Two senior government officials and a senior European Union official have spoken up in support of Dani Dayan, Yad Vashem chairman, after last week’s reports of imminent dismissal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, tweeted on Sunday, “My research and advocacy about the Holocaust dates back to the 1980’s; I have long valued the work of institutions like Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem’s painstaking and invaluable research on the Shoah is in no small part due to its professionalism and independence.”
Katharina von Schnurbein, European Commission’s coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life also criticized this report, “The World Holocaust Center Yad Vashem is a key partner for the European Union when it comes to Holocaust research. Its expertise and independence of its leadership are essential in times of Holocaust distortion and attempts to politicize Shoah remembrance.”
On Saturday, special envoy for Holocaust issues at the US State Department Ellen Germain addressed this issue on X, formerly Twitter.
“The US values the crucial work of Yad Vashem and its director’s leadership as we work together on Holocaust education. Maintaining the independence of such institutions around the world is key as we face efforts to distort/deny the facts of the Holocaust.”
Why does Netanyahu want to get rid of Dayan?
Netanyahu and his government, such as Education Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud), have made it clear they intend to remove Dayan from his post as chairman of Yad Vashem last week, igniting a firestorm of controversy, according to a number of reports in the Israeli media.
On Thursday, N12 reported that Sara Netanyahu “was displeased when Dayan invited pop singer Keren Peles to perform at the Yad Vashem Memorial Day ceremony. She subsequently approached the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene,” according to the report. N12 added, “It’s worth noting that Peles has, on multiple occasions, criticized the government and its legal reforms.”
Sara said on Sunday, "There is no basis for all the claims that I scolded someone or something. On the contrary, at the end of the ceremony, I shook her [Peles's] hand and complimented her. She is a good singer and performed well. I didn't know if she was participating in the protests, I had no idea. I was flattered that she sang emotionally and moved us all - including me."
Netanyahu also commented on the matter and claimed, "I understood [from this situation] how fake news has been created. I heard a story [on the news] that was completely unknown to me."
Sources in Yad Vashem told The Jerusalem Post last week that Netanyahu wasn’t happy with Dayan’s approach to boycott extreme-right-wing politicians, and felt that he is “too independent.” In addition, Dayan was critical of Netanyahu in the past, warning that the prime minister has neglected the relations with North American Jewry.
Yossi Ahimeir, a member of the Yad Vashem board and a former politician, wrote an op-ed on Sunday in Maariv, stating that “Yad Vashem’s management includes people from the entire political spectrum.” He added that “The Yad Vashem administration is a model for unity of purpose and adherence to the mission – to commemorate and remember the six million, who were also among them from all denominations, from all parties, from all religions, from all communities, from all genders.
Two members of the executive of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) also commented on the matter. Gil Segal, deputy chairman of the WZO said on Sunday that threatening Dayan’s tenure is “unfortunate and hopefully untrue.
“From personal experience, Dayan is one of the most committed and dedicated Yad Vashem heads ever, any attempt to put his leadership into doubt is invalid at its core.”
Dr. Yizhar Hess, WZO vice chairman, responded as well: “Attacks on Yad Vashem are unacceptable. It cannot be desecrated for political gain or on personal whims. This government has no respect for any institution. The damage caused by the capricious attempt to remove Yad Vashem’s chairman is already clear. Holocaust researchers from around the world, leaders of Diaspora communities, and even the US State Department – they all look at this government with astonishment.
“We must condemn this cynical political move which may, heaven forbid, lead to dangerous politicization of the memory of the Holocaust. This is a serious blow to an institution whose sacred work should be above any outside disputes or divisions. Yad Vashem, in many ways, belongs to the entire Jewish people and its politicization endangers one of the few places where the sense of solidarity between Israel and Jews in the Diaspora remains strong. Only an irresponsible government would endanger this.”
Prominent members of the international community of Holocaust scholars and educators have voiced their concerns over recent criticisms directed at Dayan.
The esteemed group, featuring names such as Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Dr. Jan Grabowski, Prof. Christopher Browning, Dr. Samuel Kassow, and Prof. Israel Bartal, has publicly shared their concerns through an open letter revealed exclusively by the Post on Saturday.