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Yad Vashem on Wednesday lambasted a Norwegian diplomat for equating Operation Cast Lead with the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews, calling the comparison an "appallingly manipulative" use of the Holocaust that is "fanning the flames" of hatred and anti-Semitism.
The unusually stern rebuke by the Holocaust memorial came a day after a report in The Jerusalem Post that a Norwegian diplomat based in Riyadh had sent out e-mails from her Foreign Ministry account equating Israel with the Nazis.
"That a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official is disseminating such distortions is appalling and smacks of anti-Semitism," a Yad Vashem spokesperson said in an official response. "Instead of working toward understanding, she is fanning the flames of hatred."
The e-mail message, which was sent out by Trine Lilleng, First Secretary at the Norwegian Embassy in Riyadh, includes a juxtaposition of black and white pictures from the Holocaust affixed next to color images of the recent Israeli assault against Hamas in Gaza.
"There is no comparison between the systematic plan, based on a murderous ideology, to murder every single Jewish person, everywhere, and a long political and military conflict between two peoples," the Yad Vashem spokesperson said.
"Only ignorance or anti-Semitic malice could lead someone to make such manipulative comparisons that are so divorced from any semblance of reality."
Yad Vashem added that such "manipulative abuse" of the Holocaust inevitably leads to violence.
"Coming on the heels of other examples of anti-Semitic incitement, it raises red flags as to what is apparently happening in Norway," the statement concluded.
Among the more than 40 pictures Lilleng included as attachments in the e-mail is the famous Holocaust image of the young Jewish boy with his hands raised as a Nazi soldier points his gun at him, juxtaposed next to an image of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon at a Palestinian boy.
"This is a classic Holocaust inversion, comparing Arabs who fire rockets at - and hide among - civilians to Jewish victims of the Holocaust," said Dr. Rachel Suissa, spokesperson for the the Oslo-based Center Against Antisemitism in Norway.
The incident occurred as similar Nazi comparisons were being made at numerous anti-Israel rallies worldwide, and on the heels of a spike in anti-Semitic attacks in Europe - including synagogue firebombings and vandalism - linked to Israel's three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry expressed regret Wednesday for the "misunderstanding," adding that Lilleng had violated ministry policy.
"The content of the e-mail in question does not represent the opinion of the Foreign Ministry in terms of the conflict in the Middle East," Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Haakon Fvane said in a telephone interview from Oslo. "The responsibility for the e-mail lies solely with the sender."