I cannot ask my departed relatives—including the seven brothers and sisters of my grandfather, Yaakov Bergman, who were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau—for their opinion on the following words. But knowing my family, I can safely assume they would have agreed with me and would have been just as angry as I am.
Because even though it has been over two weeks, I still don't understand what went through Prime Minister Netanyahu's head when he decided not to comment on the blatant disrespect (if not more than that) of the memory of the Holocaust's six million Jewish victims.
The entire world was quick to denounce the remarks of Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who stated that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons … he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing” and then made a bizarre reference to “Holocaust Centers.” The media, world leaders (led by German Chancellor Merkel), religious figures, public officials and many, many others joined the chorus of condemnation. Some primarily attribute Spicer’s words to stupidity and ignorance, like that which led the White House to omit any reference to Jews in the White House's statement on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Perhaps, but it is still something that demands a response, especially from the most important Jewish leader in the world: the leader of the Jewish state.
But he, Netanyahu, maintains his thunderous silence. On Thursday April 13, I sent the following question to the prime minister’s spokesman, Boaz Stambler, an intelligent and sensitive person: “Will you now, following the many reactions in the world, issue a response regarding the comments made by the White House spokesperson about Hitler not using chemical weapons? Isn’t it the duty of the prime minister of Israel to respond on such an important subject?” Stambler, who usually is quick to respond, saw the message (WhatsApp marked it as read), but remained silent. My conclusion: He showed the question to Netanyahu and the latter told him to keep mum.
And it’s not that Netanyahu doesn’t know how to respond, and quickly, when it suits him. When Yossi Klein wrote in Haaretz that Jewish settlers are “more dangerous than Hezbollah,” the prime minister quickly posted a scathing response on his Facebook page, calling the article “shameful and bizarre” and declaring: “They’ve (Haaretz) totally lost it.”
Klein is a journalist who expressed his own private opinion and does not hold office. Netanyahu believes not only that he is guilty, but the newspaper who gave him a home is also culpable, despite the fact Haaretz contains a variety of different opinions. But let us assume that Netanyahu is right. According to this worldview, is Spicer not just as "shameful and bizarre," and hasn't the president who continues to employ him as his spokesperson "totally lost it"?
Diplomats involved in this matter say in Netanyahu’s defense that Spicer repeatedly apologized and that Netanyahu feared that drawing further attention to this issue might remind people of his infuriating and completely erroneous assertion that the Final Solution was the idea of the Palestinian mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini. But these excuses don’t change a thing: Spicer did not apologize immediately and until he did so, the entire world made it clear that statements denying/belittling/disparaging/concealing the memory of the Holocaust must not be tolerated.
But Netanyahu of all people, someone who has turned the Holocaust into a tool for drumming up international support and for stirring local fears that yield electoral gain, should have responded. The leader of the State of Israel cannot let such statements, when they come from such a senior official, go unanswered.
He still needs to respond.
The eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day is a very fitting time to do so.