|Holocaust survivor Robert Tomashof and his daughter|
Rutti Tomashof light a torch during the opening Yom HaShoah
ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
(AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
04 May '16..
This week the ritual of question time in Britain’s House of Commons revolved around anti-Semitism. Prime Minister David Cameron hammered Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the way the loyal opposition in the mother of parliaments has become tainted by its members’ indiscreet comments and actions as well as their embrace of terrorist movements that are advocates of violent Jew hatred. But while the Labour Party has become the main focus of worries about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, it is just the tip of the iceberg. In recent years, violence against Jews in France and the marginalization of Jewish communities throughout Western Europe and Scandinavia has become a routine story. When placed beside the growing virus of anti-Semitism emanating from the Middle East as Islamist movements gain traction, what is happening in Europe illustrates a historical trend. It demonstrates that the memory of what happens when Jew hatred is allowed to run amuck has faded.
That’s a sobering thought for any day, but as Israel and the Jewish world prepares to commemorate Yom Hashoah — Holocaust Memorial Day — it is especially troubling to realize that Europe and the world have failed to draw the right conclusions from that tragedy.
It’s not an accident that Israel and the Jews remember the Holocaust on a different date from the rest of the world. In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate January 27 — the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz as International Holocaust Remembrance Day and that is the date used by the international community for such commemorations. But in Israel and in most Jewish communities, the Jewish state’s decision in 1953 to mark the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan as Yom HaShoah is respected.
The timing of that date places this memorial in the context of a cycle of days in which Israel remembers its fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism and the country’s independence day. This is crucial because it anchors the Holocaust in modern Jewish history. What happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s demonstrated the consequences both of the growth of Jew hatred and the danger of Jewish powerlessness. The subsequent rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the ancient homeland of the Jews was not so much a specific response to the Shoah as it was to a pattern of history in which Jews were perpetual victims.
That’s why the juxtaposition of all the platitudes about remembering the Holocaust that emanate from the United Nations and most of the West with Europe’s inability to free itself of that virus is so significant.
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