01/27/2006, 00.00
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Remembering the Shoah to understand Israel

by David-Maria A. Jaeger*

On the day dedicated by the international community to the memory of the Holocaust,  it is also necessary to remember Nazis and the silent connivance of the West.  Whatever the criticisms against Israel be, its legitimacy cannot be denied.  A testimony.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) –January 27 is the day chosen by many nations and now also by the UN to remember the six million Jews – a third of the entire Jewish population – killed during the second world war.  Yesterday the Israeli government dedicated its session in memory of the Holocaust. Israel itself commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and those killed in the ghetto's and concentration camps on a separate date, the 27th of the month of Nissan on the Hebrew calendar, about two weeks after Passover, which is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt.  Despite this, the Jewish state wishes to acknowledge the international communities gesture, which is of considerable importance for this people, abandoned by all during the war and left prey to the murderous butchers.  The global  recognition of the Shoa is to some extent considered overdue but nonetheless deeply appreciated. In fact for the generations who lived through this experience,  for the survivors,  the perception of  civilized nations complete indifference even their so called allies,  weighed as much as the horrendous criminality of the killers.  In particular, it is difficult to forget that while the Nazis allowed some to flee, many civilized nations refused them visas.  This was also my own father's experience.  He was studying for his doctorate in European history at the University of Prague when Hitler's army quashed the peaceful middle European democracy of which it was capital.  By a subtle stratagem he succeeded in saving himself, but he never truly understood why the society that was also his own seemed by omission or indeed even commission see him and his people perish.  This experience, this perception, could only determine the way in which this people, so wholly tested, would relate to the rest of the world. If at times Israeli politics seems harsh, if at times it seems that the Jewish state does not trust others, even the same international institutions, the roots of this behaviour lie here.  Even if by education, or for prudence sake it is not always explained, the widespread sentiment is this : "the world" rose up against us, "the world" is divided into who wanted to kill us and those who stood by to watch.  Now – this line of thought continues - we will never again allow this to happen.  We will save ourselves, employing whatever means necessary to do so always and against all!

Who does not understand this will never understand my people.

The institution of the World Day of Memory was a small but significant gesture, with which the international community desires to invites the Jewish people to begin believing that that world is gone, that the Jewish people will never again feel alone or abandoned.  Certainly it is not enough.  The sincerity and effectiveness of this universal commemoration must be put to the test.  To begin with, there must be strong and decisive reaction to any form of resurging anti-Semitism, of hatred towards Jews because they are Jews, in order for trust to be restored.   Unfortunately even today this  still occurs.

Moreover, international community must be a decisive and definitive in its' acceptance of a Jewish state – into which Holocaust survivors have converged – so they may never again see themselves defenceless or alone. There is a need for great care that criticism of Israel's politics, even the most valid of criticism, does not become a negation of its legitimacy, that it is not transformed into an attack against the sovereign right of the Jewish people to security in their own historic homeland, while maintaining and respecting the rights of others. It is by this measure that the World Day of Memory  will be observed in Israel and by it's people.

* David M. Jaeger, Franciscan, Israeli Jew, expert in relations between Israel and the Holy See.
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