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Warning of rising antisemitism, Herzog says shock of Holocaust ‘is wearing off’

President calls to ‘expose and denounce any attempts to distort, rewrite or forget’ the Nazi genocide of Jews in WWII; PM rails at ‘Iran’s daily calls to annihilate’ Israel

Isaac Herzog participates in the March of the Living ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, on May 2, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Isaac Herzog participates in the March of the Living ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, on May 2, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

President Isaac Herzog on Thursday warned of rising antisemitism, saying “the shock is wearing off” of Nazi Germany’s genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

Herzog issued the warning at a ceremony for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which has been marked each January 27 since United Nations member states designated it as a memorial day in 2005. The date was chosen to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“Though a great deal has been done, it is alarmingly clear that 77 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the shock is wearing off,” Herzog said during the event at Yad Vashem. “We are seeing a surge in antisemitic assaults online; a normalization of antisemitic terminology in mainstream media; and an introduction of social media platforms refocused on Jew hatred to newer, younger audiences.”

“We see how present-day radicalism and antisemitism are overlooked, for economic or political gain. And, perhaps most disturbing, we see how the truth about the past is trivialized, and alternative facts are drowning out history,” he added.

Herzog said the Holocaust was “not a disputed footnote in history” but “the most sickening assault humanity has ever committed,” and that it was the duty of all people to commemorate it.

“When we fail to strengthen our pledge ‘Never Again,’ we are disregarding our debt to our past and forfeiting our rights on our future,” he said.

The president noted that there are increasingly fewer living Holocaust survivors, partisans and people who helped Jews escape who are able to provide first-hand accounts of the genocide committed during World War II.

“In a few years’ time, the duty to never forget will be ours alone. The obligation to tell our children’s children about the horrors of the Holocaust, to warn them about the dangers of antisemitism, hatred, racism and intolerance, will be entirely up to us,” he said.

The railway tracks from where hundreds of thousands of people were directed to the gas chambers to be murdered inside the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz Birkenau or Auschwitz II, in Oswiecim, Poland, on December 7, 2019. (Markus Schreiber/AP/File)

He urged all countries to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, “which states in the clearest of terms what hatred of Jews looks like.” The UN secretary-general skirted around announcing the adoption of the IHRA definition during an event on Thursday.

“We must make it clear to all radical regimes that they will never be treated as legitimate members of the international community until they end their calls for genocide and support for terror,” he said. “We must not allow political considerations to mute our moral compass and prevent us from speaking out, when those who commit gross violations of human rights attempt to use the UN or other international forums to hide or further their crimes.”

“And we must expose and denounce any attempts to distort, rewrite or forget what happened, not so long ago,” he added.

In his remarks, Herzog also singled out Iran.

“We see the Ayatollah regime in Iran calling for the annihilation of the State of Israel, initiating terrorism against Jewish communities around the world, and murdering civilians throughout the Middle East while some simply look the other way,” he said.

PM Naftali Bennett addressing the diplomatic corps, on January 27, 2022. (Roi Avraham/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett issued a similar warning about Iran in his own remarks for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“When we hear the Iranian regime’s daily calls to annihilate the State of Israel, as we speak they continue talking about murdering and destroying the State of Israel, the Jewish state, and when we see their rapid progression towards nuclear weapons, indifference is silent acceptance,” he said in a video address to diplomats. “A country who talks about annihilating the Jewish state should not be a legitimate partner for anything.”

“A country who talks about annihilating the Jewish state should not be a legitimate partner for anything,” Bennett added.

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