Like many Israelis, Rachel Zeini found recent statements by IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan, which seemingly compared Israel to Nazi Germany, deeply upsetting.
Unlike most Israelis however, Zeini experienced the Holocaust firsthand, when she was a victim of the sadistic experiments of Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz death camp.
While politicians from across the spectrum waded into the fracas to offer support for the embattled officer or lambast him for his comments, Zeini felt compelled to give her own rebuttal to Golan, speaking not as a political commentator but as a witness to history.
Zeini penned a letter to Golan, criticizing him for what she called his ignorance of history.
“I was filled with great sorrow to hear your pronouncements,” Zeini wrote.
“The comparison you made between pre-war Germany and Israel today is utterly baseless, and is likely the result of a lack of familiarity of the period that preceded your birth.”
In refuting Golan’s claims, Zeini noted that, while Jewish students were discriminated against in pre-war Europe, Arab students in Israel are not only allowed to study wherever they choose, they given preferential treatment in the selection process.
“My father graduated from law school in Berlin in 1916, as the numerus clausus restricting the number of Jews prevented him from studying in Budapest, the closest place to his home.”
“At the University of Berlin, he saw the buds of Nazism, as students, with the support of the professors, would discriminate against Jewish students. In the state of Israel, Arab students can study anywhere they like, and in addition, they are given preferential treatment, otherwise known as ‘affirmative action.’”
Zeini also pointed out the great lengths Israel goes to behave humanely even towards terrorists, the polar opposite of Germany’s behavior during the Holocaust.
“I was a victim of the cruelty of doctors in Germany, among them [Josef] Mengele,” Zeini wrote. “This winter, I was hospitalized at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and witnessed the unwavering and humane attitude of Jewish doctors towards everyone, including an [Arab] terrorist who lay in the bed next to mine.”
Golan sparked controversy last Wednesday during his speech on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Warning that the sorts of trends in pre-war Europe were visible in Israel today, Golan appeared to compare Israel to Nazi Germany.
“If there is something that scares me about the memory of the Holocaust, it is the identification of horrifying processes that occurred in Europe in general and Germany in particular - 70, 80 and 90 years ago - and finding evidence of them here among us, today, in 2016,” he said.
Golan later denied he intended to make such a comparison.