With racists in power, Israel commemorates the Holocaust
TEL AVIV - Israelis stopped their cars and stood still, often with heads bowed, for two minutes Thursday for the country's annual commemoration of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
Sirens rang out nationwide during the commemoration, while pedestrians and drivers in Jerusalem, the bustling seaside city of Tel Aviv and elsewhere stood on roadsides and in the middle of streets in silence.
Israel began commemorations on Wednesday night with a ceremony at its Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem that included speeches from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Netanyahu in his comments on Wednesday night said "we are living nowadays in a paradox."
"The worldwide admiration for the Jewish state is accompanied within certain circles by a growing hatred towards Jews," he said.
"The radical right, the radical left and radical Islam all agree on one thing only: hatred towards Jews."
He also pointedly referred to Saturday's shooting in a California synagogue that killed one person and wounded three others, two of them Israelis.
Part of the language
Rivlin, without specifying names, warned against allying with leaders who employ new forms of anti-Semitism in a lightly veiled reference to the Israeli Prime Minister.
Netanayhu's frequent commentary on the rise of anti-semitism worldwide is belied by his government's alliances with right-wing nationalist leaders worldwide, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Netanyahu sees these alliances as important in countering international criticism of his government's racist policies towards Palestinians, Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territory and its illegal Jewish settlement program.
Orban has faced allegations of stoking anti-Semitism in Hungary with nationalist rhetoric and a campaign against US Jewish billionaire philanthropist George Soros - a campaign to which American lobbyists for Israel have contributed.
Netanyahu's son, Yair Netanyahu, has previously been criticised for posting anti-Soros cartoons evoking traditional anti-Semitic tropes in support of his father's rhetoric.
Netanyahu has also publicly flouted his good relations with Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, who once told a gathering of evangelical pastors that "we can forgive" the crimes of the Holocaust.
Bolsonaro, like President Trump in the US, counts Evangelical Christians as a key base of his support. Evangelical Christians are strong proponents of Zionism, believing that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was in accordance with biblical prophecy.
They believe that the gathering of Jews in the Holy Land is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus, and that any Jews who fail to convert to Christianity will go to hell.
Bolsonaro has also said that Nazism was a "leftist movement" during a visit to Yad Vashem, contradicting the Holocaust museum itself which describes the Nazi Party as an outgrowth of “radical right-wing groups.”
That comment echoed statements by the Israeli leader, who frequently accuses his political opponents of being "leftists" who would endanger Israelis by granting concessions to the Palestinians.
Perhaps most notable of Netanyahu's questionable friendships with international leaders is the one with President Donald Trump, who has described self-proclaimed neo-Nazis chanting "Jews will not replace us" as "very fine people".
Largest number of Jews murdered
"Not every right-wing party in Europe that believes in controlling immigration or in protecting its unique character is anti-Semitic or xenophobic," Rivlin said.
"But political forces where anti-Semitism and racism are part of their language, their legacy or their ideology can never be our allies."
A report on Wednesday warned anti-Semitism was on the rise in parts of North America and Europe where Jews once felt safe and spoke of an "increasing sense of emergency."
Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, sounded the alarm in an annual report from his Kantor Center that draws on official statistics.
"In 2018, we witnessed the largest number of Jews murdered in a single year since decades," Kantor said, deploring a 13-percent rise in "severe and violent" incidents.
The Anti-Defamation League said in a report published Tuesday that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States remained at near-record high levels in 2018.
That included an October attack at a synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people, the deadliest ever attack against American Jews.
The spectre of Nazi views of racial supremacy took on even greater significance after recordings emerged of two rabbis at a pre-military religious academy in an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank making derogatory and racist comments about Palestinians and openly promoting Jewish supremacy.
The rabbi at the Bnei David Yeshiva, which is funded by the Israeli state, was recorded saying that Hitler ”was the most correct person there ever was, and was correct in every word he said… he was just on the wrong side.”