Next month, the Holocaust Educational Trust Ireland (HETI), will be hosting the country’s annual event commemorating the Holocaust. According to the British Jewish news site The JC, for the second year in a row they have told the event’s host, “not to refer to the Jewish State or the State of Israel during any part of the ceremony.”
The article in The JC reported HETI also fired the emcee, Yanky Fachler, who hosted the event for a dozen years, because he complained about last year’s ban on mentioning the Jewish State:
He reluctantly complied when his objections fell on deaf ears but, afterwards, complained in writing to the organising body, HETI – only to be told the rule will again apply at January’s event at Dublin’s Mansion House.
Six days later, Mr Fachler then received a letter from HETI chair Peter Cassells telling him he was being replaced after 12 years in the job.
Mr Fachler said: “Four days before HMD this year, Lynn Jackson of HETI gave me an ultimatum that I was not to mention Israel in my narrative as the MC. I felt like I’d been hit very hard in my stomach. I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely shocked.
“I was not going to pull out four days before the event but I said this was very wrong, very dangerous. I believe that it plays directly into the hands of everyone who doesn’t like Jews or Israel and I find it very sad that apparently the two Jewish members of the board did this.”
In the letter sacking the host, Mr Cassells wrote: “Earlier this year the Department [of Justice and Equality] asked us to review and refresh the commemoration. I am writing to let you know that, arising from the review, we will be engaging a new MC.”
The Justice and Equality Minister at the time, Alan Shatter, confirmed that a meeting took place with HETI, but emphatically denied that he had asked for Mr Fachler to be removed from his position.
In a letter sent to Ms Jackson and Mr Cassells last week, the former minister said: “At no time was it suggested by me that Yanky, who is outstanding as MC, should cease to play a prominent role in the event.
It is disingenuous for an organization which claims on its overview page that it “aims to educate and inform people about the Holocaust in order to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of racism and intolerance in Ireland,” to adopt one of the modern substitutes for anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel. The organizers of the event didn’t just ban the mention of Israel’s political stances, but the very mention of the words “Israel” and ‘Jewish State.”
After five Jewish members of the Holocaust Memorial committee quit, and there were local charges of anti-Semitism, HETI’s leaders denied any bias:
Councillor Jackie Slesenger said: “I resigned. During the crisis in the summer, the chair held a die-in for Gaza on City Council premises. They were flying the Palestinian flag. He has to be impartial, fair and tolerant, and he was being none of these things.”
Ms Slesenger said the event has been scaled down because of the controversy.
Mr Ahad, who has chaired the 12-person committee for three years, said: “My criticism in the summer was just against the Israeli government. We campaigned, but it’s nothing against Jews or Israel as a state. It’s sad how people have used that to withdraw from HMD.
“It offends me when people call me antisemitic. It makes you wonder if people are boycotting it because I’m a Muslim. I’ve never as chair raised the issue of Palestinians. Never.”
Co-chair of the committee Lord Jeremy Beecham asked for calm over Mr Ahad’s actions, writing in local newspaper the Journal that “to suggest he was motivated by ‘racial intolerance’ appears to imply that he is also guilty of antisemitism. That is simply wrong.”