“As opposed to what happened during the Holocaust, this time we recognized the danger in time. We made important decisions, like closing our borders. We harnessed all of the state’s resources to fight COVID-19.”
This amazing sentence was proclaimed by Israel’s prime minister at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony this year at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. I’ve known many of Israel’s prime ministers. I remember well their flowery speeches, which included rebukes and personal memories. There were eulogies on Holocaust Remembrance Day and Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars, political speeches on holidays, and remarks delivered by state leaders at funerals or on days of public mourning.
Never has anything so disgusting, so smug, so false or so insulting been spoken by an Israeli prime minister as the nonsense the prime minister allowed himself to say last week on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day. Throughout all the years of our country’s existence, we’ve taken special care to keep this very special and unusual occasion far away from controversy, from political storms and debates that have often led to divisions, conflicts and crises in our public systems. And on this day, Netanyahu turned the horrors of the Holocaust into a platform for glorifying himself and his actions.
Each year, all of us gather in silence, restraint and with bowed heads on Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate the loss of the lives of six million of our people who were murdered and burned in the crematoria. The quietness of Holocaust Remembrance Day is one of the few vestiges that enable us to maintain a sense of solidarity, which is the essence of our strength as a tormented nation.
There’s another day in our calendar that is similar, which we commemorated this week: Yom Hazikaron – Remembrance Day for the Fallen of Israel’s Wars and Victims of Terrorism. This is also a very special day. No other country has such a day.
What can be said about a person who turns these moments into a stage for conducting personal, private endeavors, while trampling everything that is important, precious and sensitive in Israeli society?
At some point at the beginning of the deterioration caused by COVID-19, in a moment of panic and hysteria, the prime minister delivered a message to the nation in which he said, “Since the Middle Ages, there hasn’t been a disaster like the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This sentence was the epitome of wretchedness. Benjamin Netanyahu is known to be an educated and cultured person who learned and knows about important historical events in the history of the Jewish people and of the world. But to say about this pandemic that it is the worst crisis mankind has experienced since the Middle Ages? It’s not a matter of ignorance or lack of knowledge, but a fear of collapse that could lead to destruction. Not of the country, but of himself, of his status, of his defenses that he’s been trying to build as a way to escape from the distress that is closing in upon him and his family.
The biggest threat is not our collective disaster, but the danger that his family will need to vacate the fortress on Balfour Street that they have been using to suck the essence of life out of our country, to benefit from its resources and to fatten their bank accounts.
But we must not come to terms with these words that were spoken by Netanyahu as if they were just another so-called ridiculous expression of his personal distress. These sentences did not erupt spontaneously as part of the excitement of the ceremony at Yad Vashem. They were planned carefully, written and meticulously edited. Presumably, he was sitting at home, thinking about how could shake up the national mood by saying something different and unusual that has never been said before. After all, he is heard quite often saying despicable things.
HE WARNED US at the beginning of 2020 that there could be over one million casualties from COVID-19 and tens of thousands of deaths. When he made these proclamations, were some people wondering why he was exaggerating? These words weren’t said spontaneously either. They were well thought out. Netanyahu knew that there was no chance that a million Israelis would become infected with COVID-19 and that there’d be so many deaths. He deliberately created the expectation that we were going to suffer a greater catastrophe than a reasonable, responsible person could have expected so that he could say later on what he said on the evening of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We would have faced another Holocaust, similar to the one that led to the destruction of a significant portion of the Jewish people, had it not been for the historic and singular leader, the likes of which no other nation had. But due to his special resourcefulness, manipulative talent and ability to operate all of the country’s systems as he said, to prevent this disaster. Hallelujah!
Netanyahu, however, as usual, cannot help but tell lies. Not only did he make this abominable comparison between COVID-19 and the Holocaust, but he had to revise the facts about what was done and how he succeeded in preventing its recurrence.
What did Netanyahu do? According to him, he closed Israel’s borders. But did he close the borders? No, he did just the opposite. He left them open and let thousands of sick people enter our country, unsupervised and unrestricted, and the responsible and controlled way Israel’s health officials had been handling the crisis up until then was upended as the virus began to spread like wildfire.
So, a full closure was imposed, and the country’s economy collapsed. Thousands of Israelis lost their livelihoods as they were forcibly and unnecessarily furloughed. Billions of shekels were wasted instead of being earmarked for the rehabilitation of Israel’s health system, which the government had been neglecting for years. That way, we could have protected our citizens, reduced the number of people becoming infected with the virus and fewer people would have died.
More than 6,000 Israelis have lost their lives to COVID-19. Some of these men and women could have been saved had the prime minister not been busy trying to leverage the pandemic crisis as a means to extricate himself from the chaos in Israel that was a result of his battle to save himself.
I blame the prime minister for the deaths of many who did not survive the pandemic. The public servants and experts who sat in those conference rooms where decisions on how the country should function were made by Netanyahu explicitly state that in many cases, the prime minister’s decisions regarding how to handle the pandemic were clearly influenced by personal and political considerations, and not out of a concern for public health, nor out of fear that citizens would lose their lives, but from a need to extricate himself.
Along the way, Netanyahu tried to pulverize the courts and undermine our trust in them. He shamelessly defamed the attorney-general and accused him of attempting to carry out a coup.
Now that we see the results of the vaccine created by the experts at Pfizer, which were purchased with the exceptional efforts of Netanyahu (though at a much higher price than what other countries paid), the prime minister has finally taken the time to present things in their “historical proportion”.
We were facing a Holocaust, like the Holocaust that led to the annihilation of one-third of the Jewish people. However, 80 years ago no world leader realized the extent of the danger, until Bibi Netanyahu arrived and then all of us were saved (except for the more than 6,000 people who have lost their lives to the coronavirus).
I am convinced that the only move that could save all of us from the virus that is threatening to destroy Israeli society would be the formation of a government – any government – headed by Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid, Gideon Sa’ar or Benny Gantz, whichever one can garner support from more than 60 members of Knesset, and send Netanyahu off to face what his fate holds for him in the future, as long as it’s not at our expense or in exchange for our lives.