Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who is a Holocaust Survivor?

Earlier this week Olmert apparently agreed with representatives of the survivors (or their organization) to up the support for Holocaust survivors, but only for those from the so-called "first circle", not for elderly Jews who spent the war years in the hardship of the Soviet Union. Haaretz asked three respectable historians what they thought about the matter. Unfortunately, I find myself agreeing with the "wrong" ones.

I've been friendly with Daniel Blatman for many years, but don't understand what he meant when he states: "The division into two circles is completely political and lacks any historical logic". Of course it's political. Can a prime minister make ANY decision which is not political? Isn't every decision about the allocation of public funds political by definition? As for the logic of the distinction between Jews who were persecuted by the Nazis and those that weren't, well, it seems pretty elementary to me. Not because of the degree of the suffering, which can't be measured one way or the other, but because the experiences were obviously different. This is not a value statement, it's precisely a historical one.

Dina Porat I've known for years, but we're colleagues, not friends. (She lives in Tel Aviv...). Nonetheless, her historical distinction is correct where Danny's isn't. Then, however, she translates it into a value statement with political and financial repercussions, and defends different allocations according to historical criteria. Seems strange to me.

Finally, the third historian polled is Idit Zertal. She and I have met, but we move in different circles and don't interact very much. We rarely agree on much. I note that she now seems to have moved from Tel Aviv to Basel. She is simply right that the allocation should be by need, not by biography, with wealthy first-circle survivors doing without any additional public support, and other [elderly, I assume] needy receiving significant support.

At the end of the item Zertal throws in a comment about how Israel has always played the Holocaust card, but regards the survivors as a nuisance. Well, as I said, she and I often disagree...

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