Uproar in Knesset After Hitler Comparison on Holocaust Memorial Day

Two lawmakers were removed from Knesset chambers after launching a verbal assault on MK Esawi Freige who said the rhetoric of early Nazi Germany is apparent today in the U.S. and in Israel.

Esawi Freige addresses the Knesset, August 1, 2014.
Oren Nahshon

Israel's Knesset descended into chaos Tuesday, at a discussion on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, after a Meretz lawmaker took the opportunity to connect comments from U.S. President Donald Trump as well as Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s. 

"'Germany first' - that was the slogan of the Nazis," said MK Esawi Freige. "One people, one nation and one fuhrer, the Nazis used to cry. Today, the slogans are repeated with Trump in the U.S. or even with us, with Miri Regev."

The comments sparked an uproar from MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu) and his colleague, MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who were subsequently removed from Knesset chambers as they yelled at Freige.

"The gall and impudence of MK Freige to stand in Israel's Knesset before Holocaust survivors on this important day and compare the State of Israel, even a little, to the horrors of the Nazi regime, are unforgivable," said Forer. "It seems that Freige needs to open a history book and understand what happened in Europe to the Jewish people."

After the storm in the Knesset, Freige addressed the survivors and said: "If my comments hurt someone's feelings here, I'm sorry, but I don't think I crossed any red lines. I repeat and say, we must internalize the lessons of the Holocaust. If we don't internalize these lessons then we haven't done anything. If there was no racism, there wouldn't have been a Holocaust, so let's learn from these things."

Freige later added that, "I wanted to send a message that we must remember, not only the victims of the Holocaust, but also its lessons ... The fight against racism and nationalism is a central lesson that it feels sometimes our leaders in this country have forgotten. It's weird that the comment received populist criticism from MK Forer of all people, whose party chief Lieberman wanted 'to judge Arab Knesset members like in Nuremberg as if we're murdering Nazis."

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who gave the government's response to the incident, said that, "The storm that took place here shows the anger that next to the serious phenomenon of Holocaust denial is the no-less-serious phenomenon of contempt in the use of terms from the Holocaust."