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Remembering Auschwitz in Jerusalem

Many of the world’s VIPs are in Jerusalem today: heads of state or their deputies, heads of government, foreign ministers and other important dignitaries from more than 40 countries. They’ve come to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

A noted absentee is the president of Poland. He would have wanted the event to take place in Auschwitz in his country. At least he expected to be one of the speakers in Jerusalem to have an opportunity not only to say why Jerusalem isn’t the place for the venue but, more important, also to challenge Russia’s version of history that has helped to turn Poland into a perpetrator of the Holocaust and not, as the Poles see it, as its principal victim.

The Jewish people have a long-standing grudge against Poland for its age-old anti-Semitism, reflected in what has been perceived as the Poles’ support for, or at least indifference to, the Nazi’s determination to make the world Judenrein (“clean” of Jews). Though some Israelis have expressed agreement with the stance of Poland’s president, most aren’t likely to lose sleep over it.

In this dispute, Israel sides with Russia for reasons not connected to the Holocaust. The president of Poland could attend, but not speak, for Israel has another agenda: it needs Russia to continue to turn a blind eye to Israel’s attacks on Iranian installations in neighbouring Syria and to curb the activities of Iran’s stooges in the region. For that, it’ll bribe Russia with significant gifts.

Israel also wants Russia to pardon the Israeli woman sentenced to more than seven years in prison for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country. Russia’s President Putin, who has come to Israel for the day, is expected to bring the good news to the girl’s family, indeed to the whole country. Thereby he’ll also throw his support behind Netanyahu in the March 2 general election here. Rescuing an Israeli woman from a Russian jail is bound to bring votes for Netanyahu in addition to the gathering itself, which will also be interpreted as evidence of the enviable international stature of Israel’s current prime minister. This may help him to stay in power.

I surmise that (a) commemorating the Holocaust and thereby engaging the leaders of the world to fight the resurgence of anti-Semitism, (b) getting their support against the current effort by the International Criminal Court in the Hague to convict Israel of crimes against the Palestinians is very important to Netanyahu, but (c) winning on March 2 may matter to him even more.

Israelis who won’t vote for Netanyahu have also reason to be proud of today’s gathering of world leaders, despite the traffic restrictions imposed on them to make room for speedy and efficient transportation of the visitors. The event demonstrates that Israel is a significant player on the international arena thus reminding hostile neighbours not to mess with the Jewish state.

For most Israelis, indeed Jews everywhere, today’s commemoration is further evidence that Hitler didn’t succeed to wipe out the Jewish people. Despite the death of six million Jews and the terrible damage inflicted on survivors, the Jewish people has, literally, risen from the ashes and established a state to be reckoned with in the world as well as a national home for them. Whether or not that’s what the distinguished visitors came to tell the world, that’s what we will remember, cherish and, strange though it may sound in view of the occasion – celebrate.

Jerusalem 23.1.20                                                                                                                   Dow Marmur

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