Alan Shatter, who resigned as Minister for Justice on political grounds before these letters, has publicly accused HETI of abusing this review, which was just an informal chat between himself and HETI, during which he suggested some tweaks to the format of Holocaust Memorial Day. He fully expected me to take an active part in the review, not to lose my role as MC as a result of the review.
After I put the HETI letters into the public domain, HETI and the Israeli Embassy agreed in December 2014 that at future Holocaust Memorial Day events, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland would deliver an address reiterating the clear connection between the Shoah and the State of Israel. This welcome reversal of HETI’s ultimatum stopped short of the MC, who at the 2015 event did not mention Israel other than to invite Ambassador Modai to the podium.
The ambassador said: “On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we should all remember the importance of the very existence of the State of Israel. Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, must continue to be a place to which Jews, wherever they live in the world, can come to live if and when they feel that there is no longer a place for them elsewhere. Jews everywhere must know that there is one place which will be their bastion, one place where they can feel safe, one place that guarantees there will not ever be another Shoah – that place is Israel, the nation state founded by the Jewish people themselves.”
These words, like Mr Shatter’s words in 2014, do not politicize Holocaust Memorial Day. If HETI wants to see real politicization in action, they should look at what the Turkish Parliamentary Speaker said at a Holocaust Memorial Day on January 28, 2015: “As we remember the pain of the past, no one can ignore the last attacks on Gaza.”
HETI’s fear that mentioning Israel politicizes Holocaust Memorial Day reveals a position that is dangerously close to that of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement. Indeed, Alan Shatter described HETI’s ultimatum as a “verbal boycott.” The Jews on the HETI Board who instigated the ultimatum should hang their heads in shame.
I do not regret blowing the whistle. I find it offensive that a body charged with commemorating the Holocaust in which my grandparents were murdered, could contemplate banning any mention of Israel, where so many Holocaust survivors found refuge. At a time when Israel is under increasing attack, at a time when Jews are still being murdered because they are Jews, the attempts of Ireland’s guardians of the memory of the Holocaust to airbrush Israel out of Holocaust Memorial Day are pernicious, disturbing, and very dangerous.