Over the weekend a memorial was held at the Treblinka concentration camp to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1943 uprising at the camp.
Roughly 875,000 people were murdered in Treblinka during the Holocaust, nearly all of them Jews. In 1943 prisoners rebelled. While most were killed, several hundred managed to escape, and the uprising damaged the camp badly enough to slow the mass murder at the site.
Deputy Minister of Education Avi Wortzman represented Israel at the ceremony. In his speech, he spoke about the horror of the Holocaust, and also replied to an Arab-Israeli MK’s recent claim, in Knesset, that “we were here before you, and we will be here after you.”
Wortzman began, “It’s hard to grasp what happened here just 70 years ago. Maybe what we need to do in this place is simply to be silent. To be silent, and to listen to the silence and hear the screams of the hundreds of thousands of children, mothers, fathers, grandfathers and grandmothers.
“I can hear their screams…
“I stand here today as the Deputy Minister of Education of the state of Israel, proud and emotional. Emotional, moved to tears by the great pain of my brothers, my people, whose ashes are scattered here around us. Proud, to represent the continued existence of the Jews despite everything,” he declared.
Wortzman then turned to respond to Zahalka’s claim that Arabs lived in Israel before the Jews arrived – and also sent a barb at Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
“This week, the state of Israel is negotiating with someone whose doctorate is in Holocaust denial,” he said.
“At the same time, I hear that in the Israeli Knesset, a Member of Knesset is inciting against the Jewish people, saying, ‘We were here before you, and we will be here after you.’ I stand here in Treblinka as a representative of the state of Israel and as a proud Jew, and I say to everyone who seeks ill for us – the Jewish nation existed before you in history, and we will remain after you are gone,” he stated.
Zahalka has made several controversial remarks in the past, including a claim that Jews living in Judea and Samaria have no right to self-defense against Arab attacks, and that their murder should not be condemned.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu replied to Zahalka’s recent claims with a brief retort that earned him spontaneous applause from the Knesset. “You said, 'We were here before you... and we will be here after you.' The first part is not true. And the second part will not happen,” he told the MK.