Trump forgets ‘Never Forget’

The US president’s whitewashing of the Jews out of the Holocaust was no careless Tweet.

January 29, 2017 21:33
3 minute read.
Krakow Ghetto

Arched entrance to Krakow Ghetto. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It seems there’s one rule for the Right, when it comes to disrespecting Jewish history, and another for the Left. Take, for example, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was marked on Friday.

While António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, the global body that right-wing Israelis view as nothing but a flea-pit of antisemites, issued a strong statement beginning with, “The world has a duty to remember that the Holocaust was a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people and so many others,” US President Donald Trump, the new darling of the Israeli Right, simply erased the Jewish people out of the history of the Holocaust.

In a statement of 100 or so words reflecting on the meaning of the Holocaust, Trump failed to find a way, even once, to mention Jews, Judaism or antisemitism.

The principle of Never Forget was forgotten. Trump talked of “victims” and “innocent people,” but never once highlighted the fact that these victims and innocent people were murdered because they were Jews.

This was no middle-of-the night, careless Tweet sent by a pumped-up president watching Fox News, but a carefully crafted statement to mark a somber day. Its lack of historical understanding should send shudders around the world.

Imagine the outcry that would have followed had Barack Obama talked of the Holocaust in such an anodyne fashion. The Rottweilers of the Right would have scented blood and filled the Twittersphere with condemnations. This time it was left to Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt to point out it was “puzzling and troubling” that Trump made no explicit mention of Jews.

BUT OF course Obama, who guaranteed an ungrateful Israel’s security with a record $38 billion military aid deal, the largest aid package in US history, never forgot the real meaning of the Holocaust. In his presidential statements and speeches commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Obama always explicitly referred to the unique nature of the Holocaust, “the scourge of antisemitism” and to the murder of six million Jews. Nevertheless, for right-wing Israelis Obama is still regarded as the devil incarnate because of his justified stance against Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.

Closer to home, the Israeli Right chose to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day with a fun-packed jamboree, with the Likud holding its second “Likudiada” event in Eilat. Unfortunately, scheduled police questioning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prevented the prime minister from joining the Likudiada’s activities, including stand-up comedy acts, spa treatments and all the other trimmings of an Eilat winter break, but this didn’t stop Netanyahu from sending a supportive message to those wanting to get away from any somber reflection on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

To be fair, Israel does remember the Holocaust on a different date, the 27th of Nissan, which normally falls sometime in the spring, so the Likudiada wasn’t falling on the country’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day. But International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an Israeli-inspired initiative, commemorated in accordance with a United Nations resolution passed in November 2005, promoted and shepherded through the UN by then foreign minister Silvan Shalom, a former leading light in the Likud. And the date of January 27 is not some random day picked out of the international calendar, but the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. So, you would think, a little scheduling sensitivity is called for on this day.

Just imagine the outcry that would have come from the Right had Meretz, for example, decided to hold a celebratory party in the center of Tel Aviv on the anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation. Netanyahu’s despicable libel from the 1999 elections (“the Left have forgotten what it means to be Jews”) would once more have been making the rounds.

But the Israeli Right have no shame. Instead of rescheduling the Likudiada to another date, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (yes, it still sticks in the throat to have to mention “Culture” and “Miri Regev” in the same phrase) chose to make a joke of it.

“International Holocaust Remembrance Day has never been covered as much as it has this year – thanks to the ‘Likudiada,’” the boorish minister told participants at the event.

The rise of Donald Trump and the insensitivity and self-righteousness among the Israeli Right point to the sorry fact that the lessons of the Holocaust are being forgotten. To prevent a repeat of the horrors of Nazi Germany, the world needs to be a global community, holding tolerance and respect for the other as guiding principles, and not retreat into the narrow nationalism, hatred of minorities and the destruction of multiculturalism and pluralism we’re seeing today.

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

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