Netanyahu denounces Iran as anti-Semitic at Holocaust forum

Almost 50 world leaders gather in Jerusalem to mark 75 years since Auschwitz liberation

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier lays a wreath at the World Holocaust Forum, marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz death camp. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier lays a wreath at the World Holocaust Forum, marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz death camp. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

 

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has used the platform of the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem to denounce Iran as “the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet”.

Almost 50 world leaders attended the event, the biggest diplomatic gathering in Israel’s history.

Mr Netanyahu said the world turned its back on Jews during the Holocaust, teaching the Jewish people that under threat they can only rely on themselves. He vowed that Israel would always defend itself against those seeking to destroy it.

“Israel thanks president [Donald] Trump and vice-president Mike Pence for confronting the tyrants of Tehran who threaten the stability of the Middle East and the entire world,” Mr Netanyahu said. “I call on all governments to make any effort to confront Iran.”

Mr Pence, addressing the gathering after Mr Netanyahu, also drew parallels between Nazi Germany and Iran.

“In the same spirit [of Holocaust remembrance], we must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism,” he said. “The one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and calls to wipe Israel off the map. The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

This year’s gathering marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland and coincides with a rise in anti-Semitic attacks across Europe and elsewhere.

Welcoming the world leaders to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin said their countries should not take for granted the common values that people fought for in the second World War, such as democracy and freedom.

“Jewish people remember because we understand that if we do not remember then history can be repeated,” he said. “Anti-Semitism does not only stop with Jews. Racism and anti-Semitism is a malignant disease that dismantles people and countries, and no society and no democracy is immune to that.”

German guilt

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the world leaders that 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, he stands before them as the president of Germany, laden with guilt.

“I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all, but I cannot say that when hatred is spreading, I cannot say that when anti-Semitism is hidden in criticism of Israeli policy, and I cannot say that when only a thick wooden door prevents a right-wing terrorist from carrying out a massacre on Yom Kippur,” he said. “It is the same evil, and there remains only one answer: never again. That is why there can never be an end to remembrance.”

Some 11,000 police officers were deployed in one of Israel’s biggest-ever security operations to ensure the gathering passed off peacefully.

Some Holocaust survivors complained that there was no place at the event for them. There was also a small protest against what was perceived as the lavish nature of the Holocaust forum while many of the survivors in Israel are struggling financially.