Israel’s Biggest Diplomatic Event Sends Powerful Message
Why Jerusalem is the right place to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Israel is the right place to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered 1.3 million people, 1.1 million of them Jews. The camp was liberated on January 27, 1945 by the Red Army as they advanced from the East.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, US Vice President Mike Pence and Prince Charles of Great Britain are among the glittering array of world leaders descending on Israel’s capital for the largest diplomatic event in its history, organized by the Holocaust Forum Foundation, Yad Vashem and the Office of the President Reuven Rivlin. Despite delegations from 49 countries, including 41 heads of state, not everyone approved.
The director of the Auschwitz Museum in Poland is fuming. Piotr Cywinski argued that holding a commemorative ceremony anywhere else but the site of the death camp was inconceivable. Describing the choice of location as a “provocation,” Cywinski also accused the Holocaust Forum Foundation of “immaturity” by holding a commemoration outside of Poland
The argument continues to sour Israel’s relations with Poland who recently passed laws criminalizing suggesting the country was complicit in the murder of Jews during World War Two. Both Yad Vashem and the Israeli government objected to the white washing of history, pointing to several notorious accounts of Polish anti-Semitism during and after the Nazi occupation. The Polish President is a noticeable absence from the events in Jerusalem this week, having not been granted a speech at the main ceremony held at Yad Vashem. But the decision to hold the event in Jerusalem and not in Auschwitz was the right one.
Celebrating Jewish Life
Holding the event in Jerusalem is the most tangible way of not only commemorating Jewish deaths but also expressing support for Jewish life. Communities across the world are having to battle those who seek to ban crucial elements of Jewish practice such as circumcision, and the kosher slaughtering of animals. Holding this forum in Jerusalem, strengthens the international commitment to Jewish life and to Jewish living, stating unequivocally that the Jewish People is not a museum piece, but a thriving, living, breathing nation.
At this major milestone, with attacks on Jews on the rise especially in the US and across Europe and anti-Zionism a constant feature, asking world leaders to commit to fighting anti-Semitism at an event in Jerusalem sends out a powerful message. It counters the trend that says it is okay to fight anti-Semitism and still be an anti-Zionist.
As Israel’s right to a Jewish homeland is questioned, anti-Semites posing as anti-Zionists are sadly now a feature of mainstream political parties with Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn a prime example. Commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz in Jerusalem sends out a powerful message to world leaders that standing up against racism in their own countries isn’t enough if they turn a blind eye to the delegitimization of Israel. The denial of Israel’s right to a national homeland is anti-Semitism mutated on the world stage.
Traffic Jams are an easy price to pay
As convoys of limousines traverse the city’s main arteries, from their hotels to their various engagements, 10,000 police are securing the event.
For residents of the city, road closures and traffic jams are a fair price to pay for the knowledge that they live in the center of the world. Whether its Putin, Pence, or Prince Charles, visits from world leaders remind us that the world looks to Jerusalem for hope, and in contrast to the horrors carried out by Nazi Germany its destiny is to shed light to the world.