President Reuven Rivlin responded on Thursday to a poll published by CNN earlier in the week that revealed the depth of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Rivlin told CNN that anti-Semitism is "an evil that can be found anywhere – left and right, nationalist and religious" and argued that combatting the phenomenon by forming coalitions with neo-fascist movements is impossible.
Rivlin's comments come after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the right-wing leaders of Austria and Hungary for fighting anti-Semitism, a problem which Netanyahu said is fueled today by the "extreme left and radical Islamic pockets."
"I saw [Prime Minister] Viktor Orban in Hungary," Netanyahu told CNN on Tuesday in response to the poll. "He’s opened up a center against anti-Semitism. I saw [Chancellor] Sebastian Kurz in Austria, he just held a conference against anti-Semitism, and that’s encouraging."
In the interview Thursday, Rivlin told CNN that neo-fascism is "absolutely incompatible" with Israel's principles and values. “You cannot say ‘we admire Israel and want relations with your country, but we are neo-fascists,’" Rivlin said.
“I meet leaders from all around the world – presidents and prime ministers – and they tell me that sometimes they need to work with movements like these to build coalitions and that although they are neo-fascists they are great admirers of Israel. I tell them that this is absolutely impossible,” Rivlin said.
According to the president, rejecting neo-fascists movements is a way of fighting anti-Semitism. "The fact that the President of Israel says to neo-fascist movements ‘you are persona non grata in the State of Israel’ is a statement that fights anti-Semitism in a concrete way. It is a statement that makes clear that memory is important and that we will not compromise on for the political expediency of the state of Israel," Rivlin said.
CNN's poll, conducted in seven European countries, found that a quarter of Europeans believe Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Additionally, more than one-third of respondents said they have no substantial knowledge of the Holocaust. One-third of respondents also said that Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or goals
According to Rivlin, the problem can be fought by "strengthening memory" and sticking "to the historical facts, not politicians’ talking points." Rivlin added that Israel must collaborate with other nations "to fight against xenophobia and discrimination, of which anti-Semitism is a variant."
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