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Israel taps former settler leader as new head of Yad Vashem

August 22, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this July 20, 2016 file photo, Israeli Dani Dayan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem. Israel's government approved Sunday, Aug. 22,2021, the appointment of  Dayan, 65, a former diplomat and settler leader as the new director of Yad Vashem, the country's official Holocaust remembrance organization. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)
FILE - In this July 20, 2016 file photo, Israeli Dani Dayan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem. Israel's government approved Sunday, Aug. 22,2021, the appointment of Dayan, 65, a former diplomat and settler leader as the new director of Yad Vashem, the country's official Holocaust remembrance organization. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)
FILE - In this July 20, 2016 file photo, Israeli Dani Dayan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Jerusalem. Israel's government approved Sunday, Aug. 22,2021, the appointment of Dayan, 65, a former diplomat and settler leader as the new director of Yad Vashem, the country's official Holocaust remembrance organization. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — 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 the occupied West Bank. Dayan himself lives in a settlement.

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 a hard-line religious nationalist ex-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.

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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 the 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.”