agents in Egypt or as uranium smugglers for its nuclear program.
Meanwhile, while preaching to the world to compensate Holocaust survivors, to freeze their assets held by international banks and insurance companies and to return lost property, Israeli banks and real estate corporations denied the same rights to the victims and their relatives at home, later using delaying tactics to hold on to the loot for themselves, as hundreds and thousands of survivors across the country continued to live in miserable conditions below the poverty line.
The manipulative Israeli attitude has proven to be a cynical ploy, replete with double standards. While demanding that the world be attentive to the suffering of the Jews, Israel ignores the suffering of other nations.
In doing so, Israel betrays the memory of the Holocaust and its responsibility to the victims.
It’s not too late to reverse the course. Yes, we live in a cruel world. Our neighborhood is rough. Former prime minister Ehud Barak once defined Israel as a “villa in the jungle.” It is all true.
Israel has to be strong in order to ensure its continued existence.
It has to develop international ties, cultivate alliances and sometimes sacrifice values on the altar of national interests.
Yet there is enough room to accommodate both in a reasonable way – it is possible to maintain vital security and national interests while simultaneously combining the values of justice and humanity in the country’s foreign policy.
A corrective attitude can be shaped in four important arenas that have haunted Israel and tarnished its image. As the international community lies paralyzed on solutions to the Syrian civil war, Israel can declare a no-fly zone to stop the Syrian Air Force’s merciless butchery of its own people. As a nation of Holocaust survivors, the Jewish state can no longer remain silent and complacent in the face of another genocide.
The Foreign and Defense ministries must implement a policy forbidding the sales of arms to dubious regimes, even those not under UN embargo.
Israel must stop the deportation of African refugees and asylum- seekers and cancel its secret agreements with Uganda and Rwanda, which enable the deportations in exchange for security assistance and agricultural support.
And finally, the government must allocate a substantial sum to create a humanitarian fund to fight hunger and poverty and to assist the victims of human persecution and natural disaster.
This is the legacy of the greatest genocide history has ever known. To be humane and never forget.