Senior lawmaker urges Obama, Trump to tackle neo-Nazis

Senior lawmaker urges Obama, Trump to tackle neo-Nazis

Yair Lapid warns against missing the signs of fascism; Simon Wiesenthal Center says Trump should speak out against use of ‘Nazi’ salute in his honor

Yesh Atid party chairman MK Yair Lapid speaks during a party faction meeting at the Knesset, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yesh Atid party chairman MK Yair Lapid speaks during a party faction meeting at the Knesset, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The head of the centrist Yesh Atid party MK Yair Lapid on Tuesday warned against missing the early indications of fascism and called on US President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump to condemn Nazi ideology. Lapid was speaking in response to a video showing attendees at an American alt-right conference in Washington, DC, over the weekend giving Nazi salutes in a show of support for Trump.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center added that Trump should explicitly denounce the meeting of the National Policy Institute where the clip was filmed.

The statements came the day after a video was posted by The Atlantic showing Richard Spencer, head of the white nationalist NPI, evoking Nazi imagery and language, ranting about white supremacy, and alluding to Jewish control of the media during an NPI event in Washington.

“Seeing a video of Nazi salutes in the heart of Washington DC is sickening and intolerable,” said Lapid, whose faction sits in the parliamentary opposition, in a statement.

“America is Israel’s closest ally and our relationship is built not only on mutual interests but also on deeply held shared values of freedom, tolerance and democracy,” he continued. “In the spirit of those shared values I call upon the leaders of the United States to publicly condemn expressions of Nazi sympathy and fascism as well as rising anti-Semitism.”

Lapid, whose father survived the Holocaust and lost much of his family, said “one of the greatest mistakes humanity ever made was a failure to recognize the danger of fascism early enough and tackle it head on.”

“We cannot let history repeat itself. I have every confidence that President Obama and President-elect Trump oppose this abhorrent phenomenon. Now is the time to translate that opposition into unequivocal condemnation and swift action,” Lapid said.

President-elect Donald Trump with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Washington DC on November 10, 2016 (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)
President-elect Donald Trump with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Washington DC on November 10, 2016 (Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP)

On Monday the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Washington issued a statement urging Trump to address the issue.

“Watching Spencer using Nazi slogans to spew forth his hate was sickening,” the center said. “The fact that the speech was given in the Nation’s Capitol, not far from Arlington National Cemetery — where some of the 418,000 American servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives in order to defeat Nazism are interred — is beyond the pale and deserves condemnation from the president-elect on down.”

“During his victory speech on Election Day, Donald Trump emphasized that he wants to be the ‘president for all Americans.’ Eighty-three years ago what began as a ‘Sieg’ ended in the crematoriums. We call on our future president and commander in chief to take on Spencer and his ilk directly,” SWC officials said in the statement.

Meanwhile Monday, MK Michael Oren (Kulanu), a deputy government minister, hosted Upper Austria Governor Josef Puhringer as his guest in the Knesset.

Puhringer explained that “right-wing parties are on the rise in Europe because of immigration and lack of faith in government,” Oren wrote in a message posted to his Facebook page. “I stressed Europe’s need to fight the anti-Semitism of the right and the left.”

מושל אוסטריה היה האורח שלי בכנסת אתמול. הוא הסביר לי כי מפלגות הימין באירופה נמצאות בזריחה, בגלל ההגירה לאירופה וחוסר הא…

Posted by ‎מייקל אורן Michael Oren‎ on Monday, 21 November 2016

During the NPC annual conference on Saturday, Spencer called out “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!”

A rapturous audience at the event responded with applause and several gave the signature stiff-armed Nazi salute.

Spencer, who is often described as the leader of the the American alt-right movement, spoke in militaristic terms, expressing the movement’s need to “conquer or die,” and railed against the mainstream media which he smilingly called Lugenpresse, a term used by Nazis that translates as “lying press.”

He then appeared to insinuate that the media was controlled by Jews, referencing the Jewish legend of the Golem of Prague. “One wonders if these people are people at all,” he said of journalists. “Or instead soulless golem animated by some dark power to repeat” left-wing talking points.

Bryan Lanza, a spokesman for the Trump-Pence transition team, said in response to the NPI meeting that “president-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he [got] elected because he will be a leader for every American,” CNN reported Monday. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

The conference has raised anew fears of rampant racism and anti-Semitism in the wake of Trump’s victory. While Trump’s team has sought to distance itself from racist elements among supporters, the appointment of Stephen Bannon as a top White House aide has raised hackles given his nurturing of the alt-right movement while he was at the helm of news site Breitbart.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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