Holocaust umbrella group head: Likud candidate disgraced survivors

Avital Distal Atbaryan insulted all Holocaust survivors in interview

Galit Distal Atbaryan (photo credit: GALIT DISTAL ATBARYAN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Galit Distal Atbaryan
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s choice for the top reserved slot available for his appointments to the Likud list insulted Holocaust survivors in a recent interview on her radio show, the head of the umbrella group of Holocaust survivors said Sunday.
Netanyahu gave the 10th spot on the Likud list, which was reserved for a candidate of his choice, to novelist and right-wing radio personality Galit Distal Atbaryan on Thursday, just before the deadline for lists to be submitted to the Central Elections Committee.
In November, Distal Atbaryan interviewed former Labor MK Colette Avital, who since 2013 has served as chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, which is the umbrella organization of 58 Holocaust survivor associations. The interview was about Avital’s opposition to the appointment of former minister Effi Eitam as chairman of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center.
“What is your background in the field?” Distal Atbaryan asked Avital. She responded, “I am a Holocaust survivor. Is that not enough?”
“No, being an orphan of IDF soldiers doesn’t make me an expert on IDF orphans,” Distal Atbaryan said.
When Distal Atbaryan permitted Avital to speak, she said: “For more than a decade, I’ve dealt with this issue in the Knesset. After that, I formed a company that returned property to survivors. After that, they asked me to head 58 organizations as a volunteer.”
Distal Atbaryan, whose parents are Persian, accused Avital of helping only Ashkenazi Jews.
“What you do is patronizing, prejudicial, horrible and comes from a political background,” Distal Atbaryan said, adding that Avital “supports dividing the land with a Holocaust denier,” a reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Avital, 80, said Distal Atbaryan insulted all Holocaust survivors in the interview and that since the broadcast spread on social media, people from across the political spectrum, including Knesset candidates in right-wing parties, reached out to her and expressed their sympathy.
“In my very long life, I have never ever encountered someone who spoke in such a vulgar manner,” Avital told The Jerusalem Post. “Obviously we have freedom of speech in this country, but it should not be abused. As a survivor, it’s a simple disgrace. People across the spectrum in Israel have cringed at her behavior.”
She said she did not know if Netanyahu was aware of Distal Atbaryan’s “violent speech in her program.” She said she hoped not, but “if he knew and this is a prize for her behavior, it says something about him” and his campaign that has portrayed him as a unifying figure.
“If he wants unity and is against violence, is she the right choice?” Avital asked. “This is not a standard that has to be accepted.”
Avital was born on May 1, 1940, in Romania. As a child, her family was forced to wear a yellow Star of David, and her father was severely tortured while being held hostage in the basement of City Hall, she said.
After being evicted from their home by their oppressors, Avital and her mother sought refuge and hid in Bucharest. Following liberation, she learned that several of her extended family members were killed during World War II.
In 2000, Avital formed the Committee of Inquiry for the Location and Restitution of the Assets of Holocaust Victims. A law she initiated created an official institution for the restitution of these assets. In 2015, Avital was elected secretary-general of the World Organization for the Recovery of Jewish Property. The following year, she became secretary of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
A spokesman for Netanyahu and Likud declined to comment and said Distal Atbaryan also would not respond.
When he announced her appointment, Netanyahu called Distal Atbaryan “an independent woman, a woman who doesn’t hesitate to say her opinion, a woman who comes from the people... and above all, believes in the national idea.”