Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the main state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on Sunday, quoting anti-Semitic statements by Iranian religious leaders as evidence that the hatred against the Jews that existed during the Holocaust is still in existence.
Netanyahu quoted Iranian religious leaders as recently saying, " the Zionists are microbes and bacteria, the Jews are polluted people that spread disease."
The prime minister continued: "That was not just said then, it is said today. They call us 'a cancerous growth which must be removed from the Middle East.'"
Netanyahu stated that anti-Semitic hatred "has not disappeared, it has been switched with murderous hatred against the state of the Jews. What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves."
The prime minister stated that while Israel appreciated the efforts of the world to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israel "cannot forfeit our security to other nations...not even to our closest allies."
President Shimon Peres addressed the ceremony prior to Netanyahu, saying that the world must ask itself how a regime such as that in Iran can deny the Holocaust and threaten a new Holocaust so soon after six million people lost their lives.
"The threat of a Holocaust against one people is a threat of a Holocaust on all people," Peres stated.
"The Holocaust will not be lost in the depths of history," Peres told the crowd gathered at Yad Vashem, "it is right here with us, burning and tangible."
Peres stressed the point that the painful emotions and lost identity of millions of murdered Jews is a process that Jews everywhere are still coming to terms with today.
"When I hear the four words: 'Let my people go,' I sense again and again that the exit march from the house of slavery, a march that is continued by us, is not yet finished," Peres said drawing on a biblical reference, "and it is forbidden to be finished."
Holocaust Remembrance Day memorial activities began Sunday evening with the state ceremony at Yad Vashem's Warsaw Ghetto Square.
The central theme of this year’s ceremony is defiance and rebellion during the Holocaust, Yad Vashem announced, marking 70 years since the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev lit a memorial torch, followed by Holocaust survivors Otto Pressburger, Eliezer Eizenschmidt, Miriam Liptcher and Baruch Kopold who will light torches. Sima Hochman will light the first torch in place of her husband, Peretz, who passed away last week.
The theme of heroism will be on further display at the Ghetto Fighters’ House in the Galilee on Sunday, with another six survivors lighting memorial torches at a ceremony that organizers believe will draw 10,000 attendees.
Finance Minister Yair Lapid will give the opening remarks, followed by retired Labor Party politician and Ghetto Fighters’ House chairman Ophir Paz- Pines.