MKs sharply divided over comparison between Iran and Nazis

The Knesset's commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day was underscored Wednesday by an internal debate about drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Iran's nuclear program.

Tzipi Livni (photo credit: AP)
Tzipi Livni
(photo credit: AP)
The Knesset's commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day was underscored Wednesday by an internal debate among MKs regarding Israeli politicians' and advocates' practice of drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Iran's nuclear program.
While a number of MKs from a wide spectrum of political parties did make the connection in the course of speeches at home and abroad, others blasted the practice, arguing that it cheapens the memory of the Holocaust.
"I am accompanied by a very deep distress, especially in light of the fact that Europe's support for Israel and its willingness to stand beside her in the face of the threat against her existence is still laced with doubt," said MK Yuli Tamir (Labor), speaking during an international ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.
"It is not enough to apply sanctions for the purpose of show; it is not enough to talk about international obligations. The time has come to act against the angel of death, who is once again knocking, and this time on the doors of all humanity," said Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, speaking at the Knesset.
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, also addressing the Knesset, echoed the same message, as did Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Budapest and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Poland.
Others, however, particularly within the opposition, slammed the use of the Holocaust to create an analogy with modern-day Iran.
"We cannot and we must not create any kind of comparison between any situation or threat and the Holocaust," said opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) during her address at the Knesset ceremony.
"The Holocaust is a unique event in the history of the world, not just in the history of the Jewish People. But only if we preserve it as such, as an event so terrible, so unique," she said.
"The planning, the method, the cruelty, the precision and the horror are impossible to compare to anything, and we must not - we, especially - create any comparison that will first and foremost cheapen the Holocaust itself."
Livni hinted specifically at the comparisons with Iran, saying, "There is still ugly anti-Semitism, there are those who do not recognize our existence, there are those who wish to erase Israel from the map, and those who wish to destroy the State of Israel.
"But we must say today to the people of Israel as well - that in spite of all of the threats around us, the State of Israel is not facing destruction and the situation of Jews in Europe and other places in the world before the Holocaust is not similar to the situation of the State of Israel today."
Speaking afterwards to The Jerusalem Post, MK Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) echoed Livni's arguments, saying that he "does not think that Iran - or any other threat - should be compared to the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust. To do so would weaken the special status of the Holocaust throughout the world."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Wednesday that comparing contemporary Iran with Nazi Germany was not only appropriate, but pertinent and true.
While the foreign minister conceded that the mullah-led Iranian regime was not targeting Jews, he stated that Jews were nonetheless being arrested and tried in the Islamic Republic.
"I certainly don't envy the Jewish community in Iran. The president of Iran himself keeps calling for a world without Zionism. He is replacing Judaism with Zionism. 'There is no place for Jews in the Middle East,' he says. He tells them to go back to Europe. It is fortunate that he has yet to acquire the kind of power he aspires to."
While the victims of the Holocaust must be remembered and commemorated, he said, the Jewish people and the international community must also take heed of the lessons of the tragedy and prevent such an event from ever recurring.
"It is enough to take a look at the report which appeared in this week's Der Spiegel," Lieberman said, referring to intelligence acquired by the German BND which gives credence to suspicions that Iran may be developing two separate nuclear programs - a civilian energy endeavor and a clandestine military one that is directly answerable to the country's defense ministry.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) also defended such comparisons, telling the Post that "the Holocaust is testimony to the fact that we must believe the statements of those who hate Israel when they say that they intend to destroy the Jewish people.
"The Jews of Europe also did not believe that the German despot intended to carry out the great crime of murdering six million Jews, and now 65 years have passed and a new despot has emerged who denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy the Jewish people, while insisting on developing a weapon of mass destruction, stating at every opportunity that Israel's proper place is not on the face of the globe."