Geula Even, a spokeswoman for the Holocaust
By Odeh Bisharat*
Not a single muscle twitched on Geula Even’s face. The Kan-Channel 11 broadcaster was being confronted by Professor Daniel Blatman, a historian, who repeatedly charged, time and time again, the chilling fact that Effi Eitam, nominated to head Yad Vashem, believes in the superiority of the Jewish race. Only Even eyelashes fluttered a few seconds in what seemed like an attempt to understand what was wrong with that notion. And then she promptly pulled out the amazing retort: “When it comes to the Holocaust, yes, the Jewish people do have a supremacy.” Let’s see you, Prof Blatman, countering this winning argument. It is said that Ali ibn Abi Talib is the originator of the expression: When I argued with the ignorant, I lost, when I argued with the well informed, I won.
Go explain to Even that Nazi ideology is based on the notion of superiority and the atrocities it has perpetrated are the result of this idea of perverted notion. More importantly, go explain to Even’s bosses that if she does not understand this, her place at another TV channel, not as part of a state channel of the people who were the main victim of the theory of superiority.
But all this was insignificant compared to the astonishment that took hold of Even’s face when Blatman declared that he would refuse to receive an award from Yad Vashem if it were headed by Eitam. Even slammed back at him in a tone of superiority: “So you do not deserve to receive an award from Yad Vashem”. Well, congratulations, dear noble person who does not deserve to be recognised by the representative of the Jewish supremacy.
That was not the end of the festival. Even a historian of Blatman’s stature wasn’t about to disrupt Ms Even thesis. She arrived came prepared with chilling quotes from David Ben-Gurion and Labour theoretician Berl Katznelson, and asked: Would you also disqualify Ben-Gurion from heading Yad Vashem? And Blatman, without batting an eyelid, answers in the affirmative.
In the view of any decent person, Ben-Gurion is disqualified from even being an elementary school educator. The diligent broadcaster should be reminded that the Israeli establishment is taking a great deal of effort to sweep these chilling quotes under the rug because they make every democratic person in the world shudder. And here, she, the state channel broadcaster, is stuffing up that effort.
Even, despite her many years on television, seems to me — even if she may have read about Nazism, its ideological foundations and the processes that led to its rise — to have internalised nothing. It is a pity that the broadcasting corporation, blessed with worthy people, entrusts this important issue to a reporter who does not understand the simple logical fact that anyone who designates themselves, for example, as a fighter against corruption — must not be corrupt. In the same way, someone in charge of an institution like Yad Vashem must be free of any trace of racism. And I will add here that anyone in charge of presenting questions to the interviewees should at least, unlike Even, be shocked by the word “superiority”.
But maybe I’m wrong. The “particularist” approach, as defined by Even, seems to be the dominant one at Yad Vashem. When I looked at the institution’s website, I felt that something fundamental was missing, without which this institution is anything but a Memorial [the Literal meaning of Yad Vashem-tr]. According to its definition, the institution is responsible “for documenting the history of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, commemorating the story of the lives and memory of each of the six million victims and passing on the Holocaust heritage to future generations.” Everything in past tense.
But what about the present and the future, what about the struggle against any trace of racism? Shouldn’t the immense pain stored within the walls of the institution spur those within it to work for the fulfillment of the slogan “never again” in its universal sense? The nationalist decline of Yad Vashem evokes a sense of loss, and we are reaping the fruits of the “particularist” approach today: a certified racist will head the institution. To complete the picture, it is worth suggesting that Geula Even be appointed as its spokesperson.
* Translated by Sol Salbe for the Middle East News Service, Melbourne, Australia.