columnIsrael at War

Never again?

The obligatory Holocaust Remembrance Day mantra rings hollow in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre.

Death and destruction perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 in Kibbutz Kissufim, Nov. 1, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Death and destruction perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 in Kibbutz Kissufim, Nov. 1, 2023. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In an announcement on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi reminded the troops of their mission.

Referring to the siren during which the entire country stands in silence for two minutes to honor the “six million who were murdered in the ghettos and extermination camps, in the killing fields and the death marches,” he wrote: “For a moment, we will bow our heads and connect with the memory of our people who were persecuted and murdered simply because they were Jews. Then we will raise our heads, proudly carrying on their sacred legacy, and continue to take action to ensure that the national home that they longed for, but did not attain, will stand forever.”

The latter, he stressed, “is our duty, our mission, our promise.”

Given the current circumstances, crafting the otherwise standard annual message must have been cringe-inducing for Halevi. Under his watch, the military not only was caught off guard by the Oct. 7 massacre, but didn’t arrive on the scene of the carnage for at least eight hours.

By the end of that Black Sabbath, more than 1,200 corpses—sexually abused, shot, burned, beheaded and mutilated—were left strewn across southern Israel and another 250 were abducted to Gaza. The desperate cries for help from those who ended up losing their lives still echo, haunting the surviving witnesses and shaking the rest of the country’s confidence.  

While penning the announcement to “IDF servicemen, soldiers, commanders and civilian employees,” did Halevi’s thoughts stray to last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day—the theme of which was the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising—when he assured us that the IDF was “strong and will continue to maintain Israel’s security”? After all, less than six months later, thousands of Hamas terrorists stormed the Gaza border fence and subjected Israelis to atrocities that would have made the Nazis envious.

Faced with no choice but to mention the above, he stated, “These days, we are in a war where, at its onset, we failed in our mission and lost many—civilians, soldiers, civilian rapid-response-team members and security and rescue personnel. Entire lives were cut short in their prime in a war that was also thrust upon us by a wicked enemy who rose up to destroy us.”

However, he asserted, “This time, we are different. A transformation has occurred in the Jewish people. From a voiceless and defenseless people, rose up a people who take responsibility for their destiny, to fight and promise—never again.”

Sadly, the obligatory Holocaust Remembrance Day mantra rings hollow in the wake of the Simchat Torah bloodbath. With 132 hostages still languishing in Hamas captivity, a ground operation in Rafah repeatedly postponed and an explosion of antisemitism around the world, it seems that a genuine renewal of the vow—not simply a chanting of the mantra—is in order.

Nevertheless, in “Oct. 6 mode,” Halevi went on to reiterate it.

“Never again will the Star of David be a mark of shame,” he declared. “Instead [it is] a symbol that proudly flies on the nation’s flag. Never again will we be a scattered, homeless and persecuted people in exile, [but rather] a strong and independent people united in its land and homeland. Never again will we be a nation without a force to protect it, but…[one] whose ranks include heroes and heroines who stand tall and proud, fighting shoulder to shoulder as part of the IDF.”

All true, but utterly out of place in the midst of a battle that even our closest ally, the United States, is preventing us from executing properly, let alone winning. The words are especially jarring in view of the way in which Washington is forcing Jerusalem to engage in “negotiations” with Hamas’s Hitler in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, for a “ceasefire” that doesn’t necessarily include the release of all the hostages.

Halevi ended his missive by paying homage to those who perished at the hands of the “German inferno” and the survivors who “mustered the rest of their strength to take part in establishing a state for the Jewish people.” It’s in their name, he said, that the IDF continues to stand strong.

Invoking the “just war” being fought right now—peculiarly against a vanishing perpetrator—he said that the memory of those Jews should be the “source of our strength and a reminder of the importance of maintaining a protective force for our people.”

Yes, he concluded, “We shoulder the responsibility to continue fighting for the freedom of the people of Israel and to ensure: Never Again!”

Whether he will be as forthcoming during a post-war investigation about “shouldering the responsibility” for the Oct. 7 fiasco—the victims of which included Holocaust survivors and their families—remains to be seen. But what became painfully clear seven months ago is that the mass slaughter of Jews can and did happen again.

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