If anyone still required clarification as to the real importance of the Holocaust and (neo)-Nazism for the Israeli government, this week a government minister provided the clearest possible view.
“Relations with the Trump administration are more important to Israel then condemning neo-Nazis”. This astonishing remark came after the Netanyahu government had been silent for three days already about the very questionable statements made by President Trump about the events in Virginia and the need to condemn both the Right-Wing racists and neo-Nazis as well as the left-wing organizations that came to stand up to the blatant racism displayed.
And it was definitely not by accident that Ayoub Kara was chosen (or told to) by the Israeli government to explain why no comments were made about Trump’s analysis of the demonstrations and their aftermath in Virginia.
The Israeli government always is very fast and very direct when it comes to the Holocaust, Nazis and in general, Antisemitism.
Some fool destroys a number of gravestones at a Jewish cemetery and Israel will loudly and indignantly condemn the atrocious act of antisemitism.
Anyone dares to take the word “Holocaust” into his mouth to describe anything but the destruction of European Jewry and Israel will jump to defend the uniqueness of the “real” Holocaust and dismiss any use of the word for other world disasters as sacrilege.
Any sign or expression of antisemitism, Holocaust denial or even opposition to Israel, are swiftly met with loudly expressed condemnation, indignation and anger.
So it was no surprise that the world was expecting Israel to join in the loud chorus of condemnation of Trump, and everyone was wondering what the thundering silence out of Jerusalem really meant.
The Israeli press did not make too much of this story. Apparently it is too sensitive a subject to discuss or show a lack of consensus. There are still more than two hundred thousand people in this country who lived through the Nazi period in Europe and survived to tell their story.
But they also probably were not too surprised. They are already used to the fact that they rise into prominence generally twice a year only. Once, on Holocaust Memorial day, when their plight is highlighted with stories about making choices between food and medicine, statistics about how many survivors live below the poverty line and politicians that claim to have improved the situation of Holocaust survivors or promise to do so. The second time is when in winter on TV we are told heartbreaking stories about Holocaust survivors who live in cold Jerusalem apartments without heat. Their rise to fame is short lived though and mostly the following day everybody (including most politicians) have forgotten all about them. Most likely they do not expect too much from Israel either.
So how can Israel’s silence really be explained? It is simple: the Holocaust has become a political tool. A tool that may be used whenever (especially) Europeans oppose Israeli politics or when the United Nations makes (rather futile) attempts to move peace efforts in the Middle East forwards. Anyone opposing Israel will quickly be reminded what he (or his country) did to the Jews in WW2 and how opposing Israel in its righteous ways to secure a homeland for the remnants of European Jewry and their descendants, (even if this is done on other peoples land) is no more than the new Antisemitism that needs to be condemned in any way and form.
Israel will use the Holocaust and the rise of Neo-Nazism in Europe and elsewhere to gain political benefit that enable them to get away with behavior in the occupied territories that would never be allowed otherwise.
The Holocaust and its atrocities should never be forgotten and every effort should be made to teach about the events, to instill in (especially young) people the conviction of “Never Again”. And maybe indeed, Israel has the moral obligation, more than anyone, to lead these efforts.
And the rise of neo-Nazism and antisemitism is extremely worrisome and scary and countries and individuals must be urged to stand up against this troubling phenomenon. And also here, Israel has a major role to play.
But if this moral obligation is stretched to serve other needs and this major role is becoming subject to political interpretation, something is wrong.
Relations with the Trump administration are important for Israel for a number of reasons. The U.S. is the most important ally of Israel and its major arms supplier. And while the previous president, Mr. Barack Obama, while being supportive of Israel, could also be critical of its actions, with the Trump administration Israel believes that the boundaries of their behavior in the occupied territories will be moved significantly in their favor. And apparently this must not be put in jeopardy.
Israel, and maybe Jews the world over, should be worried from the rise of antisemitism and maybe even more when as was mentioned in several publications” Nazis prowl the streets of the country that did most to defeat them 70 years ago”.
But Israelis and maybe Jews the world over, should be no less worried that the Israeli government apparently is willing to compromise on antisemitism for small political gain.