President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday took right-wing MKs to task for forging ties European extremists and leveled very sharp criticism at the Likud Party, which invited Austrian far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache to Israel last month.
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Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon emphasized the country’s duties to maintain “high moral standards” at the main closing ceremonies marking the end of Holocaust Remembrance Day Thursday and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked claimed "The new Europe has not managed to shake off the ghosts of the past."
In a speech he delivered at the closing ceremonies of Holocaust Remembrance Day at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, Rivlin said “Sometimes I am shocked by what looks like the erosion of our national respect, by the peculiar linking up with the voices of falsehood among the extreme right in parts of Europe,” he said.
Rivlin left no room for doubt about what he meant. “A number of weeks ago, Christian Strache, an Austrian party leader, which shamelessly calls itself the Freedom Party, visited Israel,” he said. “He did not come here for a courtesy visit or tourism but rather by official invitation of leaders in the Israeli political world, and regretfully he is not the only one.”
Rivlin added: “Different people are trying to create an alliance and ties with parties and groups of xenophobes and anti-Semites who apparently support the State of Israel. It is upon us, the generation that is close to the Holocaust, to be clear. No interest in the world will justify the disgraceful alliance with groups and people who will not recognize their responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust, whose work is dedicated to its silencing, and whose vision seeks to commit them again against every foreigner, refugee or migrant that dares ‘to defile,’ in their opinion, their living space.
This is true just as no interest will justify being silent or vacillating in the face of anti-Semites or anti-Israel forces.”
Rivlin concluded: “Political and national leaders who support racist, neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic ways of thinking, will not be and cannot be welcome guests here in Israel.”
Rivlin in his speech also commented on the public debate around Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies, focusing on things that Dr. Anat Livne, the director of the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum on Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, told Haaretz last month. I would be happy if we could reduce the pathos and perhaps eliminate the speeches and the torch parade,” Livne had said, adding that putting a halt to speeches and torch lighting should be considered.
“I read what our beloved Anat Livne said about her discontent with Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies,” he said. “The State of Israel has acted and continues to act to bequeathing the Holocaust not only here but also around the entire world, so that all the world will understand ‘Never Again.’ It not only focuses us, Jews and Israelis, but also the entire world, so that atrocities like the ones in the Second World War, will never return.”
Rivlin added: “Ceremonies, I know, are not the most important thing, but ceremonies create commitment, establish consciousness and awaken discourse. And this discourse is vital – to us and to all the world. We can argue about the boundaries of the discourse and its significance. We can enrich the ceremonies with additional effort and in teaching ‘never again.’ But canceling them would constitute a mortal blow to the official commitment to remembering and would too quickly accelerate forgetting.”
Speaking at Yad Mordechai, Defense Minister Ya’alon said, “In the wake of our history and who we are, we are obliged to maintain high moral standards and a personal conscience, without compromise to stringently fight racism, violence and rejecting and hating the other only because he is different, without differentiating between religion, race, gender, ethnic background or sexual orientation to fight apathy that is liable to take control of us in the face of wild incitement by extremists toward minorities, mainly Israeli Arabs – citizens with equal rights, whom it is our duty to continue advancing as a significant and contributing part of Israeli society.”
He added that in light of the Holocaust, Israel must “remember that even when we are forced to utilize our military force, we must be diligent about moral and ethical behavior, even though our enemies behave cruelly and use their own people as human shields.” He explained: “This is the difference between us and them. We must, simply must, guard our lofty Jewish values, to strengthen our path and its righteousness. We have no other possibility, lest we be lost, because we have no other land.”
At the same time, thousands of people from around the world participated in the March of the Living procession at the Auschwitz death camp. A delegation of Knesset members, headed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, participated in the event.
“In that time, they said in Europe – ‘Jew, go to Palestine.’ Today, they call in Europe, ‘Jew, get out of Palestine.’ The new Europe does not manage to shake off the ghosts of the past,” she said.
Shaked added: “There is no way of avoiding saying this – the whole world abandoned the Jews. Now, I can say with pride that we no longer need world sympathy. Jewish blood will no longer be forfeited.”