Yad Vashem needs to stay out of Likud's reach

Yad Vashem has to stay above politics and remain a place that is solely focused on preserving the memory of the victims of the most atrocious act of genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people.

HALL OF Names, Yad Vashem.  (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
HALL OF Names, Yad Vashem.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Some issues are supposed to be above politics. The same about can be said about some institutions, places that are supposed to be out of the reach of politicians who we have grown accustomed to seeing reach deep into every aspect of life in this country.
One of those institutions is the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, the place that the State of Israel established in 1953 on the western slope of Mount Herzl to commemorate the memory of the six million Jews murdered by Nazis and their collaborators during the Holocaust. It serves as a memory of the attempt to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth, a constant reminder why the State of Israel was needed then and is still needed today.
Sadly though, for this government, Yad Vashem is not above politics. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Higher Education Minister Ze’ev Elkin have their way, Yad Vashem will soon become another branch of the Likud Party although this time not in Gedera or Ashkelon but in the Hall of Names, the sacred place where the names of all the Holocaust’s victims are stored for eternity.
Netanyahu and Elkin are advancing the candidacy of former minister and IDF general Effi Eitam as the new chairman of the museum, to replace Avner Shalev who has served in the role since 1993.
In addition to Eitam, Elkin is also said to be promoting the candidacy of a known Likud political adviser as the new CEO of Yad Vashem after Dorit Novak, the current director of the museum steps down this summer.
One might wonder why this is controversial. The reason is that both Eitam and the Likud operative do not have a background in Holocaust memory or education. One was a former general in the IDF, turned politician; the other was a political adviser for about 20 years.
That’s not the only reason to be suspect. In addition, the Anti-Defamation League and the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, among others, have protested the pending appointment of Eitam due to his support for the forcible transfer of Palestinians from the West Bank and against the participation of Arab-Israelis in Israel’s political system.
Colette Avital, head of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, said statements made by Eitam about Arab-Israelis and in favor of population transfer of Palestinians “are well known by many abroad and could be used against Yad Vashem by those who do not particularly care for Israel.
 “We are concerned about the damage that this appointment can cause to the image of Israel and the credibility of Yad Vashem,” she continued. “We hope that government ministers will take into account the position of Holocaust survivors and many Jewish communities in the Diaspora.”
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, the former executive director of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust, which proposed the creation and wrote the program of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, wrote in The Jerusalem Post on Friday that Eitam’s appointment would undermine the legitimacy of Yad Vashem.
“The appointment of a leader – whose personal behavior shows that the norms derived from the catastrophe by a repentant humanity are not taken seriously – is an attack on this universal opinion held by humankind, and it would present a field day to the most vicious haters of Israel who take every opportunity to dishonor Jewry by claiming that the Jewish state is now acting like the Nazis did,” Greenberg wrote.
We urge Netanyahu to intervene and reconsider the series of pending appointments at Yad Vashem. The CEO position has always been held by an educator. Novak was the head of the Yad Vashem International School before becoming CEO in 2013. She replaced Nathan Eitan who led a cultural and arts NGO after a military service as the deputy head of the Education Corps.

Yad Vashem
has to stay above politics and remain a place that is solely focused on preserving the memory of the victims of the most atrocious act of genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people. Heaven forbid that we allow the museum to become dirtied by politics. It will be an insult to the victims, to the survivors and their descendants.