Israel’s ambassador to the UAE warned on Wednesday of a “Kristallnacht moment,” with antisemitism on the rise, at a Holocaust memorial exhibition billed as a first for the Middle East.
Eitan Na’eh, appointed as envoy to the United Arab Emirates after the two countries struck a historic normalization deal last year, said it was “remarkable” that the exhibition was being held in the Arab world.
“Who would have dreamt 70 or 80 years ago that an Israeli ambassador and a German ambassador would sit here together, in an Arab country, visiting a Holocaust remembrance exhibition,” he said.
But Na’eh sounded alarm over anti-Jewish attacks that have erupted in the wake of recent hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist terror group that controls the Gaza Strip.
World leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Germany’s Angela Merkel, have condemned acts of aggression against Jews that followed the deadly violence which broke out this month.
“After Gaza, where we are? We are in the Kristallnacht moment where synagogues are attacked, Jews are violently attacked again on the streets of Europe,” the Israeli envoy said.
Kristallnacht refers to the November 1938 torching and ransacking of homes, synagogues, schools, cemeteries and Jewish-owned businesses across Germany by Nazi mobs. Some 30,000 Jews were taken to concentration camps and nearly 100 died during the pogrom.
“We see the ugly face of antisemitism rising again in the streets of Europe and elsewhere and then we come here, to an Arab country… and we come to a Holocaust exhibition,” he said, praising openness and tolerance in the UAE.
The exhibition, held at the private Crossroads of Civilisations Museum in Dubai, included stories of Arabs and Muslims who protected Jews during the Holocaust and saved them from death at the hands of the Nazis.
The Abraham Accords — signed with Israel by the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco last year — were condemned as treasonous by Palestinian leaders who feared they undercut their demands for a state.
After the crisis in Gaza erupted earlier this month, Israel’s new Arab partners were forced to change course and issue critical rhetoric, putting strain on the agreements that were billed as a game-changer for Middle East peace prospects.
However, Na’eh shrugged off the statements.
“I don’t think they were strongly worded. I think at least to our ears the UAE has called for the cessation of killing on both sides,” he said.
The latest military confrontation between Israel and Hamas ended in a ceasefire early last Friday. It began on May 10 when Hamas launched a massive rocket barrage on Israeli cities, sparking IDF retaliatory strikes and 11 days of fighting.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and teens, with 1,910 people wounded. It does not differentiate between terror group members and civilians. The Israeli military maintained that it killed some 225 terrorist operatives and that the Palestinian death toll was in fact considerably higher than was reported. It also said some of the civilian fatalities were caused by Hamas rockets falling short and landing in the Strip.
Thirteen people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded. Terror groups in Gaza fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel during the fighting.
During and after the round of violence, Jewish communities across the world and especially in the US experienced antisemitic attacks.
In New York City, amid dueling pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian rallies on Thursday, multiple Jews were assaulted in the street.
In the days following, Jews across New York posted on social media about being threatened, harassed or otherwise attacked for being Jewish. The reports were reminiscent of a string of antisemitic incidents in New York in the months before the pandemic shut down street life globally. Nationwide, the Anti-Defamation League recorded an increase in antisemitic incidents in the first week of the Israel-Hamas fighting.
There were attacks on synagogues and individual Jews in other cities as well. Synagogues in Florida, Illinois and Arizona were targeted. Earlier in the week, two antisemitic incidents were caught on video in Los Angeles.
The ADL said it has also received more reports of possible antisemitic incidents since the conflict broke out in Israel, with 193 reports in the week after the crisis began, up from 131 the previous week.