No way to treat a friend

ADL’s rebuke of Huckabee for telling Shoah-related story in speech about the US economy was not only wrong, it trivializes the Holocaust.

yad vashem  311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yad vashem 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
About 17 years ago, an American visitor to Jerusalem decided that his 11-year-old daughter was mature enough to be told about the Holocaust. Not a Jew, he was in Israel to express his love for the nation and introduce his children to the Holy Land.
He gently guided her through Yad Vashem, explaining the unthinkable history, standing in silence, musing. When they concluded this personal journey into the savagery of genocide, the father asked his daughter if she would like to sign the “memory book” at Yad Vashem’s exit. She did.
He asked if he could read what she wrote. She agreed. She had written: “Why didn’t somebody do something?”
The story was so indelibly etched in the father’s mind that he retold it occasionally to emphasize the short memory of mankind when it comes to hatred and mass murder. Even more, he felt his young daughter’s intuitive understanding spoke eloquently of the sacred duty of accountability, contrasted with inaction and collaboration in the face of horrific crimes.
TWO WEEKS ago, Mike Huckabee – who in the past two decades has become a respected US governor, presidential primary candidate and immensely popular TV personality in the US – was moved to recount this special story inter alia in his address on the American economy and the national debt crisis at the annual National Rifle Association convention.
One would have to look long and hard to find anyone in Israel who would not find this poignant episode moving. Not every American Christian visits the Jewish state, or brings his family, or accepts the personal mission of conveying the lessons of the Shoah to his offspring.
Incredibly, unfathomably, one leading Jewish organization put aside all other problems of the day to respond sharply to Huckabee’s comments. Its statement did not laud the man, who happens to be one of the strongest Republican “pre-candidates” for the 2012 presidential elections.
In fact, the ADL shrilly lambasted Huckabee, saying the Holocaust “should never be used as political talking points,” and sternly advising him to “weigh his words more carefully.”
I am a big fan of the ADL and the vital work it does, but artificially stretching its perspective to criticize a man who is undeniably one of Israel’s staunchest and most effective supporters is not only wrong and foolish. It actually trivializes the Holocaust.
I am a friend of Mike Huckabee. We have spent treasured time together in Israel and America. I can honestly tell you that I have never met a more sincere friend of our cause. He ponders the Holocaust and its dark legacy more than many Jews do. For him, it is a dark stain that man can only attempt to understand on some level, but must definitely act to prevent from recurring in any way, shape or form.
The ADL subsequently retracted – sort of – its initial statement after the public had some time to absorb it, penning a letter to Huckabee: “Based upon our conversation and after having listened to your full speech, I now understand that you never intended to make any direct comparison between today’s issues and the Holocaust. Indeed, it was clear from our discussion about the impact of your visits to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, and your strong commitment to Israel, that you understand why the Holocaust must always be remembered as a unique event in human history. Reasonable people, listening to the story of the words your daughter penned at Yad Vashem – ‘Why didn’t somebody do something?’ – followed by a reference to the national debt, could interpret that as drawing an analogy. We are pleased to know that this was never your intention.”
Who knows if that second statement would have been issued had not sharp protests been voiced?
WE WANT our Christian friends to visit Israel, to teach their children about the Holocaust and yes, to share their experiences and concerns with the widest possible audience. No one should dare assume the authority to censor such individuals, for whatever reason. No one has been elected judge or jury, empowered to stifle the kind of message uttered not once but continuously by Huckabee.
This episode should never have happened. Our mission must be to work more closely with our friends, not to criticize them.
The writer serves as deputy speaker of the Knesset and is Chair of World Likud.