Orange Humanist

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Holocaust

Yesterday Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day. Such a day usually brings about various discussions on the necessity of the day and whether it serves its purpose.

During the eviction of the Gaza Jews from their homes this past summer, there were various comparisons to the Holocaust from the side of the Gazans and various calls to ban such talk from the side of the left and some Holocaust survivors.

Dan Halutz, Chief of Staff of Israel’s army, came out against these comparisons saying:

“that the propaganda used by settlers during the Gaza and West Bank disengagement caused contempt of the Holocaust.”

He specifically referred to the slogan "We will neither forgive nor forget," saying that it is a slogan which is commonly used by Holocaust survivors.

We have met soldiers who participated in the eviction. There were those who agreed with the move, but there were those who didn’t, or weren’t comfortable with the way it was done. All of them said that it was a democratically accepted move by the elected government and that they cannot question their orders. That they were protecting democracy by following orders.

The phrase “we’re just following orders”, to me, as a Jew and Israeli, is frightening. Every Israeli school child is taught that this was the Nazi excuse and that it doesn’t hold water. And yet, none of the soldiers who parroted it out even thought twice. Should you have pointed out to them that this was used by Nazi war criminals to justify their acts, they would have told you there’s no comparison. Why?

Because nothing can compare to the Holocaust.

And this is the place where the Israeli education system failed. Where we, as Israelis, failed. If nothing can compare to the Holocaust, there will never be a way to stop the next one. We will not forgive, we will not forget, but we will also not open our eyes and use our minds to make sure that such atrocities (and even lesser atrocities) will be possible.

We should not hide the Holocaust and put it on a pedestal never to be touched again. If we want to prevent it, we MUST discuss it. We MUST look at every act TODAY and contemplate whether it is moral and whether it should be done in a society which preserves its members’ right to the basics of freedom, life and property.

If we just remember the Holocaust by lighting a candle, standing when the siren wails and discussing how much the Germans were wrong then we miss the point. We must discuss whether the eviction of Jews from Gaza was right or wrong, whether it was ethnic cleansing or not, whether soldiers must obey orders at all costs. Only by discussing the issues relevant to today in today’s context will we really learn the lessons from the Holocaust.

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