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750 scholars push against tapping of far-right ex-minister to head Yad Vashem

Jewish studies professors and directors of Jewish and Holocaust museums sign petition opposing proposed appointment of Effi Eitam to chair Israel’s Holocaust museum

Chairman of the Afek oil drilling company, Effi Eitam, seen at the Supreme Court during a hearing on oil searching in the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2014 in Jerusalem. (Flash90)
Chairman of the Afek oil drilling company, Effi Eitam, seen at the Supreme Court during a hearing on oil searching in the Golan Heights, on December 23, 2014 in Jerusalem. (Flash90)

JTA — A broad coalition of Jewish studies scholars and directors of Jewish and Holocaust museums has signed a petition opposing the proposed appointment of Effi Eitam, a far-right Israeli politician, to chair Israel’s Holocaust museum.

The petition, which has 750 signers, is the latest protest against Eitam. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies advanced Eitam’s candidacy earlier this year to be the next chairman of Yad Vashem, which serves as a Holocaust museum, memorial and research center. Eitam is a former decorated general in the Israel Defense Forces and was a government minister who led a right-wing religious Zionist party.

His critics say he is unfit to lead the institution because he called for most Palestinians in the West Bank to be expelled and for Arab Israelis to be excluded from the country’s political system. Eitam also was reprimanded by the IDF’s chief of staff because soldiers under his command beat a Palestinian to death. His supporters point to his experience as a general and political leader.

Israeli politicians, Holocaust survivors and the Anti-Defamation League have called for his name to be withdrawn. Now they have been joined by the hundreds of scholars, including Susannah Heschel and Deborah Lipstadt. The list also includes the current or former directors of the Buchenwald memorial and Jewish museums in Budapest, Warsaw, Munich and elsewhere.

“Eitam’s hateful rhetoric towards Israeli Arabs and Palestinians stands in opposition to the stated mission of Yad Vashem,” the petition reads.

“Appointing Effi Eitam as Chair of Yad Vashem would turn an internationally respected institution devoted to the documentation of crimes against humanity and the pursuit of human rights into a mockery and a disgrace.”

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