Israel Taps Former Settler Leader As New Head of Yad Vashem
Dani Dayan

Appointment comes at a delicate time for the flagship Holocaust remembrance and research center.

By Associated Press

Israel’s government approved Sunday the appointment of a former diplomat and settler leader as the new director of Yad Vashem, the country’s official Holocaust remembrance organization.

Yad Vashem announced that Dani Dayan, 65, was tapped as chairman of the organization’s directorate. Until recently, Dayan served as Israel’s consul general in New York. Before that, he headed the Yesha council, an umbrella organization representing Israeli settlers living in Judea and Samaria. Dayan himself lives in Maale Shomron, near Nablus.

Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, serves as both a museum and research institution. It’s a venerable body that hosts foreign dignitaries who arrive in Israel, welcomes nearly one million visitors each year and leads the country’s annual Holocaust memorial day.

Dayan’s appointment came more than a year after longtime director Avner Shalev announced his retirement. Last year the government reportedly planned to nominate former IDF general Effie Eitam, to the post. But Eitam was not tapped after vocal opposition to his appointment surfaced due to controversial remarks he made about Palestinians.

Despite calls by an umbrella group representing Holocaust survivors that Yad Vashem appoint a director with a background in Holocaust research, Dayan was nominated for the position earlier this month by Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton.

The Argentina-born Dayan ran in March 23 parliamentary elections with Gideon Saar’s New Hope party along with Shasha-Biton, but he did not win a seat in the Knesset.

“Leading Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, is more than a position; it is a mission and one I take on with awe and reverence,” Dayan said in a statement.

He said the institution’s job is to educate and research, as well as combat misinformation about the Holocaust, “in order to safeguard the memory of the Shoah and to ensure that the Jewish people and humanity will forever continue to remember this event.”

Dayan’s appointment comes at a delicate time for Yad Vashem. Yad Vashem spoke out against a controversial Polish law that effectively ends most restitution claims for Holocaust survivors and their families. Holocaust-denial is on the rise in the U.S., particularly on social media.

The center’s finances are also down because of the Covid pandemic.

United With Israel staff contributed to this report.

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