Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday linked the threat of a nuclear Iran to the Nazis’ attempt to annihilate the Jewish people in an address marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“Anti-Semitism has not disappeared and — to our regret — neither has the desire to destroy a considerable part of the Jewish People and the State of Israel. They exist and they are strong,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Holocaust-denial is being spread by one of the world’s major countries, not by a group or by individual countries or by marginal elements, but by Iran which, today, from the UN or any other platform, is the leader of Holocaust-denial while preparing for what they deem to be another Holocaust — the destruction of the state of the Jews.”
Netanyahu noted that Iran was not halting its “relentless and systematic” effort to gain a nuclear weapon. “We do not make light of these threats and we will prevent them. This is our primary mission as a government and as a people.”
“In the perspective of the almost 75 years that have passed since the Holocaust, what has not changed is the desire to annihilate the Jews. What has changed is the ability of the Jews to defend themselves,” said Netanyahu, referring to the Israeli military. “Nobody will defend the Jews if they are not ready to defend themselves; this is another lesson of the Holocaust…. Therefore, the root of the issue today, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is not what happened, but how we can prevent it from happening again and this depends on the ability and the determination of the state of the Jews to defend itself against those who would destroy it.”
Netanyahu credited the establishment of International Holocaust Remembrance Day to the efforts of Silvan Shalom, vice prime minister and former foreign minister. He also made reference to Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein, “who has struggled for the commemoration of the Holocaust, and who has struggled against the new anti-Semitism that is flooding the world.”
The Cabinet was presented Sunday with a new government study, reporting on global trends in anti-Semitism in 2012. Released annually, last year’s report shows a rise in anti-Semitic attacks, especially violent attacks by radical Islamic groups.
Prepared by the Edelstein’s ministry, the study found an increasing number of anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and Jewish communities worldwide, many of which were carried out by groups identifying with extremist Islamist factions or with the radical right, according to Israel Radio.
However, the report found no significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the Arab or Muslim world.
The study singles out the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, which left a rabbi and three children dead, and reports that the largest increase in anti-Semitic incidents over 2012 was in Europe.
It also points to parliamentary victories by a number of far-right anti-Semitic parties in Europe, including the Golden Dawn party in Greece and the Jobbik party in Hungary, as a worrying trend.
According to Edelstein, who will present the report, the anti-Semitic incidents, which took the form of everything from Internet propaganda to physical attacks, had no relationship to Israeli policies.
A report on the same subject released by the ministry last year also found a rise in anti-Semitism, though it gave no specific statistics to back up the claim. That report found the global economic downturn to be the main impetus behind anti-Semitism.
A Tel Aviv University report on global anti-Semitism released in April 2012, however, found a decrease in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2011, though attacks that were carried out were more severe.
That report showed that the number of cases of major violent incidents, including threats and vandalism against Jews, was down to 446 incidents from 614. There was an increase, however, in violence against Jews and Jewish property, as well as a rise in their severity.
France had the most hate crimes against Jews with 114, followed by the United Kingdom with 105, Canada with 68 and Australia with 30. Numbers for the United States were only partly included, noted the Kantor center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, which presented the report.
Though a past report found an increase in anti-Semitism in response to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in 2008-2009, Edelstein said there had been no uptick in incidents during Israel’s eight-day mini-war with Hamas in November.
“The evidence can be seen that during Pillar of Defense and afterward, there was no dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents,” Edelstein told Israel Radio. “Unfortunately, no policies by Israel can influence or lessen this phenomenon of racist hate against Jews.”
January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Birkenau death camp, is marked each year by the UN and much of the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In a video speech screened on Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on people of the world to not stand silent while others were slaughtered.
“In a world where extremist acts of violence and hatred capture the headlines on an almost daily basis, we must remain ever vigilant,” Ban said. “Let us all have the courage to care, so we can build a safer, better world today.”
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor, speaking Friday to mark the day, slammed Hamas and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for teaching anti-Semitism and denying the Holocaust.
“The hands of time threaten to cloud the world’s memory. It is our responsibility to rescue the history and lessons of the Holocaust _- just as the men and women that we honor today rescued its victims,” he said. “It is on us to teach the values of tolerance — to educate our children so that they live together as one human family.”
JTA contributed to this report.