Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to make Effi Eitam director of the Holocaust memorial. That triggers heated discussions.
TEL AVIV taz | I want my money back, ”Yosi jokes while a discussion on the radio about the appointment of director of the Yad Vashem memorial is on. Yosi’s great-aunt had bequeathed all of her money to Yad Vashem. And now, 20 years later, Yosi, on behalf of his aunt, wants his money back: Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to make Effi Eitam director of the Holocaust memorial.
Of all people, Effi Eitam, a former general, notorious for orders his soldiers to act particularly brutally against Palestinians. Later he was a Likud Knesset member who called Israeli Arabs a “cancer” in the Israeli state and a “ticking time bomb”. He wanted to expel the Arab-Israeli MPs “to Gaza” and spoke of “dark forces” that would have to be killed or driven out.
Does that sound like the director of the world-famous Yad Vashem memorial? Margalit, a friend, comes over, sits down at the kitchen table and shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t expect more. By January at the latest, you saw that Yad Vashem was primarily pursuing political purposes. “
It refers to the celebrations for the liberation of Auschwitz in Yad Vashem, attended by high-profile participants, at which a survivor did not speak until after the official event, but instead heads of state from all over the world, including Vladimir Putin. Critics spoke of the instrumentalization of the Holocaust for political purposes. However, internally, not everyone had agreed to the event.
A little tight lipped
Margalit needs winter shoes. We walk to the nearest shoe store on Etzelstrasse. I try to find out what the owner thinks. But he doesn’t want to comment.
“You have to Ha’aretz read to have an opinion on Yad Vashem and Effi Eitam. Or be Ashkenazi, ”says Yosi, referring to the Jews from Europe. He is Misrachi, like most people in the Tel Aviv district of HaTikva, his family comes from Arab countries. Margalit, himself Misrachi, nods: “The Holocaust is not so deeply inscribed in the DNA of the Misrachi, that is not so much their story.”
It looks very different among Ashkenazi Jews. Netanyahu’s election caused an uproar among many of them. 750 international Holocaust researchers, survivors and museum directors, including Cilly Kugelmann, program director of the Jewish Museum Berlin until 2017, turned against the appointment with a petition.
“Eitam’s hateful rhetoric against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians contradicts the declared mission of Yad Vashem,” they write. “The appointment of Effi Eitam would make an internationally respected institution dedicated to documenting crimes against humanity and human rights a mockery and disgrace.”
While Margalit is trying on the third shoe, Yosi’s father calls, who was liberated by the Russians in Theresienstadt in 1945 at the age of six: “Effi Eitam as director of Yad Vashem would be the most absurd thing I’ve heard in a long time.” Politically motivated, it is stimulating he insists that Eitam is just another far right that Netanyahu wants to accommodate: “Eitam has no idea about the Shoah. There are people who know their way around. Why not them? “
But what would Netanyahu get out of it if Eitam got the job? My friend Menachem, the son of German parents who emigrated to Israel in 1933, usually has theories ready for such cases: “Owning the libs – pissing off liberals. Netanyahu may also be trying to change Yad Vashem’s style from historical deliberation to a functionalization of the Holocaust, as is often the case in Israel. “
The Knesset still has to approve the filling of the post. According to media reports, Benny Gantz, who will replace Nethanyahu as prime minister in 2022, is unlikely to agree to Effi Eitam as director of Yad Vashem.