Asaf Shimoni

The implication of UNESCO’S Jerusalem vote: Israel needs a new image

Pragmatism, ethics and Judaism

The UNESCO resolution is yet another demonstration that Israel, one of the most free and humane countries on Earth, needs to change some of its policies. More abhorrent than the number of countries that voted against the resolution (six!) is their reason for doing so. The United States and Great Britain are major allies, but also the two principal countries which blocked the escape route of Jews during the Holocaust. (However their reason for voting against the resolution are more political and moral in nature.) Germany is the major perpetrator of the Holocaust. Estonia and Lithuania are two of the three Baltic countries. The Baltic countries are known as the worst collaborators in Eastern Europe during the Final Solution. Around 1 percent of the Jews who remained in Estonia survived the Shoa,[1] while the figure in Lithuania was less than 5 percent.[2] The sixth country is the Netherlands, which had by far the lowest survival rate in Western Europe (23%) and has been covering up the extent of collaboration by the authorities and the local population to this day.[3] Those who voted for the resolution or abstained are mostly Islamic, or depend on oil dollars.

In order to change its image Israel should present idealistic values to the world, based on pragmatism, ethics and Judaism

However we must first change our policies at home. During the`1970s bureaucrats were accused of being attached to their seats, with anyone in a position of authority having control over his or her personal fiefdom. An example of this trend can be read in an article published in The Jerusalem Post for Yom Kippur.[4] It quotes the Mishna (Yoma), redacted in 220 AD to describe events 150 years previously. At this time the High Priest was a position given to members of the aristocracy. The rabbinical authorities, who could do nothing about this matter, had to instruct the High Priest how to differentiate between a cow and a sheep. They then had the task of teaching him the rites, which was not easy since he was illiterate and could speak only Aramaic (most of the rites were in Hebrew).

Research done by reporters from The Times of Israel has been successful in exposing the binary options fraud.[5] On the eve of Yom Kippur the Israel Securities Authority declared that bringing these firms to justice was a national priority. While this is an example of corruption, examples of bureaucratic lunacy are well known. Bituach Leumi, for instance, is an omnipresent force in Israeli society. It rules over people’s lives at whim and is apparently accountable to no one. Its values are that of a fiefdom and not a democratic state. People who are old and sick and Holocaust survivors often live on a pittance and must answer to a mysterious bureaucratic maze. The same is often said about the Jewish Agency and other institutions.

I believe that few would disagree that today we are in need of High Priests to instruct officials in governmental and other agencies. An example can be found in a recent article in The Jerusalem Post, An oleh’s story.[6] The story is one of an oleh, Steven Adler, who arrived in Israel in 1968 and still likes to say: “After 40 years I’m still an oleh.” At the age of 75 he has been appointed co-head of appeals for the Holocaust Claims Conference. As an oleh Steven Adler rose to become Israel’s ‘iconic National Labor Court president’ from 1997 to 2010. His newly published Sefer Steve Adler is considered a sort of classic on issues such as mandatory retirement which he, of course, favors. Why he has not taken his own advice is a question which we should ask the rabbis.

What does the Holocaust Claims Conference do? It considers appeals by Jews who were herded into Ghettos during the Second World War and never received any form of compensation. Some 170,000 applicants applied for a one-time payment of 350 to 1,800 euros. Around 1,500 to 2,000 people who lost their childhood, among other things, and could not provide sufficient evidence have appealed and Mr Adler is one of the people who can help to improve their financial situation. The Israeli bureaucratic system becomes even more ludicrous when reading about the Jewish Agency’s Israel Tech Challenge program, in which only ‘young’ professionals between the ages of 18 to 30 can participate. Apparently the Jewish Agency believes that the mass immigration of former years gave an enormous boost to Israel not because millions of Jews with pent-up ideas and aspirations changed society, but the success was due to a small group of ‘prodigies’ between the age of 18 to 30.

What does the Jewish Agency offer the ‘young prodigies’ who participate in the ten-month program? Beyond the average 5,320 euros per month the ‘young’ participants earn from their employers during the last five months of the program, they of course receive the aliyah package, as well as an additional ‘generous stipend’. In a country where most people, including professors, work two jobs for a minimum wage of some 7 dollars an hour, the Jewish Agency is attempting to attract ‘Zionists’ by offering them absurd salaries with public funds. Needless to say, Israel Tech Challenge is the brainchild of Oren Toledano, whose partner – who is also involved in the program – recently sold a company for 40 million dollars.

Are wealth, power, bribes and threats the basis of our foreign policy?

We live in a Jewish society where we not only sing a new song every day, but also consider the fate of the stranger. However our foreign policy is often guided by short-term thinking. Of course being a people who recently faced annihilation and, for the most part, were unable to find refuge in a single nation on Earth we must also be pragmatic in issues of security. Then who are our allies? Only the powerful and those who can threaten and bribe? Although the Netherlands voted with Israel on the UNESCO resolution, the previous week files pertaining to Jews who were fined for not paying their taxes while in Auschwitz were ‘accidentally’ destroyed by the Amsterdam Municipality.[7] Let us hope that the Israeli government investigates this matter.

Dutch atrocities

The number of atrocities committed by the Netherlands, which is always pointing its finger at Israel, are huge.[8] I witnessed another one earlier this year, before my arrival in Israel. A man of around 70, Mark (ז”ל) to whom this blog is dedicated, died after being denied medical treatment in Amsterdam. (All of my blogs are dedicated to Bloeme Evers-Emden (ז”ל), who was sent to Auschwitz after being betrayed in the Netherlands but survived.)

Last year I encountered Mark near a trolley stop in Amsterdam. He was a Serb from the former Yugoslavia, was stateless and had lived for some 40 years in the Netherlands. He told me he was ill and needed treatment for, among other things, his liver, but an official in the Interior Ministry had revoked his health insurance (which is illegal according to European law) and informed him he would die in the street. A few months later I saw him lying near the same spot after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Four male nurses from the hospital had dumped him near the Weesperstraat underground (subway). I called an ambulance and was asked, more of less, if he was still alive. The ambulance arrived but the male nurses refused to take him, saying he refused his medications and only caused trouble in the hospital. (I later heard that a police car had followed him for some time, to ensure that his body would not draw attention. I attempted to call a newspaper, which in the Netherlands would probably not have helped, and was later threatened to keep my mouth shut.

What struck me was that the event took place near the former Joodse Invalide (Jewish Invalid). On the first of March 1943, 256 residents of this psychiatric institution were deported to Sobibor.[9] The building was then trashed by Dutch neighbors who were angry that some of the staff had managed to escape.

The same institutions which refused to help Mark, assisted in deporting Dutch Jews during the Second World War. When speaking to a Dutch politician who was once a member of the coalition government, he informed me that he could not do anything about the matter since he had already quit his party due to similar events.

Not long ago a Dutch reporter wrote that if investigations were to take place most members of parliament would end up in jail for a variety of reasons.

Which leads me to ask: Why not gain the support of people in the Netherlands whom are abused by the system, as well as those in the former and present colonies (Curacao, Suriname and Indonesia)? Should we be happy that the ruling elites of the Netherlands and other countries, which can perhaps be toppled with a feather, support us? Why not appeal to the millions of Jews in the diaspora who are not necessarily wealthy or young but have an enormous potential?

Few people care about 20th century ideologies. A policy combining pragmatism, accountability, ethics and Judaism would do more to appeal to the international community. An example of this is the work done by Israeli aid organisations overseas.[10] We need fewer bureaucratic dinosaurs and fiefdoms and more participation and ethics.











About the Author
Asaf Shimoni is an author, journalist and translator who returned to Israel on October 1, 2023 after spending more rhan 40 years abroad, most of them in the Netherlands. He is currently milking cows on a kibbutz after living for five months in Haifa. He grew up near Boston, made aliyah while living on a kibbutz (from 1973 to 1976), and graduated from Syracuse University in 1978. He also lived some 5 years in Sicily. He believes that the media should be as critical and truthful as possible.
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