Skip to main content

Israel's reluctance to embrace lessons of the Holocaust

Against the backdrop of Holocaust Memorial Day, Israelis are debating whether the state should act to defend Syrian citizens from chemical attacks and how it has responded in the past toward genocides and ethnic cleansing.
An original prisoner's coat (not on general display) is seen at the artifacts department of the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, ahead of the Israeli annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 10, 2018. Picture taken April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RC1A0B40CE00

The cruel April 8 chemical attack in Syria attributed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad nearly coincided with the commemoration in Israel of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which began the evening of April 11. This proximity in timing led many in Israel to call on the state to act in the name of morality and a Jewish obligation not to stand aloof in the face of such horrors. It was in fact impossible to remain indifferent to the terrible photos of dead babies in the Syrian city of Douma that traversed social networks and appeared across Israeli media.

“This, again, shows what we unfortunately already know — a sort of ongoing failure by organizations and apparatuses established by the international community after World War II and the Holocaust to prevent crimes against humanity,” Avner Shalev, chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center, said on April 10 at a conference. Shalev called on the world to provide humanitarian aid to the victims and remarked, “[The] shocking sights that we have witnessed, here beyond the border, are enabled and continue as a result of the apathy of the world.”

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 for annual access.