Monday’s Hebrew press somberly commemorates Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, but despite the solemnity of the day the Israeli papers still play to their respective bases.
Nine of Yedioth Ahronoth’s 20 pages are dedicated to the Holocaust and its coverage is a mix of news and survivors’ stories, with short poems interspersed throughout (including Hannah Szenes’s “Blessed is the match”).
Yedioth reprints the speech IDF Chief Benny Gantz made at a memorial ceremony on Sunday night relating to the Warsaw Ghetto fighters. “They were an example to the Jewish people across Europe and were a symbol of heroism and revolt.” He goes on to say from the example of the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto, the IDF has been able to build itself up to defend the Jewish people.
The paper also reports that Israel is not alone in its remembrance, as, under heavy security, a cross-section of Hungarian society, “Jews, Christians, secular, liberals, democrats, and even some Muslims,” took part in a March of the Living in Budapest.
Also included is the coverage are three short articles about IDF soldiers and the survivors in their families. One grandfather, who was a standout in the Soviet Army and fought against Nazi Germany before coming to Israel, is proud that his grandson is a Navy Seal (“What, he should have a desk job?” the proud grandfather asked). In another article, a lone soldier from the US is a combat medic who is proud that “I’m saving lives, like my grandfather.” His grandfather escaped the Nazis and forged documents for other Jews, helping them survive the war.
While Yedioth gives broad coverage to the remembrance of the Holocaust, Haaretz focuses part of its coverage on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s statements about the Holocaust, which, the paper notes, he issued in both English and Arabic. He called the Holocaust “the most heinous crime against humanity in modern history.” The paper gives the statement some context, writing, “This is the first time a Palestinian president has made such a declaration.” However, Netanyahu rejected Abbas’s statement, calling the statement “damage control” after Abbas’s Fatah partnered last week with the Islamist extremists of Hamas.
Haaretz columnist Zvi Bar’el strikes back at Netanyahu’s reaction in a column titled “Netanyahu’s Holocaust monopoly.” He writes that by rejecting Abbas’s statement, Netanyahu is making the Holocaust simply a political tool and no more. “The use of [the Holocaust] is valid [for Netanyahu] to bring the world together against Iran, or to paint Abbas as Holocaust denier,” he writes. “But don’t let anyone, much less Abbas, make use of what is an Israeli monopoly to ‘bring international opinion to his side.’ Thus any praise for Abbas strikes deeply at the narrative that Israel directs against him.”
In Israel Hayom, columnist Nadav Shragai also tackles Abbas’s statements, but is more critical of the Palestinian president and his government. “Palestinian education lifts the Holocaust from history. Textbooks published by the Palestinian Ministry of Education teach the history of World War II in great detail, but the Holocaust is almost ignored,” he writes. Shragai goes on to say that the only way that Abbas can be believed is if the Palestinians create a joint curriculum about the Jewish people and how they were targeted for extermination. “Until then,” he writes, “we need to deal with Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], at least, with great suspicion.”
Where Haaretz focused on the political aspects of the day in its front page, and Yedioth went for the popular, Israel Hayom tries to have it both ways. The first article in its nine pages of Holocaust commemoration is an article on the final letter of Hannah Szenes, written to her brother right before the Nazis captured her in 1944. Writing in English (which the paper theorizes was for security reasons), she tells her brother, “I send you again a short letter to make you know that I are quite O.K. and that’s all.[sic]” The letter was given to Israel’s National Library in 1951 by Hannah’s mother, but the paper writes that only now it is being published for the first time.
Underneath the article about Szenes, Dror Edar writes that it’s time for all the Jews to come and live in Israel. He puts it bluntly: “There is no hope for the Jewish people in exile, but [only] in Israel.” He goes to say the challenges facing Jews around the world are great, like restrictions on kosher slaughter and rising anti-Semitism in France. He concludes his piece with the plea to world Jewry, “Jews, don’t wait. We don’t need another wakeup call. Come home!”