Netanyahu lays wreath during Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Every year at this time, Israelis reassert a vow never to forget the horrors of the Holocaust, in order to ensure they are not repeated. That we disagree with one another on the lessons that need learning to keep this promise doesn’t seem to pose a problem. Arguing such points is not only par for the course in the Jewish state, but it provides two key things: fodder for talk shows and the moral legitimacy to invoke the H-word for political purposes without being accused of doing so inappropriately.
Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is given leeway by his domestic adversaries to take the ceremonial opportunity to remind the public that the will and means to annihilate Jews is not a relic of the past.
Indeed, after laying a wreath next to the eternal flame at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, he pulled no punches about the imminent Iranian nuclear threat, and warned against making dangerous deals with the genocidal regime in Tehran. It was basically the same speech he gave to the US Congress in March, albeit more tailored to the specific occasion and audience.
But, whereas the former address precipitated concrete action, in the form of the Corker-Menendez Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 – a watered-down version of which was passed last Tuesday – the latter will have no effect whatsoever.
Those of us Israelis who wish Netanyahu would get moving and launch a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities before it’s too late have not changed our position, nor do we really believe he’s going to do it.
Those who support increased sanctions, too, remain steadfast in their views, as do the minority who approve of the P5+1 framework agreement that was reached (or not) with Iran in Lausanne on April 2.
In any case, Israel is busy gearing up for Wednesday’s Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars. Again a tearful reading of names at ceremonies across the country; again a vow never to forget the dead and to learn lessons from the manner in which they fell.
It has been 70 years since the end of World War II. Seven decades is a short period, considering that many people who were alive then are still among us today. The worry is that as their number dwindles, so too will their stories fade into the background.
This concern may be warranted, but figuring out how to counter Jewish amnesia is something even the wisest of sages have not managed to accomplish.
Nor does one need to go back in history to illustrate this phenomenon.
Does anyone remember that Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets from Gaza were flying all over Israel nine months ago? What about all the terrorism that has taken place since then? Will anyone recall last week’s murder-by-vehicle of a young man, and critical injury of a young woman, by an Arab ramming his car into them at a Jerusalem bus stop? Is the fact that Hamas is receiving Iranian backing and funds with which it has been rebuilding its tunnels for the purpose of kidnapping and killing Israelis setting off the right alarm bells in the collective consciousness? Or that Hezbollah in Lebanon is attaching guided warheads delivered by the Islamic Republic to its missiles? Of course not.
We Israelis pride ourselves on cleaning up our blood after each incident and resuming our daily lives as though nothing has happened. We tout this as “resilience” and call it – like the survival and continued procreation of Jews after the Holocaust – “victory” over our enemies.
While it is true that the birth of Jewish babies and establishment of the Jewish state show that Hitler was unable to carry out his plan, the actual defeat of the Nazis was carried out by the Allied armies. It is this crucial detail that is being omitted from what has come to be called the “narrative,” and replaced with an aversion to all war.
When we stand in silence during the sirens this week to commemorate our dead loved ones, who lost their lives for being Jews, it is this that we must keep in mind. Otherwise, our memorials will have been, and will continue to be, void of meaning.