By R. Blum
A 94-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor sent a harsh letter to the IDF deputy chief of staff contesting the controversial speech he delivered on Wednesday evening in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.
“I was filled with great sorrow to hear your pronouncements,” wrote Rachel Zeini to Maj. General Yair Golan, referring to the high-ranking officer’s assertion — during an address at Israel’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem — that Israelis have to guard against becoming like the Nazis. “The comparison you made between pre-war Germany and Israel today is utterly baseless, and likely the result of a lack of familiarity of the period that preceded your birth.”
According to nrg, Zeini decided to write the letter following an interview she gave to the French-language Israeli paper, Le P’tit Hebdo. She wrote the letter in French, and it was translated by staff at the publication, who helped her send it to Golan.
“My father graduated from law school in Berlin in 1916, as the numerus clausus restricting the number of Jews prevented him from studying in Budapest, the closest place to his home,” said Zeini, who defined herself in the letter as a refugee of Auschwitz. “At the University of Berlin, he saw the buds of Nazism, as students, with the support of the professors, would discriminate against Jewish students. In the state of Israel, Arab students can study anywhere they like, and in addition, they are given preferential treatment, otherwise known as ‘affirmative action.’”
Continuing with what she called her “own comparisons” between pre-Holocaust Europe and Israel, she wrote: “I was a victim of the cruelty of doctors in Germany, among them [Josef] Mengele,” the notorious SS officer and physician at Auschwitz who committed gruesome medical experiments on Jews. “This winter, I was hospitalized at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and witnessed the unwavering and humane attitude of Jewish doctors towards everyone, including a [Palestinian] terrorist who lay in the bed next to mine.”
Golan, to whom Zeini wrote these words, has come under fire from a large segment of the Israeli population, mainly on the political right, for warning against dangerous trends in Israeli society that could lead to its resembling Europe just before WWII.
“If there’s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance, it’s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then — 70, 80 and 90 years ago — and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016,” he said. “There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously. On Holocaust Remembrance Day we ought to discuss our ability to uproot the seeds of intolerance, violence, self-destruction and moral deterioration.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog immediately came to Golan’s defense, calling him a “courageous commander, and saying, “The crazies who will now start screaming against him should know: this is what morality and responsibility sound like.”
On Thursday, Golan claimed he had “had no intention of making that comparison.”
During his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu chastised Golan’s comments, saying, “They cause harm to Israel and cheapen the Holocaust.”
By Monday afternoon, however, Netanyahu had to decided to forgive and forget, according to nrg. During a toast with the IDF General Staff Forum, he said, “The issue of [Golan’s] speech is behind us. I consider it a one-off incident, and from now on, we can all move forward together.”
(C) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal