Israel, US condemn ‘anti-Semitic’ Iran at Holocaust memorial event

Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Israel, US condemn ‘anti-Semitic’ Iran at Holocaust memorial event

  • Iranian threat compared to that once posed by Nazi Germany
  • Netanyahu slams 'tyrants of Tehran' for leading the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet

JERUSALEM: Israel and the United States on Thursday called for action against Iran in front of world leaders marking 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, comparing the Iranian threat to that once posed by Nazi Germany.
“There will not be another Holocaust,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Jerusalem gathering of more than 40 heads of state and government, pointing to what he called “the tyrants of Tehran.”
He lamented that “we have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet, a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state.”
In a similar vein, US Vice President Mike Pence urged the international community to “stand strong” against Iran, calling it the sole country where Holocaust denial is “state policy.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, however, rejected such parallels, telling the gathering — without mentioning Iran, Israel or the US by name — that “no one has the right to invoke their dead to justify division or contemporary hatred.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed a summit of leaders of the five permanent UN Security Council members to “defend peace” in the face of global instability.
Tehran denies it is trying to build a nuclear bomb and accusations of anti-Semitism, insisting that while it opposes the Jewish state and supports the Palestinian cause, it has no problem with Jewish people, including its own Jewish minority.
The leaders were at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center for the biggest international diplomatic gathering ever held in Israel, to remember the liberation of the World War II death camp where the Nazis killed more than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews.
While the main focus was on the Holocaust, its haunting legacy and the resurgence of anti-Semitism, modern geopolitics quickly overshadowed the event, held at a time of soaring US-Iranian tensions.
Netanyahu said that while for many “Auschwitz is the ultimate symbol of evil... it is also the ultimate symbol of Jewish powerlessness.”
The main lesson of the Holocaust, he added, was that “Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state, defend our people, and defend the Jewish future.”
He added: “I call on all governments to join the vital effort of confronting Iran.”
Israel fiercely opposed a 2015 deal between Iran and world powers that offered Tehran sanctions relief in return for curbs to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Netanyahu applauded when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of the accord and has pushed European powers to follow Washington’s lead.
He said Thursday that Israel “salutes” Trump “for confronting the tyrants of Tehran that subjugate their own people and threaten the peace and security of the entire world.”
Aside from Iran, a key theme of the event was the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and North America.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called on the world to “stand united in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism and extremism.”
Britain’s Prince Charles said “the lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day ... Hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart.”
Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the gathering he bowed “in deepest sorrow” at the memory of “the industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity ... committed by my countrymen.”
Looking at resurgent hatreds, extremism and intolerance, he said: “Of course, our age is a different age. The words are not the same. The perpetrators are not the same. But it is the same evil.”
About 100 Holocaust survivors were at the event, to pray for the dead and light a memorial torch.
Among them was Yona Amit, 81, who as a child spent the war hiding from the Nazis but lost family members including her cousin.
“I exchanged shoes with him playing,” shortly before he was captured, she recalled.
“They were straight away sent to Auschwitz. And of course my cousin, with my shoes: straight away up in the chimneys, in the gas chambers,” she told AFP.
“My shoes are in that big mound of shoes in Auschwitz, my shoes are there. I am here.”
The ceremonies move on next Monday to the site in Poland of the Auschwitz camp, which was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on January 27, 1945.


Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in NW Syria: monitor

Updated 25 February 2020

Turkish shelling kills 9 regime personnel in NW Syria: monitor

  • UN says it was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing from Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
  • Idlib has seen hundreds of thousands of people flee the violence

BEIRUT: Turkish shelling Monday killed nine regime fighters in northwest Syria, where Ankara-backed rebels are fighting off advancing regime forces, a monitor said.
Syrian regime forces have since December clawed back parts of the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in violence that has displaced almost a million people.
Fighting raged on Monday, killing almost 100 fighters on both sides around the jihadist-dominated bastion, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said.
Those included 41 pro-regime fighters, as well as 53 jihadists and allied rebels.
Overall on Monday, the regime advanced rapidly in the south of the bastion, but lost the town of Nayrab along the M4 highway to Turkish-backed rebels in the southeast.
Turkish shelling in that area killed four regime fighters near Nayrab and another five near the town of Saraqeb to its east, the Britain-based Observatory said.
Opposition fighters had already broken back into Nayrab last week after the regime seized it at the start of the month, but then lost it again several hours later.
Saraqeb, which lies at the intersection of the M4 and another important highway the M5, has been under regime control since February 8.
Earlier Monday, Russian air strikes killed five civilians in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area in the south of the bastion, the Observatory said.
In fighting on the ground, regime forces seized 10 towns and villages south of the M4, which links the coastal regime stronghold of Latakia to government-held second city Aleppo, it said.
State news agency SANA, for its part, said “units of the Syrian army continued to progress in the south of Idlib” province.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the regime’s aim was to wrest back control of stretches of the M4 still under the control of jihadists and allied rebels.
That would require operations against the towns of Ariha and Jisr Al-Shughur, both along the M4.
Analysts expect a tough battle for Jisr Al-Shughur, held by the jihadist Turkistan Islamic Party whose fighters mainly hail from China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
They are allied to Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate which dominates the Idlib region.
Loyalist forces have already taken back control of the M5, which connects the capital with Aleppo.
They have also secured the region around the northern city, a major pre-war industrial hub.
Fighting in northwest Syria since December has forced some 900,000 people to flee their homes and shelters amid bitter cold.
The United Nations said Monday that the latest fighting was coming “dangerously close” to encampments of the displaced, risking an imminent “bloodbath.”
Mark Cutts, a UN humanitarian coordinator, also told reporters in Geneva that the world body was trying to double aid deliveries across a border crossing with Turkey from 50 to 100 trucks a day.
Syria’s war has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.