Rivlin tells Merkel there is zero tolerance for antisemitism

Rivlin commented that some profess to being pro-Israel but despise Jews. "This does not fool us. As far as we are concerned there is no such thing as loving Israel and hating Jews."

October 4, 2018 16:42
3 minute read.
German Chancelor Angela Merkel shaking hands with President Reuven Rivlin, October 4, 2018

German Chancelor Angela Merkel shaking hands with President Reuven Rivlin, October 4, 2018. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Though speaking in even tones and without raising his voice, President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that there is zero tolerance for antisemitism.

He delivered his message at a luncheon he hosted at his official residence for Merkel and her entourage as well as for writers, artists, academics and researchers, including four Nobel Prize laureates headed by Ada Yonath, the first, and so far, only Israeli woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Referring to the special relationship between Israel and Germany borne out of horrendous history and continuing today, Rivlin said, “This is what binds us in common memory – and in the ongoing battle against antisemitism, hatred and violence in Europe – where new seeds of antisemitism are flourishing this time in the guise of right-wing political nationalism with Nazi roots, which are spreading throughout the European continent.”

Rivlin commented that there are those who profess to being pro-Israel but despise Jews. “This does not fool us,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, there is no such thing as loving Israel and hating Jews.

“We have learned the lesson of history and we have zero tolerance for antisemitism and racism, which are now on fertile ground, from which terrible things can grow.”

At the same time, Rivlin made it clear that Israel appreciates the efforts of Merkel and her government to fight renewed antisemitism.

“It is important for the Israeli public to know the depth of our esteem for you and your government,” Rivlin said, adding that the two countries’ friendship did not confine itself to words but proved itself in deeds.

Rivlin also raised the issue of denuclearizing Iran, and said that this was the time for Germany to join in the sanctions against Iran.

He also expressed appreciation for Germany's role among the donor nations contributing to the rehabilitation of Gaza. Israel is no less interested in helping to rehabilitate Gaza, said Rivlin, but will not do so until such time as Gaza ceases its terror attacks against Israel, returns the bodies of two fallen soldiers and repatriates the two Israeli citizens that Hamas is holding in captivity.

Photos of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt Oron Shaul, whose bodies are held by Hamas, viewed by German Chancelor Angela Merkel and President Reuven Rivlin, October 4, 2018

He added that the international community, including Israel, must work toward the economic well-being of the Palestinians and the region as a whole, especially in the realm of hi-tech. Europe, together with Israel, Rivlin said, must invest in energy, infrastructure, improving the quality of the environment and tourism, all of which are of mutual interest.

Merkel who noted that she had been at Yad Vashem early in the day as well as on previous visits to Israel, said that it was still painful to look at reminders of the atrocities and the destruction of civilization. "We have to fight against antisemitism, hatred of the other and all forms of discrimination," she said.  "We have an obligation to build a better future."

The chancellor commented on the courage it took after World War Two to effect a reconciliation that developed into a firm friendship, despite points of disagreement.

She stated that Germany, like Israel, is interested in preventing Iran from using nuclear arms, “but we differ on the way to do this.”
She also hinted at the difficulties in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that while Germany wants Israel to live in peace and security, it also believes there should be a state for the Palestinian people.

“We speak at public forums of our obligations to Israel and that it is the only democracy in the region,” Merkel said.

Concerned that the people who lived through and remember the Second World War are dying out, she said it was imperative to establish an Israeli-German youth movement to learn the history of the past so it would not be repeated.

Not so long ago the most powerful leader in Europe, Merkel’s influence has waned of late, but this has not affected media interest in her. The huge turnout of close to 100 radio, television, print and digital media journalists was in excess of the number who covered the visit of US President Donald Trump when he met with Rivlin.

As Rivlin escorted Merkel from her car, he told the media people crowding around them, “She’s a great leader.”

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