First International Holocaust Memorial Day

For the first time, countries around the globe on Friday commemorated those who lost their lives in the wholesale slaughter of Jews and others during the nightmare of World War II.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 12:13

The United Nations set January 27 as the date for International Holocaust Memorial Day, a first for the world body.

Jews see the move as a new page in Israel’s relationship with the UN, where Israeli professionals are being included in committees and special agencies more often than ever before. The event has served to change the image of a constant battle between Israel and the UN to develop a more positive image for the Jewish state.

Israeli scientists and other professionals currently participate in the UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), including the World Heritage committee and others.

The head of the Israeli Health Ministry’s Food and Nutrition Service runs the World Health Organization office in Belgrade. Infectious disease control specialist Dr. Bina Rabinovich is now in Turkey to help address the avian flu epidemic which has taken hold there. An international health symposium is being held in Geneva, organized with help from the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Medical Association in cooperation with various UN agencies.

“We in the international organizations branch set as a target the normalization of Israel’s status in the UN and other international bodies,” said Ilan Elgar, director of the Foreign Ministry’s International Organizations Department.

“Another way to fight Israel’s image as a one-issue state constantly under attack for the conflict with the Arab world and the Palestinians is to promote Israeli professionals’ participation in all agencies,” he added.

Not everyone is celebrating the day, however. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., has not included anything about the alliance between Arab grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini and Adolf Hitler during the war, according to the locally based Holocaust Museum Watch.

HMW Chairperson Carol Greenwald said the silence is a “dereliction of duty” by the museum. Greenwald made the remarks during a speech at a forum at the Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah.

The organization wants the museum to expose the anti-Semitic participation of the the Arab and Muslim world during the Holocaust. In addition, HMW is demanding the museum speak out against current anti-Semitic statements by leading members of the Arab community, including those by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinijad.

The Iranian leader has recently denied the Holocaust, called for the complete destruction of Israel, and suggested a Jewish state should be established elsewhere in provinces of Germany and Austria.