Monday, April 28, 2014

Unfortunately, Holocaust Memorial Day is a Political Photo-Op

I really didn't plan on a post like this, but when I was writing my Havel Havelim promotion post on me-ander, this just came out.
Holocaust Memorial Day is when Israeli and Jewish leaders make all sorts of wonderful speeches that make them all sound like strong Right wing leaders, yes, to the Right of Jabotinsky and Uri Tzvi Greenberg. No doubt there are professional speechwriters who make a killing during this season, like those who can live a full year off of their etrog sales. I know that I sound like a terrible cynic, but I'm telling the truth.
Many of you know that I don't take speeches, especially by politicians very seriously. I see it all as an act, theater. I'll never forget reading a very interesting thing that former United States President Ronald Reagan, who came to fame first as a screen actor, said about how when he entered politics people put him down because of his acting profession. But after being president for a while he realized that it would be hard or impossible to do his job as president if he hadn't had acting experience.

Photo Credit: Flash 90
Both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres could easily have made it as professional actors. They have the charisma and presence. They can be very convincing even when you know they aren't telling the truth. The same goes for the former and disgraced PM Ehud Olmert. Yair Lapid and other Israeli politicians first made their name and fame on the TV screen.

There are many people who feel the weight and tragedy of the Holocaust daily. It may not be something they can talk about. Lorrie posted a very haunting poem from the Holocaust that says more than all of those professional speeches.
“I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love,
even when there’s no one there.
And I believe in God,
even when he is silent.
I believe through any trial,
there is always a way
But sometimes in this suffering
and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter,
to know someone’s there
But a voice rises within me, saying hold on
my child, I’ll give you strength,
I’ll give you hope. Just stay a little while.
I believe in the sun
even when it is not shining
And I believe in love
even when there’s no one there
But I believe in God
even when he is silent
I believe through any trial
there is always a way.
May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace….“
– Unknown
I found an old post of Rafi's which also says more than the speeches.
Wertzberger was a young boy, assigned to work detail shlepping heavy rail ties with his bony hands. When it was meal-time, he joined all the other hungry boys to go get some food and satisfy some of that hunger.
While lining up for his food, the Nazi officer looked at him with disgust and said, "You dream to go to your Jerusalem? Maybe your ashes will get there via the chimneys of the concentration camp."
Eventually, Wertzberger succeeding in surviving the horrors and made his way to Eretz Yisrael, where he got a job in maintenance of the Kotel. Wertzberger said, "I never looked at the watch. Every minute I wanted to give what I could. Every time I cleaned the stones of the Kotel, from where the Shechina never left, I felt that I was getting revenge on that Nazi officer. This is the most Jewish vengeance that there is.(source: Kikar)
Honestly, I lost all faith in Bibi Netanyahu when I heard him speak at the first (of only two) International Jewish Bloggers Conventions when he followed up on a fantastic historic overview of how there have always been Jews in the Land of Israel and the dangers we're facing as a nation by saying that as a politician he's a Centrist, even though it may contradict what he had just told us.

At the time he was gearing up to run again in Knesset Elections to be Prime Minister. He made it very clear that his Centrist stand was a strategy and he'd do an say whatever to be Prime Minister again. That was no lie. It was a clear admission of his ambition. That's what politics is all about. Most politicians are the same. They will do and say whatever they think will attract voters. You may call me a cynic; I call myself a pragmatist.  I've been observing politics and politicians for half a century. It's the same all over the world. The person who is best at charming the voters wins.

When I was a student at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University many years decades ago we were assigned to write a parody of a speech for a politician campaigning. I got a very high grade on it, and one line has stayed in my mind ever since:
"I want what you want."
Yes, so when I hear all of these brave speeches on Holocaust Memorial Day I groan. They are just speeches, just words. The truth is that Jewish leaders, Israeli leaders and world leaders today are no different from those in the late 1930's and early 1940's.  It's sad but true.  I'm not interested in listening to their empty-worded speeches, those well-crafted expensive lines filled with pathos and tears. I don't see any real leadership and the guts needed to do what's right.

Where is our modern Pinchas willing to execute the public sinners? The State of Israel doesn't even execute convicted Arab terrorists.

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