Netanyahu Likens Contemporary anti-Semites to 'Nazis Who Slandered Jews Before Destroying Them'

Also addressing Holocaust Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, President Reuven Rivlin apologizes to survivors who 'have never received the respect they deserve.'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyau addressing the Holocaust Day ceremony at Yad Vashem on Wednesday night.
Olivier Fattoussi

Before destroying the Jews, the Nazis slandered them, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday night at the opening ceremony of Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

"Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews as well poisoners, " Netanyahu said. "Seventy-one years ago the Nazi regime was stopped, but the anti-Semitism and the lies didn't die with Hitler in the bunker in Berlin."

"Today millions of people in the Muslim world read and hear terrible lies about the Jewish people. They are told that the Jews are descendants of monkeys and pigs. They are told that Jews drink the blood of their enemies from goblets."

While the incitement originates in radical Islam and in the Arab world, Netanyahu said, "in recent years it has been joined by incitement that is no less poisonous from the Western world – British parliamentarians, senior Swedish officials and opinion makers in France."

Contemporary anti-Semitism has created some odd pairings, Netanyahu said. "The elites who represent human progress have partnered with barbaric fundamentalists, the persecutors of women and gays, destroyers of cultural treasures."

Israeli soldiers at the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, May 4, 2016.
Olivier Fitoussi

"They spread propaganda against us, the only democracy in the Middle East which maintains the values of progress and human dignity."

The prime minister also attacked a recent UNESCO resolution ignoring Jewish links to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. "An international body rewrites history," he said.

"That is voluntary ignorance. It is addiction to the lie and its dissemination throughout the world as fact. Precisely as the haters of Israel have done over the generations."

The only way to fight anti-Semitism, Netanyahu said is to "fight the lies, increase our strength and build our country." He called on his listeners to organize and "fight against the propaganda against Israel on social networks."

"In the virtual world, it is easy to spread the most primitive propaganda using the most advanced technologies," he said. "But it is also possible to use those same technologies to disseminate the truth. Those technologies are in the pockets of all of you."

Also addressing the ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin said that Holocaust survivors have never received the respect they deserve.

"In another generation, there will not be anyone left living among us who survived that hell, and who could say, 'I was there, I saw the horror with my own eyes,'" Rivlin said.

"It is time to conduct some soul-searching before you. We must admit that we were wrong. Holocaust survivors have never received the respect they deserved. Even today, the State of Israel does not take every measure it can in order to take care of the Holocaust survivors."

"I came here today on behalf of the people of Israel, on behalf of the State of Israel, and I ask each and every one of you, before it is too late, for forgiveness."

The ceremony also included the lighting of remembrance torches by Holocaust survivors, a reading from a remembrance book and the song "Someone," sung by Kobi Aflalo.