Likud MK Boaz Bismuth was heckled by anti-government members of the audience during a Monday ceremony marking the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day at a synagogue in Tel Aviv.
In footage on social media, several people could be heard shouting, “Shame,” at Bismuth while others demanded they stop interrupting.
Bismuth appeared to have left the synagogue as the dispute between the parts of the crowd heated up and almost turned into a physical altercation.
He later posted footage of remarks he made during the ceremony, calling for unity amid growing divisions over the government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary.
“Holocaust Remembrance Day is beyond any political disagreement or party position. The Nazis were not interested in the political position or party affiliation of the Jews, only their Jewishness,” Bismuth tweeted. “We should keep the sanctity of this day and not bother with anything except the Holocaust survivors and the six million who were brutally murdered by the Nazis who tried to destroy us!”
The incident was condemned by the opposition’s National Unity party chair Benny Gantz, who tweeted that “as a son of Holocaust survivors, the photos of MK Bismuth being expelled from the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at a synagogue in the Jewish state are heartbreaking.”
אין כבוד: מפגינים נגד הרפורמה ביזו אירוע זיכרון לשואה שמתקיים בבית כנסת בת"א – כאשר ח"כ בועז ביסמוט עלה לנאום. המשתתפים המזועזעים הוציאו את הכורזים וביקשו לכבד את המעמד pic.twitter.com/byz4oFkzFE
— Moti Kastel מוטי קסטל (@KastelMoti) April 17, 2023
“While I understand the differences of opinion and distress felt by many in the nation [over the government’s judicial overhaul effort], I ask everyone to show restraint in these holy days,” he wrote. “The important debates about our image will be held with determination and strength afterward.”
The incident took place around the same time that President Isaac Herzog used his speech at the official state ceremony marking Holocaust Remembrance Day to urge Israelis to set internal rifts aside in order to properly commemorate those murdered by the Nazis.
“This year is no ordinary year. And this memorial day is like no other. This year, feelings are rough and shoulders are hunched as if to attest to the weight of the discord bearing down on us,” he said. “Let us leave these sacred days, which begin tonight and end on Independence Day, above all dispute; let us all come together, as always, in partnership, in grief, in remembrance.”
Turning again to the increasingly divisive discourse, Herzog strongly denounced the use of analogies to the Nazis and the Holocaust in Israeli political debates.
“The Nazi abomination was an unprecedented evil, with no parallel by any metric. It was no mere malice. It was an infinity of horror. We must remember, repeat, and internalize, time and again: they — and they alone — were Nazis. That — and that alone — was the Holocaust,” he said.
“Even in the grips of ferocious disagreements about fate, about destiny, about faith, about values, we must be careful to avoid any comparisons, any equivalences with the Holocaust or with the Nazis,” he continued.
Herzog ended his remarks with an appeal to unity, saying Israel’s 75-year history showed “you will not defeat us.”
“For sisters and brothers, we are. Yes, brethren who know how to argue and disagree. But never haters. Never enemies. We are one people, and one people we shall remain, brought together not only by a painful history but also by our shared, hope-filled future and fate,” he said.
Speaking after Herzog, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged national unity and likened today’s Iran to Nazi Germany as the current entity threatening the Jewish people, reprising a theme from his previous speeches at Yad Vashem for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
As he has in previous years, Netanyahu said that the calls to exterminate the Jewish people have not stopped, and today come from Iran. He stressed that past victories do not guarantee future wins, saying Israel must be able to “defend itself by itself against any enemy, any threat.”