Former PM Barak: Neo-Nazi Rally in Charlottesville Reminiscent of Events in Israel

Lawmakers Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni come out against Trump comments, saying there are not equal sides when it comes to anti-Semitism

White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the 'alt-right' during the 'Unite the Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/AFP

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday that the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville last Saturday was reminiscent of recent events in Israel.

Barak cited demonstrations held by the anti-assimilationist group Lehava and the rants against IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot over the Sgt. Elor Azaria manslaughter trial.

>>Netanyahu's Charlottesville response proves he's lost any semblance of a moral compass | Opinion: MK Stav Shaffir

Speaking on Facebook, Barak also blasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's feeble, belated response to recent anti-Semitic events in the United States.

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"What's happening in the United States is a struggle over the country's way. There are displays of racism, neo-Nazism and other dark sides of the human spirit. We must fight it. It's terrorism against the American people," Barak said.

"An Israeli leader should have responded to that within six hours, and immediately voiced our position as brothers of the great community in the United States, the Jewish community, who are under threat."

Barak said certain events that have taken place in Israel are like what happened in Charlottesville.

"You can't say you don't see things here that have a similar smell or bear a certain similarity when you look at the Lehava demonstrations or the La Familia activity, or the ranting against the chief of staff or journalists and the threat to the lives of journalists covering Netanyahu's investigations, or to their family members," Barak said.

"All these displays are what I have called budding fascism and should be stopped with a firm hand," he continued. [We need] a democracy that believes in its way. A Jewish state must struggle for its way; an active, not a passive struggle. Such things must not be allowed to pass." 

Several Israeli opposition politicians tacitly criticized U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday after he placed equal blame on white supremacists and counterprotesters for the violent clashes in Charlottesville.

Trump attracted widespread criticism across the political spectrum in the United States after blaming "many sides" for the violence between neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and alt-right members with counterprotesters in the Virginia university town.

But Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid said "there are no two sides. When neo-Nazis march in Charlottesville with anti-Semitic slogans against Jews and for white supremacy, the denouncement is unequivocal: they are the ones representing evil and hatred. Anyone who believes in the human spirit must stand against them without fear."

Lapid's comments were echoed by Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni. "In racism, anti-Semitism and Nazism, there are no two equal sides: there is good and there is bad. Period. The fight against anti-Semitism has to be a common one to Israel, as the state of the Jewish people, and to leaders in places where it rears its ugly head. We need to take an immediate and unflinching stand against such phenomena."

Lapid and Livni made their comments a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu belatedly seemed to address events in Charlottesville.

"Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred," Netanyahu wrote on his English-language Twitter account on Tuesday, without mentioning Charlottesville by name.

However, Netanyahu's son, Yair, was seemingly more concerned by the counterprotesters in Charlottesville. "I'm a Jew, I'm an Israeli, the neo nazis scums [sic] in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out," he wrote on his personal Facebook page under the name Yair Hun.

"However, the thugs of [left-wing anti-fascist group] Antifa and BLM [Black Lives Matter] who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett had been the first leading Israeli politician to denounce Saturday's demonstration. The Habayit Hayehudi leader on Sunday called on the U.S. administration to condemn the use of Nazi symbols in the white supremacist rally.

Chaim Levinson contributed to this report.