The employment of Nazi images in anti-Israel rallies around the world during violent protests against Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza is intended to both allay European guilt over the Holocaust and deny the legitimacy of the Jewish state, a senior Yad Vashem official said on Sunday.
"By accusing us of being Nazi-like, Europeans alleviate some of their own feelings of guilt and responsibility for the Holocaust," said Dr. Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem Libraries.
"Moreover, by saying that the Jews are acting like Nazis, they are delegitimizing the very existence of the State of Israel," Rozett said.
The "very intense" and "extremely ugly" use of Nazi imagery, not a new phenomenon, was also meant to draw attention to what was happening in Gaza, he said.
"Most people know just enough about the Holocaust to make superficial equations to it," Rozett said.
The remarks came days after Israel condemned a senior Vatican official for comparing conditions in the Gaza Strip to a "concentration camp."
The anti-Israel protests in Europe "were worse than ever before," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, in a telephone interview from New York, adding that, fueled by the Internet, there was "no shame, no hesitancy and no restraints" anymore in comparing Israel with the Nazis.
"Anti-Semitism in Europe was never really rooted out, just contained," he said.