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Monday, April 08, 2013

Feiglin: Israel misuses the Holocaust

And from one straight shooter to another....

MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) told the JPost on Sunday that Israel should stop taking foreign dignitaries to Yad VaShem because the government is misusing the Holocaust to justify Israel's existence.
“They have made it as if we have to have a Jewish state because of the Holocaust,” he told the Post. “When the diplomats are brought to Yad Vashem, they are speechless. But giving only security reasons for being here does not work with new generations in Europe who care about rights. The other side’s incorrect arguments about the land being theirs are more persuasive than the pragmatic arguments about what would happen if there were no Jewish state.”

Feiglin insisted that “The reason for the state of Israel, for our existence, is not security, but our national goal. But the Holocaust teaches us that we should always be strong, not only physically but also morally.
“Without understanding the deep justification for our existence here in the land of Israel, no army will help us. This is a very important point.”
I could not agree more. In fact, this is from something I wrote about this topic four years ago after President Hussein Obama went to the Buchenwald concentration camp and said that Israel's existence was justified because of the Holocaust.
Unless one has spent several years here - and in particular unless one has spent several Holocaust Memorial Days here - it is difficult to understand the way in which the Zionist movement and the State of Israel have made the Holocaust a part of the State. By making the Holocaust into an occasion for Zionist (and not just for Jewish or personal) mourning, the State of Israel has inadvertently brought about the conclusion that it needs the Holocaust to justify its existence. Please consider the following:

1. The day that was chosen for Holocaust Memorial Day was the Hebrew date in 1953 that matched the Gregorian date on which the Warsaw Ghetto fell. This date effectively excluded the ultra-Orthodox community (whose members constituted the bulk of the Holocaust victims) because it falls in the month of Nissan - a month in which we do not mourn publicly. The Chief Rabbinate - which at the time was in religious Zionist hands - urged making Holocaust Memorial Day on the 10th day of the month of Tevet - a day that is already observed as a fast day in the Jewish calendar. They lost that battle.

2. The official title of Holocaust Memorial Day in Hebrew is Yom HaShoa v'HaGvura - Holocaust and Heroism Day. Until recent years, most of the day's official events related to resistance in the ghetto - as if there were something shameful about people who were slaughtered without resisting. It was almost as if the Holocaust victims were expected to perform as an army. This was also offensive to many in the religious community, who believe that the Holocaust was God's will for reasons that we cannot and will not understand. More about that here.

3. The State has taken upon itself to track down and punish Nazi murderers - most notably Adolf Eichman and, in recent years, John Demjanjuk (who was actually acquitted here). The Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law (1950) gives the State the power to punish those who committed crimes against the Jewish people (and was probably the first instance of a State claiming extra-territorial jurisdiction). Similarly, the government negotiated with the West German government to obtain reparations for the Jewish people as a whole. Ben Gurion regarded the State of Israel as the successor to the Holocaust victims. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but the State's co-opting of the Holocaust narrative as part of its historical narrative (as opposed to it being more generally part of the narrative of the Jewish people), could lead someone like Obama to the wrong conclusion.

4. The State of Israel doesn't observe the anniversaries of any pogroms perpetrated by Tsarist Russia (for example). The only 'Memorial Days' here are for the Holocaust and for fallen soldiers. In fact, in recent years, there has been controversy in Israel over the closing of places of entertainment on Tisha b'Av, the date that the Holy Temples were both destroyed, and the only other day of the year on which places of entertainment are (or were in Tel Aviv) required to be closed.

Now obviously, there's a lot more to it than that, and just as obviously the Arab countries have an interest in portraying Israel's existence as being justified solely by the Holocaust so that they can claim that they are being forced to pay for Europe's iniquities. But the extent to which the State of Israel has made the Holocaust into a Zionist event to the exclusion of every other instance of Jewish suffering may unfortunately help the Arab narrative gain wider acceptance than it would otherwise.

And why did Israel's founders use the Holocaust as a justification for founding the State of Israel? Because they were trying to be like all the other nations. Many of them were trying to flee from God and from what they called the 'religion of the diaspora,' and so they could not bring themselves to use the real justification for there being a state of Israel, and for it to be specifically located on the land of Israel - the Jewish homeland - and not in Uganda or anyplace else. The Jewish people have owned the land of Israel for more than 3000 years. Wherever and whenever they went anywhere else they prayed to return to the land of Israel. The land of Israel was given to us by God. That is the only 'justification' for the reason why Jews should live in the land of Israel.

We don't need the Holocaust to 'justify' our being here. We need only three words:

God said so.
I suspect MK Feiglin would agree with me too. 

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At 11:38 AM, Blogger Bill said...

A small point: the official name of Holocaust Memorial Day is actually
יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה
Yom hazikaron lashoah v'lagvurah. You left out the word "Remembrance".


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