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Holocaust Remembrance Day: The View from Israel

Overlapping with Hitler's birthday.

By 4.21.09

HERZLIYA, Israel -- Yom HaShoa began on Hitler's birthday. Two groups of people were mindful of this dark coincidence. All Israelis -- or at least everyone I talked to -- knew about the overlap. They thought it was both poetic justice and divine intervention. Hitler didn't just want to destroy the Jewish people; he wanted the world to remember us. He envisioned creating a museum to house our corpses and conquered religious treasures -- torahs, talmuds, menorahs, tallit (prayer shawls), etc. to make eternal mockery of a people who believed in a G-d and way of life in which the absolute worth of each individual was the eternal foundation of society, behavior and technological progress. And of course the opposite has happened. Hitler is now a re-run on the History Channel and the Jewish people thrive and remember and are a reminder of both the mindless hatred of our enemies as well as our determination to fight and thrive as a nation.

The other group of people was of course the clueless in the mainstream media. They were the audience the President of Iran played to by speaking -- on Hitler's birthday -- at a UN-sponsored Geneva conference on racism rigged to engender more hate and promote the destruction of the Jewish state. As Ahmadinejad spoke European delegates to this conference on racism walked out in protest. Yet many of their own countries were party to canceling Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies in various cities to "protest” Israel's military operation in Gaza in response to both rocket attacks from Hamas and its continuing project of establishing medium and long range missile capacity against major cities in Israel, courtesy of Iran. The irony of siding as a form of protest with those who want to eliminate the Jewish state was lost on these nation states. Similarly, the willingness to abet militant Islam in meaningless international conferences and expect to be congratulated for walking out on the speech of a monster...well, now that I think about it, that's something the students at Columbia University didn't do!

Once again history and the future of the Jewish people appear to be on a collision course. Throughout the world lip service is paid to our "right to exist," as if this is some sort of special gift from the family of nations and not something Jews -- mostly Israelis in the past 60 years -- have had to defend with their lives almost yearly. The promise of "Never Again" is uttered but in Europe and in the halls of Congress and the mainstream media, attacks on the Jewish lobby are now part of the conversation.

Sometimes I fear the world is slouching from indifference back to eon-old habits. Modern day blood libel (the Gaza operation) is now the grist for playwrights who explore the Jewish soul and conclude it is dark, violent, and racist to the core. England has become a cesspool of anti-Semitism. Many in the American left are following suit. Some include the disgusting M.J. Rosenberg of TPMCafe who has become the agent of the anti-Israel crowd in Washington. And what to make of those illuminati such as Martin Peretz who shilled for Obama only to be horrified that the man who called Israel a stalwart ally appointed Charles Freeman, an outright anti-Zionist, to head up his National Intelligence Council? What will Peretz say now that Obama has found ways to avoid meeting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but had no problem embracing Hugo Chavez whose own regime has harassed Jews and Jewish establishments to curry favor with Iran! Where is the outrage from the Jewish left?  Apparently it is too busy lobbying the White House to press Israel into direct negotiations with Hamas and Syria.  

Yet I believe Israel will prevail and the Jewish people will thrive precisely because of days such as this one. In Israel at 10 a.m. sirens wailed, traffic stopped, people stood still. For a minute the entire nation as one remembered, not just as a collective reminder of what preceded the establishment of Israel, but to show that one nation carved out of national tragedy will eternally bear witness to both the evil that nearly consumed the world and to our capacity not only rouse the conscience of others but to defend our existence the next time such evil rises again. We pause in silence. Not just to remember, but also to underscore our willingness to set aside "normal" life and do what is required to survive, thrive, and contribute to the world.

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About the Author
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and founder of Hands Off My H ealth, a grass roots health care empowerment network. His is new book, Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear and Profit, was published last month by Kaplan.