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(photo credit: news.bbc.co.uk)
In an unusually harsh condemnation, Yad Vashem on Wednesday blasted as "grossly illegitimate" and "malicious demagoguery" a comparison made by a veteran British parliamentarian between Israel's offensive against the Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Nazis extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust.
"Whereas it is legitimate to disagree with Israeli policies and actions, it is grossly illegitimate and malicious to compare them to the most evil and massive crime in modern history in order to heighten the disagreement," a Yad Vashem spokesperson said in a statement.
Sir Peter Tapsell, a Tory MP, said Tuesday that British Prime Minister Tony Blair was "colluding" with US President George W. Bush in giving Israel the okay to wage "unlimited war" in Lebanon, a "war crime" he claimed was "gravely reminiscent of the Nazi atrocity on the Jewish quarter of Warsaw."
"Tapsell's remarks, and indeed, similar comparisons between Israel and the Nazis, illustrate a woeful ignorance of history and a warped sense of perspective," a spokesperson for Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority said.
"Yad Vashem urges all people to keep the Holocaust out of cheap political exploitation and demagoguery. Such use of the Holocaust misrepresents both today's reality as well as that of the Shoah, distorts historical facts and context, and diminishes the memory of the Holocaust's victims and events," the Yad Vashem spokesperson said.
After the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, more than 450,000 Jews from Warsaw and its environs were forced into the squalid confines of the Warsaw Ghetto.
By July 1942, nearly 100,000 people had died there of disease, cold and starvation.
Beginning that summer, 300,000 Jews were deported from the ghetto to death camps throughout Poland, 265,000 of them to Treblinka.
In 1943, the Ghetto was completely demolished following the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, with nearly all of the remaining Jews killed by the Nazis.
Blair has faced withering criticism in the UK for his staunch support for US policy in the Middle East, which clash with the traditional British support for the Arab world dating back to Colonial times, a worldview which is still strongly maintained in the British Foreign Office.