A right-wing former IDF general nominated to head the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has responded to critics who say that he is unfit for the post because a record of bigotry.
Initially, when his name was put forward several weeks ago, Effi Eitam said that he would let the selection process determine his fitness for the office, but in the face of a concerted campaign to destroy his candidacy, he decided finally to speak in his own defense.
In an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, Eitam said: “People say that when the allegations are baseless and unfounded, there is no point in responding. But I am here to respond.”
Addressing the charge of anti-Arab racism and population transfer, he said, “I have always opposed any talk of a transfer. Anyone with an ounce of integrity can look through my interviews and see that.
“But I did say one thing, and I stand behind it: If a war is declared upon us by people, communities, or groups that want to turn Israel into a terror arena, we shall fight with all our might, decisively.
“Expelling the Arabs of Yehuda and Shomron is not a goal, it’s a consequence. There may come a situation — a tragic one — as part of violent fighting, in which a civilian population will be harmed,” he said.
Regarding comments that Arab MKs should be barred from the Knesset, he clarified: “I think Arab Israelis should make a clear choice whether they are partners — with full rights — in building the State of Israel, which is the state of the Jewish nation, or they are actively undermining its existence as such.”
He said that when Arab lawmakers meet with people like Syrian dictator Bashar Assad during a war, “that’s a situation that no democracy can accept.”
Eitam said that he believes that most Arab Israelis do want to be part of Israel, and do not seek to undermine the state.
On the subject of Yad Vashem specifically, Eitam stated that he feels a deep connection with the Holocaust and its memory.
Whether the interview will quell the objections of the coalition of some 750 Jewish studies scholars and directors of Jewish and Holocaust museums who signed a petition opposing his proposed appointment remains to be seen.