ECAJ adds its voice to oppose Netanyahu’s choice to lead Yad Vashem

November 24, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s choice to become chairman of Yad Vashem has disappointed The Executive Council of Australian Jewry and caused an outcry in Israel.

Effie Eitam

The Council and media state retired Brig.-Gen. Effi Eitam and  Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, is not a good mix.

The ECAJ issued a release stating: “Yad Vashem is a shining light of memory, scholarship and commemoration, honouring the victims of the Shoah. Its purpose, through the uniqueness of the Shoah, is to affirm the innate dignity, humanity and equal rights of all people, and to serve as a universal warning of the calamities that may follow when there is any departure from this principle.

Preserving the impeccable reputation and renown of Yad Vashem is of vital interest to the entire Jewish people and to the whole of humanity. Those who have led Yad Vashem in the past have been torch-bearers of the institution’s values. Their distinguished lives and careers have enhanced the admiration and respect that Yad Vashem has earned from people of all backgrounds.

In our view, Mr Effi Eitam does not fulfil these exacting requirements. He has stated publicly that Israel must “expel most of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria,” that Arab lawmakers “will have to be evicted from the political system,” and that “Israel’s Arabs” are “a fifth column” and “an association of first-degree traitors.” He has never retracted these comments.

The rhetoric of demonisation and exclusion of entire communities defined by their ethnicity, and of ethnic cleansing, was precisely where the Shoah began. A practitioner of such rhetoric cannot lead an institution that is dedicated to warning of its dangers, without discrediting that institution’s core message and bringing it into disrepute.

We urge the government of Israel not to proceed with the appointment of Mr Eitam as Chairman of Yad Vashem. Maintaining the integrity and credibility of the institution is of far more lasting importance than Israel’s internal politics. Israel is blessed with many distinguished citizens who have dedicated their lives and careers to upholding the sanctity and dignity of all human life, regardless of race or religion. In our view, this is the calibre of person who should be chosen to lead Yad Vashem.”

The ECAJ’s position is reflected by sectors of the Jewish media both in Israel, U.K. and the U.S.  Petitions have been signed by scholars across the globe and Israelis themselves.

Israeli media have published their views of Eitam’s racism and the Jerusalem Post quoted historian Deborah Lipstadt saying “We are shocked by this outrageous proposal,” said the petition Lipstadt and others signed while warning that Yad Vashem is “at risk of being handed over to the outspoken right-wing extremist and historically illiterate politician Effi Eitam.”

Immediate past chair of NSWJBD Shoah Remembrance Committee Danny Hochberg added: “I am concerned about the politicisation of seemingly every aspect of public life, and not just in Israel. It results in divisiveness rather than unity. We just saw this at the World Zionist Conference which saw political entities fighting for a piece of the substantial funds on offer. Self-interest was the motive, rather than a commitment to grow, nourish and defend non-partisan Zionism.

Effie Eitam is a political appointment, to a role which should be seen as both above the politics of the day, as well as a moral light in a deeply dived and hateful world. He fails to meet the criterion for moral leadership on a number of levels, and in particular his documented negative and racist pronouncements on Israel’s Arab citizens. He is a poor choice and his candidature should be withdrawn.


3 Responses to “ECAJ adds its voice to oppose Netanyahu’s choice to lead Yad Vashem”
  1. Paul Winter says:

    Congratulations ECAJ on such and oh so politically correct statement.

    But hysterically intoning that Effie Eitam’s statements are like those which led to the Shoah, shows that the ECAJ does not really understand the utter horribleness of the Nazi war on Jews.

    Eitam makes the point that Israeli Arabs and those in Judea and Samaria are a fifth columm. The acts of Arabs under the PA and Hamas and the MKs Israeli Arabs vote for confirms his view.

    By contrast, European Jews were integrated and proud citizens of the various countries where they lived. They were productive and law abiding. They did not stone their neighbours, murder them nor celebrate their pain. And if the ECAJ cannot see the difference, they should pay a visit to the Jewish Museum and learn the lessons of the Shoah.

  2. Michael Lewis says:

    From the Jewish News of Northern California – JTA / Ben Sales extract

    “Eitam’s allies say he’s qualified — and charge discrimination against religious Jews
    While Netanyahu hasn’t commented publicly on Eitam’s nomination, the minister who put his name forward, Zeev Elkin, said Eitam would be effective in the role. Elkin says he selected Eitam with Netanyahu’s agreement.

    He pointed to Eitam’s service in the military and in government as qualifications for the job of running a high-profile institution that often hosts foreign dignitaries. He dismissed the 1988 incident in light of Eitam’s overall military record.

    He also rejected vague speculation that Netanyahu chose Eitam to consolidate his religious Zionist base, saying that there was no voter “who would make a decision based on the identity of the chairman of Yad Vashem.”

    “To fill this position, I was looking for a well known name, someone who knows how to operate in the corridors of power,” Elkin told Haaretz. “This is a man who served as a government minister and as the head of a political party. He has administrative experience, and even if there is some criticism about particular things he did in the army, when you look at his entire career in the IDF, he was one of its most distinguished commanders.”

    Yehuda Shalem, a fellow at the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication, wrote that he prefers Eitam to the candidate recommended by Lapid, social entrepreneur Adi Altschuler. Altschuler is known as the founder of Krembo Wings, a youth group for children with special needs.

    Shalem wrote in the Makor Rishon newspaper that Altschuler’s appointment would signal a desire to “universalize” the lessons of the Holocaust and see it not as an antisemitic crime but as a broader crime against humanity. He wrote that the appointment of Eitam, “who was decorated for his part in a battle against antisemitic extermination 47 years ago, can send the message that they can no longer hurt and kill Jews with impunity.”

    He added that Eitam’s critics oppose his candidacy not on substance, but because they discriminate against religious people like Eitam who have long beards and wear yarmulkes.

    “It’s troubling when we see that that ancient image of the Jew, which Eitam has, creates antagonism even among Jews who then oppose his nomination for the important job of memorializing the Holocaust,” he wrote.”

    Is the reaction of the ECAJ – speaking out of turn – a result of its leaders’ politics as well as their concern for Yad Vashem?

  3. Alan Freedman says:

    People may like or dislike this appointment, but I can’t see what business it is is of the ECAJ. I say mind your own business.

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