|By HERB KEINON,JEREMY SHARON
05/02/2019 Jerusalem Post
Netanyahu used the solemn occasion to speak out on the shooting at the Chabad synagogue outside of San Diego on Saturday, and the anti-semitic cartoon in the New York Times that appeared two days prior.
Jew hatred is the one thing the extreme Right, extreme Left and radical Islam have in common, but Israel has learned from the past and will not “extend its neck for slaughter,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday evening at Yad Vashem at a ceremony marking the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“To those who seek our destruction, I say precisely from this place: We have returned to the stage of history, we have returned to the front of the stage, we have defeated our oppressors in the past, and – with God’s help – we will defeat you as well,” he said.
The prime minister spoke in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the two chief rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Rabbi David Lau, along with other dignitaries.
The prime minister said that the Jewish people today live in a paradox. On the one hand there is admiration around the world for Israel and what it has achieved, but on the other hand it is accompanied in certain circles by a rise in antisemitism.
This, he said, was manifested recently in the synagogue shootings in San Diego and before that in Pittsburgh, in the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and in “the publication of cartoons and articles dripping with hatred of Jews and Israel – even in respected
newspapers. This is not legitimate criticism of Israel – I would not dwell on this if it were not systematic, poisonous, deceitful slander that constantly undermines the legitimacy of the Jewish nation-state. This is intolerable hypocrisy that must not be tolerated.”
As bad as that is, he said, antisemitism in the West is eclipsed by that coming from the East, where Iran continuously threatens Israel with destruction.
“We do not ignore these threats, but we are not deterred by them,” he said. “In the face of Iran, our policy is clear: in the military field – an aggressive containment of Iran’s attempts to establish itself militarily near our borders. And in the political arena – pressure, pressure and more pressure. In the face of threats of annihilation, Israel will not extend its neck to slaughter. Contrary to what happened during the Holocaust, we are capable and determined to defend ourselves, by ourselves. The IDF is strong – among the strongest armies in the world – and it can defeat our enemies.” Netanyahu praised US President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal, clamping sanctions on Iran and declaring the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps a terrorist entity.
The prime minister began his 17-minute speech by apparently choking up when quoting the words of Elie Wiesel: that when a person writes about the Holocaust, he does not write the words – “he fights the words, because there are no words to describe what the victims felt: when death was the norm, and life was a miracle.”
He related that when, as prime minister, he has visited sites over the last couple of years with his wife where Jews were slaughtered or sent to their slaughter – from Budapest and Salonika to Vilna, Paris and Warsaw – he stands with his head bowed but his back upright. “I feel horrible pain at the disaster that had befallen us, and at the same time I feel a tremendous pride to represent our people – which rose from the ashes – in our independent state,” he said.
Netanyahu noted that Israel was now receiving unprecedented esteem and admiration precisely in countries whose earth is soaked with Jewish blood. “In exile, our abysmal weakness left us to our fate. In the homeland, the power we have built makes us a rising world power,” he said. The premier added, however, that rebirth is not the end of the story. “We are proud of the achievements we have achieved, but we do not ignore the dangers that lie ahead. There is no contradiction between the two things. Even the greatest powers are aware of the dangers threatening them, and they are prepared to repel them. This is not a question of fear mongering; awareness of danger is a precondition for life.”
Rivlin, meanwhile, issued a fervent warning against any Israeli alliance with racist or extremist political forces in Europe that have arisen in recent years, in his address at the official opening ceremony for Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem. In his address, Rivlin said that the “ghosts of the past” have emerged once again in Europe and that antisemitic and xenophobic ideas have taken root on both the political Right and Left, asserting that if the Jewish state was not clear in its rejection of such political movements, it would be compromising its own moral voice in demanding that other countries fight against antisemitism. Israel has in recent years grown close to several countries that are led by or include xenophobic, hard-right or even far-right parties, such as Hungary and Austria, which include members who have expressed antisemitic ideas and Holocaust denial or revisionism.
“Ideas of superiority, national purity, xenophobia, [and] blatant antisemitism from Left and Right are hovering over Europe,” stated Rivlin, noting that governments in Europe with antisemitic elements or even leaders could take office. “In a case like this particularly, Israel must speak in a clear and uncompromising voice,” declared Rivlin.“No interest and no consideration of realpolitik can justify a dishonorable alliance with racist groups or elements who do not acknowledge their past and their responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust,” he said. “If we are not clear and precise, how can we expect other nations to take the responsibility and educate their next generations to remember the Holocaust and its lessons?”
Rivlin underlined rising antisemitism in both Europe and the US, and that such forces exist on all sides of the political spectrum, including Islamist extremists and far-right extremists. He insisted that all these forms of antisemitism were illegitimate. “There is no such thing as loving Israel and hating Jews – just like there is no such thing as loving Jews and hating Israel. The game is up; the masks have been torn off,” he said. The president added that he had invited world leaders to an international conference next year to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and to formulate ideas to combat against “antisemitism, xenophobia and Holocaust denial.”
Following the head of state’s and head of government’s remarks, the traditional ceremony of lighting six torches for the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust was conducted, with six survivors each lighting one of the torches, after each of their personal stories was related in a short film. The Jewish memorial service was then recited and a psalm read by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, after which Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef recited the Kaddish mourner’s prayer, and Cantor Yehonatan Heinowitz sang the El Maleh Rahamim prayer for the souls of the martyrs. ONE OF the survivors to light a torch was Bela Eizenman, born in 1927 in Lodz, Poland, to Moshe and Hinda Federman. After the Nazi invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939, her family, along with the rest of the Jewish population of Lodz, was imprisoned in the city’s ghetto. In May 1942, Bela’s father Moshe was interrogated at the Nazi police headquarters, across from their house, and Bela said she could hear her father’s screams. “I remember this; it was horrifying. It haunted me,” she said, adding that memories of the suffering in the ghetto of Jews suffering from disease and starvation still keep her up at nights when she recalls them. He succumbed to his injuries a few days later, and was buried in a mass grave.
In March 1943, German troops broke into Bela’s home and beat her eldest brother, Chaim, who was lying down and visibly starving. He died of his injuries the next day.
In the summer of 1944, Bela and her mother were deported to Auschwitz. They were separated in the selection and her mother was murdered in the gas chambers, although Bela was initially unaware of what had become of her. “I searched for my mother the first day we were allowed out and I asked a man in striped clothes where she could be,” Bela recalled. “He took me by the shoulders, turned me around and said ‘Do you see the smoke? It’s simple: she’s there.’ And that’s it. That’s how I found out where my mother was.” Bela, the last surviving member of her family, became sick and was destined for the gas chambers too, but a train to Bergen-Belsen was missing a female prisoner and Bela was sent in her place. From Bergen-Belsen, Bela was sent on a death march in 1945, but escaped one night with three friends. They were ultimately liberated by the US Army. She reached the Land of Israel in 1946 and married her husband, Zvi, z”l, with whom she had two children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Holocaust Memorial Day events will continue throughout Thursday, beginning with a two-minute siren at 10 a.m. that will bring the entire country to a standstill in remembrance of the victims.