Israel’s pick to head Holocaust Memorial stirs international uproar

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The Hall of Names, bearing names and pictures of Jewish Holocaust victims, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.  (photo: Menahem Kahana / Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
Critics are protesting the nomination of Effie Eitam, a retired general and far-right politician, to lead Yad Vashem, a hallowed Israeli institution.

By Isabel Kershner  | The New York Times  |  Nov 28, 2020

‘An institute headed by a person with such extreme opinions and controversial human values will never be taken seriously within the global academic community,’
— Israel Bartal, professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

JERUSALEM — For years, his name was synonymous with intolerance and right-wing extremism.

So when Israel’s conservative-led government nominated Effie Eitam to be chairman of Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust memorial and one its most hallowed institutions, it prompted an uproar.

Mr. Eitam, a 68-year-old retired brigadier general and former minister, has spent the last decade in the private sector. But his provocative statements from the early 2000s advocating the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and barring Israel’s Arab citizens from politics linger on the public record.

The appointment could have “devastating consequences,” said Israel Bartal, a professor of modern Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who said he would be forced to cut all contacts with Yad Vashem’s research institute after years of cooperation. “An institute headed by a person with such extreme opinions and controversial human values will never be taken seriously within the global academic community,” Mr. Bartal said.

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