Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Saturday that no one dares to deny the Holocaust because the Jews have managed to make "the whole world bow to them," and suggested Belarus should do more to bring the Nazi occupation of Eastern Europe into international awareness.
Lukashenko said that due to Jewish global power, "no one today would dare to raise a voice and deny the Holocaust." In contrast, Belarus has allowed the memory of the "holocaust of the Belarusian people" to be insulted.
The strongman's remarks were made during a speech for the country's Independence Day, which marks the victory of Soviet forces over the Nazis in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 1944.
The subject of the Nazi occupation of Belarus has long been a focus of Lukashenko's politics and public statements. The authoritarian leader is responsible for instating July 3, previously a local Minsk holiday, as Belarus' official Independence Day in 1996. In 2004, Lukashenko's government introduced a special course on the Soviet victory over the Nazis in Belarus as a mandatory subject not only in high schools but also in universities.
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Lukashenko frequently refers to World War Two in his quarrels with the West, most recently after the announcement of international sanctions against Belarus after it diverted a passenger jet to arrest a dissident journalist last month. According to the Times of Israel, Lukashenko accused Germany, which supported the sanctions, of reenacting its Nazi past, saying that Belarus did not expect this "from those whose ancestors destroyed not only every third Belarusian, but also millions of unborn children in the Great Patriotic War.”
The publication of Lukashenko's Saturday remarks came after President Reuven Rivlin congratulated his Belarusian counterpart on the occasion of his country's Independence Day, sending him "good wishes" for his "personal well-being and for the ongoing progress and prosperity of your country and its people."
According to the Belarusian presidential website, Israel joined a list of mostly authoritarian countries – including Turkey, Turkmenistan, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority – in offering congratulations to the longtime president, largely shunned by Western leaders.
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An Israeli government source told Haaretz that "Israel shows sensitivity to the well-being of the Jewish community In Belarus and therefore prefers not to confront the Lukashenko administration," which is facing harsh sanctions from the United States and European Union after it diverted a passenger jet to arrest a dissident journalist last month.
Belarus has been rocked by months of protests, instigated by Lukashenko’s reelection to a sixth term in an August 2020 election that was widely seen as rigged. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.
Israeli digital intelligence company Cellebrite announced in March that it would stop selling its technology to Russia and Belarus after it was used to hack opposition forces and minorities in the countries.
Last month, Israel's ambassador to Minsk also raised eyebrows when he publicly endorsed stronger ties between the two countries and called for increased Israeli tourism to Belarus.