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Comparing Israel to Nazis, Arab MK refuses to attend Holocaust memorial

Hanin Zoabi criticizes Israel by pointing out ‘alarming similarities’ between its treatment of Palestinians and Nazi Germany

Hanin Zoabi of the Joint List party in the Knesset on December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Hanin Zoabi of the Joint List party in the Knesset on December 22, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Arab Israeli lawmaker MK Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List on Wednesday declined an invitation to participate in a Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, citing the “alarming similarities” between Nazi Germany and current Israeli policies toward Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.

In a letter to event organizers, the firebrand politician said though she respects the memory of Holocaust victims, Israel’s teaching and memorializing of the Jewish genocide is “selective and manipulative.”

“How can you teach the lessons of the Holocaust when you don’t distinguish between the alarming similarity between what is happening today and what happened in Germany in the 1930s?” she wrote.

Zoabi lashed out at Israel for discriminating against Palestinians, comparing “summary executions, detentions without trial, torture, gag orders and the persecution of political activists,” to the conditions under which Jews lived in Nazi Germany.

“You cannot teach the lessons of the Holocaust by adopting a policy of closed doors, extortion, robbery and murder,” she said.

In Israel, the teaching about the Holocaust is driven by a desire to encourage defense of the state and comes at a cost of “humiliating and oppressing the other,” she said.

“I am honored to stand in memory of the victims, but it’s equally important for me to warn about what preceded the Holocaust, and paved the way to it,” Zoabi wrote. “Because of that, I find it necessary to refuse to attend.”

Joint List party member Hanin Zoabi is removed by Knesset security from the plenum session after refusing to leave the podium, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Joint List party member Hanin Zoabi is removed by Knesset security from the plenum session after refusing to leave the podium, February 8, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In November, Zoabi was scorned by leading Israeli politicians for equating Nazi Germany’s genocide against the Jews to current Israeli policies toward Palestinians while taking part in a Holocaust memorial event in Amsterdam.

She claimed her speech was welcomed by Holocaust survivors at the event, and said that her comparisons intended to spotlight the issue of bystanderism in the face of injustices.

Zoabi’s speech, which included allegations that Israel was engaged in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, drew ire from senior Likud politicians, who castigated the lawmaker’s attendance at the event marking the anniversary of Kristallnacht and one of whom demanded she be removed from the Knesset.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called Zoabi’s participation in the event “a mockery,” and said the Israeli Arab MK “uses the tragedy of the Jewish people to spread her slander and lies while she herself encourages terrorism and the murder of Jews.”

Zoabi also faced a backlash from Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who said her speech should be grounds for her removal from the Knesset. Levin described Zoabi as a “fifth column” and called on the High Court to disqualify her from serving in the Knesset.

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