Ariel Gelblung: “If the world does not react against Hamas it has learned nothing and Holocaust Day is of no use”

Ariel Gelblung, Director of the Wiesenthal Center for Latin America

He International Holocaust Remembrance Dayestablished in 2005 by the UN to commemorate the victims of the Shoahtakes place this year in a climate affected by the atrocious attack of the October 7in which terrorists Hamas killed about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapped about 250 in southern Israel.

that attack, the deadliest massacre of Jews since World War II, made the relevance of “never more”the most powerful message of the Holocaust Daybecame more urgent than ever.

Hamas maintains its articles of incorporation that He wants to erase not only Israel, but all Jews from the face of the earth. If the world does not react against that, it has not learned anything and it is of no use on January 27.”warns Ariel Gelblungdirector for Latin America of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Gelblung received Infobae in the offices of Buenos Aires of the influential Hebrew institution, dedicated to documenting Holocaust victims, keeping records of Nazi war criminals and fighting anti-Semitism and hate speech. Problems, the latter, that worsened after the Hamas attack and the subsequent Israeli response.

—What is the meaning of Holocaust Day and how is it different from Yom Hashoah, the Shoah Day celebrated in Israel?

—International Holocaust Day was created by a United Nations resolution in 2005. January 27 is a date designed for countries to work on policies on Holocaust remembrance and to teach about the subject to prevent this. happen again. But it is also a date that has its flats. January 27, 1945 was the day on which, as the resolution says, the Red Army liberated Auschwitz. Although I would say that it was not an act of liberation, but rather an involuntary discovery on his march towards Berlin. At Auschwitz the Russians encountered prisoners the Germans had left behind because they were so sick, or nearly dead, that they had not even been able to participate in the “death marches.” So the image that this date takes is that of the half-dead Jew, almost on the verge of disappearing. And there we do not agree. As soon as Israel began to exist, we chose April 19, the date that marks the beginning of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943. And the image is different. The image is that of the Jew who does not want to die and who defends himself with a weapon in his hand. And of course, the modern world does not like that image of the Jew who defends himself.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Simon Wiesenthal Center Latin America
The Wiesenthal Center will participate in the events for Holocaust Day in Argentina (Simon Wiesenthal Center Latin America)

—Today Israel says it is fighting to defend its right to exist. In this sense, what meaning does Holocaust Day have in light of the attack of October 7?

—If the acts are done only to remember those half-dead Jews or those who have already died, if they are going to put emphasis only on the memory of what happened and are not done to think about the situations of the world today, they are of no use. you are welcome. Today, since October 7, we have people who have surpassed what the Nazis did. Hamas filmed everything he did so they could upload it to their networks and boast. Hamas in its charter maintains that it wants to erase not only Israel, but all Jews from the face of the earth. On October 7, another sovereign country was entered. The civilian population was attacked. They were not soldiers against soldiers. Absolutely aberrant acts were committed, such as burning children and beheading people. In many cases, faced with the silence of the international community and international organizations. If the world does not react to that, it has learned nothing and is of no use on January 27.

—Another thing that Israel constantly emphasizes is that its enemy is Hamas, not the Palestinians.

—It is very difficult sometimes to try to cross a line and explain to well-intentioned people that seeking the disarmament of Hamas, taking strength away from Hamas, does not mean being against a Palestinian State. Hamas is not Palestine. Many from our place, and I include myself, firmly believe that this must one day end in the existence of two States, with secure borders, as has happened with other countries in the region where there is mutual recognition. If the Palestinians had accepted Israel’s existence long ago, they would be as prosperous as Dubai. For different reasons they do not accept it today. This has hardened Israeli policy. And when attacks appear like the other day, people ask for security. Do not change territories for peace.

—Anti-Semitism experienced a resurgence after the Hamas attack and the Israeli response in Gaza. How is it possible for this virus to reappear in this way?

—I’m going to put it in Hamas’s own words. One of the Hamas leaders said that they were not going to accept in any way a possible two-state solution, because the attack showed them that they could carry out the total annihilation of the State of Israel and of the Jews in the world. They said it. From this moment on, there were people who understood that they could take off their masks and go directly out to support this idea of ​​annihilation of the Jewish people. Many pretend that the attack did not exist, when Hamas itself claims it. And at the same time they waited for Israel’s reaction to go out and attack that reaction. The last straw in this situation is South Africa’s move to bring forward an absolutely ridiculous lawsuit against Israel for genocide in the International Court.

—Why ridiculous?

—In order to constitute the crime of genocide, it must be clear that there is an element that cannot be missing, which is the intention. Israel has the capacity to carry out genocide. If you have not done so until now and, instead of, for example, using ranged artillery, you are fighting hand-to-hand, it is because you are trying to minimize collateral damage. On the other hand, from the side of Hamas there is genocidal intent. What they don’t have is capacity.

A house destroyed and riddled with bullets after the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists on the Kfar Aza kibbutz (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)
A house destroyed and riddled with bullets after the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas terrorists on the Kfar Aza kibbutz (REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein) (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN/)

—The war in Gaza meant that, among critics of Israel, the phrase “I am not an anti-Semitic, I am an anti-Zionist” is frequently heard. Nevertheless, some observers They maintain that the terms are, in fact, synonyms.

—The definition of anti-Semitism is hatred of the Jew, his things or his institutions. And the Jewish institution par excellence is the Jewish State. If someone makes a criticism that even goes so far as to say that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza, I can accept it. It is a question to be discussed based on the evidence. But to maintain that 9 million or 10 million people are bad because they belong to a State and that this generates a genocidal State, that is something that does not make sense. Or maintain the illegitimacy of the State when it is one of the States that has been created with the greatest international participation. Or have a double standard in judging their facts. That is, attacking the State for wanting to defend itself. Any state would go out to defend itself against an outside attack. Or demonize it. There are three issues: demonization, asking for a double standard, and delegitimization, that is, not recognizing the right of that State to exist. It seems to me that these arguments are absolutely anti-Semitic. Also, Zionism is not a bad word. Zionism is nothing other than the self-determination movement of the Jewish people in their ancestral land. And this is the definition of why the anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite. If you agree that all people on Earth have the right to self-determination and you have a problem with that one and that one is the Jewish people, you are an anti-Semite.

—What is the situation with respect to anti-Semitism in Latin America?

-There is good and bad news. The good: Israel’s right to defense is not in doubt in Argentina, for example. Just a week after the events of October 7, we had the presidential debate. Four out of five candidates spoke out against the atrocities of Hamas and in favor of the existence of Israel and its right to defend itself. Only Myriam Bregman [la candidata de la izquierda] He opposed. The Argentine people voted a week later and she got fewer votes than in the primaries. This is possible thanks to democratic coexistence and the democratic quality of Argentina. Of course, there are other things that may concern you. For example, this declaration of love that President Milei has with the Jewish community. If things don’t go well for you, people may believe that it’s our fault. It is a situation to which we must be attentive. That is, that of anti-Semitism by opposition.

—And in the rest of the region?

—In the entire axis easily identified with Iran in the region the news is worse. Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia, which did not even wait for Israel’s reaction to break diplomatic relations. In Nicaragua they vandalized tombs in Jewish cemeteries. In Venezuela there were government pronouncements. In Cuba [el presidente] Díaz-Canel immediately came out to demonstrate in favor of Hamas. And the other point of concern is Brazil. Since Bolsonaro’s departure, there has been an enormous growth in right-wing anti-Semitism in southern Brazil. And neo-Nazism, which has already claimed lives in 2023. That is, around twenty people died from far-right attacks in the south of Brazil, but at the same time there is an open new alliance between Brazil and Iran through the BRICS .

—The presidents of Colombia and Chile also took a very critical position towards Israel and called their ambassadors for consultations.

—The position of those who call themselves democratic is, in my opinion, even more worrying. Petro and Boric’s show was absolutely coordinated. Petro has a position from the State that is manifestly anti-Israeli in a very, very serious way. Since he took office, Boric has been waiting for an excuse to break relations with Israel. Due to a biased vision of thinking about a Palestinian community in Chile that has almost 400,000 members who perceive themselves as descendants of Palestinians. Its leadership, the Palestinian Federation of Chile, immediately vindicated Hamas’s speech and, together with the left, is trying to bring to the national agenda this absolutely anti-Israel position that has repercussions on the Jewish citizens of Chile. In Parliament there are attempts to deal with laws that have nothing to envy of the Nuremberg laws. In fact, the Jewish community of Chile, for the first time in a long time, informed the Foreign Ministry that it will not participate in the official remembrance event on January 27, because it cannot be alongside those who consider that they have not been sufficiently strong to defend the Jews of today.

—Why should the persecution of Jews also concern non-Jews?

—Simon Wiesenthal was very clear on this. What begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. And I’m going to quote another very intelligent person. There is a historian named Yehuda Bauer who always makes it clear that World War II started by a guy who wanted to persecute and destroy the Jews. It killed 6 million Jews, but another 50 million people around the world also died. More non-Jews than Jews were lost in that war. The numbers indicate that not worrying about rising anti-Semitism takes away more non-Jews than Jews. And the third quote is from our Director of International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels. He always said that anti-Semitism is like the mercury in a thermometer: when things start to heat up, it expands and poisons everything it touches.