(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)
1. The cabinet convened today (Thursday, 26 January 2006) at Yad Vashem in order to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ministers toured the new Holocaust History Museum.
2. At the beginning of the special session, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the following remarks: "We naturally chose to hold the meeting here at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in order to underscore the government’s commitment to the memory of our brothers and sisters who were murdered during the Holocaust by the Germans and their allies.
"I would like to thank Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev and everyone at Yad Vashem who is doing so much to enshrine the memory of the Holocaust.
"We have just completed a short tour of the new Holocaust History Museum and I think that I can say on behalf of the entire cabinet that it was a very difficult experience. We spent approximately 1.5 hours in an experience that detached us from the reality in which we live, in this awful memory and the relentless pictures from our collective memory, and in the pain that is an inseparable part of both our experience and our raison d’etre.
"From this year, International Holocaust Remembrance Day will be marked annually in most countries around the world. This is the result of an Israeli initiative that was approved by great majority of the United Nations General Assembly.
"I hope that this step will lead to the awareness of the Holocaust being instilled in many publics around the world, which for years tried to evade the need to deal with the Holocaust in all its aspects. I also hope that this step will lead to a reduction in anti-Semitism and Holocaust-denial, which in recent years, to my regret, we have witnessed with concern."
3. Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson, who is responsible for the struggle against anti-Semitism and chairs the Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism, and his aides, briefed ministers on the main trends in anti-Semitism in 2005. They presented an overall trend of a decline in violent anti-Semitic incidents around the world; however, there is still a high level of anti-Semitism in various places – and in Russia and Ukraine there has been a significant increase.
Most violent incidents are related to the intention to harm Jewish targets and community installations, attempts to murder Jews and other incidents including the desecration of cemeteries and synagogues.
Ministers were also briefed on the trends of the strengthening of both organized and unorganized right-wing extremism in various countries, and accelerated activity by extremist left-wing elements in order to create an atmosphere of delegitimizing the State of Israel on university campuses, in the media, and in public forums.
The briefing referred to events in western Europe and indicated a decline in anti-Semitic incidents. Among the reasons for the decline, it is possible to indicate the intensive treatment of the issue in the international arena, the determined struggle by many governments against radical Islamic incitement and an improvement in Israel’s global image following the Disengagement Plan.
The briefing discussed anti-Semitism in the Arab and Islamic worlds and pointed out that Jews are one of al-Qaida’s preferred targets. The intentions of Jihadist elements to perpetrate terrorist attacks against Jewish targets were seen this year as well. Iran stands out as a leader in anti-Semitic propaganda in the Islamic world, which finds expression in calls for Israel’s destruction, the demonization of Israel, Holocaust-denial, and blood libels.
The forum presented the cabinet with its recommendations regarding the continuation of the struggle against anti-Semitism, according to which the State of Israel will continue to maintain international activity to enshrine the memory of the Holocaust and in the struggle against anti-Semitism.
Israel will increase cooperation and involvement in the struggle against anti-Semitism by political and religious leaders throughout the world.
Israel calls on the nations of the world to increase legislation and enforcement against anti-Semitic elements and anti-Semitic media, especially on the Internet.
The State of Israel calls on the free world to act against anti-Semitism throughout the world, especially in the Arab world and in Iran, in which there is the impression that anti-Semitism enjoys immunity.
4. The cabinet decided to renovate the Jewish pavilion at the museum at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and to create a team chaired by Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon – and with the participation of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Education, Culture and Sports Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, Minister Hirschson, Yad Vashem, the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel and the Jewish Agency – to formulate, within six months, an outline of principles for renovating the Jewish pavilion, in coordination with the Aushwitz-Birkenau museum management and the Polish government, and to determine frameworks regarding budgeting, financing, and maintenance.
The cabinet decided that Yad Vashem would be responsible for acting to implement the foregoing.
The decision to renovate the Jewish pavilion follows Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day last year in the framework of the March of the Living.
The Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies, on 3 Jan. 2006 decided to recommend that the government participate in the renovation of the Jewish pavilion at the museum in cooperation with the appropriate elements in the world Jewish community.
It should be pointed out that in several of the pavilions at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, national exhibits have been set up in which each country is allocated a pavilion, the responsibility for which belongs to the exhibiting country. Recently, several countries have renovated their exhibits. The exhibit in the Jewish pavilion, for which the State of Israel is responsible, is in the dual-story pavilion #28 and was established in the 1970s; it has not been renovated since and is very run-down.
Approximately 1 million people visited the museum last year, including tens of thousands of Jewish and Israeli youth in order hold ceremonies, read names, etc. in the pavilion entrance hall; however, very few visited the exhibit due to its run-down state.
5. Acting Prime Minister Olmert referred to the recent Palestinian Authority elections and directed ministers not to comment on the results.