Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Before the 75 years of the liberation of Auschwitz, Israel receives about forty world leaders

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara receive Russian President Vladimir Putin before the World Holocaust Forum on January 23 at the Yad Vashem Memorial. REUTERS

Jerusalem was feverish on Wednesday, January 22, with the arrival of some 40 heads of state and government for the World Holocaust Forum, due to be held Thursday at the Yad Vashem memorial. Never before has Israel, a small country of 9 million people, hosted such a large gathering.

This is a source of pride and reflection: the eagerness of these dignitaries underlines the central place of Israel in the memory of the Shoah, a few days before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz extermination camp. It is also a logistical challenge: the cavalcade of French President Emmanuel Macron in the old city of Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon was a prime example.

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All day, ministers and senior officials ran on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv in the rain to greet the delegations. A third of the country's police (around 10,000) were deployed between the airport and Jerusalem.

On the eve of the ceremonies, the politics of the present day still prevailed. During the day, we learned that Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet the mother of a 26-year-old Israeli woman, detained in Moscow for possession of cannabis, on Thursday. A prelude to his release? With the approach of the legislative elections of March 2, the ministry of justice would have conveniently decided, according to the daily Maariv a dispute over the control of an enclave of the old city of East Jerusalem, the court of Alexander, in favor of a Russian Orthodox organization close to the Kremlin.

Futile details

Prince Charles at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on January 23.
Prince Charles at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on January 23. Victoria Jones / AP

At the same time, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to US President Donald Trump, canceled his visit due to bad boarding time in Davos. The White House had just expressed its displeasure, while Israel again evokes the annexation of the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, before the publication of the American "peace plan" for the region.

On the eve of the ceremonies, the accumulation of formal details, solemn or futile, could have got in the way – like this invitation card awarded to the Jerusalem city hall for an "after party" with DJ. Radio host Kalman Liebskind said he has " think to (her) mother, who in October 1944 was in Birkenau. She was naked and starving (…). If she had been watching her television, alive, yesterday, she would have exploded. "

Several ministers said they were ready to offer their seats to Holocaust survivors, of whom only 40 would attend the ceremonies, among 800 dignitaries. Some 215,000 of them live in Israel, one in five of whom are below the poverty line.

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