Holocaust Remembrance Day | Extremists, Iran and Political Caricatures: Netanyahu Charts Dangers of anti-Semitism

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Credit: Emil Salman
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem memorial on Wednesday, both warning about the rise in anti-Semitism globally. 

"The radical right, radical left and radical Islamic groups agree only on one thing: Hatred of Jews," Netanyahu said. 

Netanyahu referenced the attacks on Pittsburgh and San Diego synagogues as well as anti-Semitic cartoons by respectable newspapers, calling such acts "systemic destruction" to undermined the legitimacy of the Jewish state. 

The prime minister was referring to a cartoon that ran last Thursday in the New York Times showing U.S. President Donald Trump wearing a skullcap and led by Netanyahu, depicted as a guide dog wearing a Star of David necklace.

The prime minister also warned of the growing influence of Iran as a threat to Israel. 

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"Today, Europe is once again pursued by the ghosts of the past. Ideas of superiority, national purity, xenophobia, blatant anti-Semitism from left and right are hovering over Europe," Rivlin said. 

Speaking of rising anti-Semitism in conjunction with anti-Israel sentiment, Rivlin said one cannot hate Israel and love Jews nor hate Jews and love Israel. Rivlin went on to warn of warming ties between Israel and right-wing leaders who have not recognized their nation's responsibility in "the crimes of the Holocaust." 

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony held at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Credit: Emil Salman

"With the rise of neo-fascist and radical anti-Israel forces, we could find ourselves in a situation where important European allies are led by governments which include anti-Semitic elements or, God forbid, led by anti-Semitic leaders," Rivlin said.

"Israel must speak in a clear and uncompromising voice. No interest and no consideration of realpolitik can justify a dishonorable alliance with racist groups or elements who do not acknowledge their past and their responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust," he warned.

>> Read more: ‘Anne Frank of Budapest’: Newly discovered diary chronicles Jewish girl’s life in Nazi-occupied Hungary

"It is important to be clear: We are not in the 1930s; we are not on the brink of a second Holocaust or anything like it. But we cannot ignore the old-new anti-Semitism which is once more raising its head, fueled by waves of immigration, by economic crises, and by disillusionment with the political establishment...the Jewish people is no longer weak. We are not powerless," the president added.  

"I have recently approached world leaders to invite them to an international conference that will be held here at Yad Vashem next January, to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Here Jerusalem, together with presidents and heads of state, we will join forces in the uncompromising fight against anti-Semitism, xenophobia and Holocaust denial," Rivlin added. 

On Thursday, a nationwide siren and minute of silence will take place in memory of the 6 million Jews systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.

Soldiers hold torches at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony, Jerusalem, May 1, 2019. Credit: Motti Milrod

A report published Wednesday found 2018 to be the deadliest year for Jews, with more people being murdered in anti-Semitic attacks around the world than in any other year over the past several decades. At least 138 people were also attacked in 2018. 

The report published by Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center along with the European Jewish Congress, also found a rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents defined by the Kantor Center as violent and severe – 387 in 2018 – a 13 percent rise compared to the previous year.