Firebrand MK Hanin Zoabi of the Joint (Arab) List was bitterly criticized by leading Likud politicians for a speech at a Holocaust memorial event Sunday in Amsterdam, where she equated Nazi Germany’s genocide against the Jews to current Israeli policies toward Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.
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 on Monday 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 told Channel 10 Sunday evening that 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.
In an interview with Army Radio on Monday, Zoabi said her comparison of Israeli and Nazi policies was an effort to “look at the tragedy of Kristallnacht from a universal, human perspective,” and “show solidarity with the victims of crimes and tragedies, regardless of identity.”
“The message is that we are facing a tragedy of human history and we must not remain silent in the face of racism, while we live with the oppression and killing of Palestinians,” she said.
Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” was a large-scale pogrom that took place on November 9, 1938, and saw hundreds of Austrian and German Jews murdered and another 30,000 deported to Nazi concentration camps in a series of coordinated attacks. German authorities looked on without intervening as civilians and Nazi SA troops burned or ransacked Jewish homes, synagogue hospitals, and schools.
Zoabi claimed Monday that 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.
She told Army Radio that the “non-recognition of the oppression of an entire nation,” the Palestinians, was similar to the silence of the world when Hitler began implementing his policy of genocide against the Jews.
“Public opinion says we must learn not to be silent and recognize injustices,” she added.
More than 200 people attended Sunday’s memorial, which was organized by Amsterdam’s far-left Platform Stop Racism and Exclusion.
Standing just meters from the former site of a centuries-old Jewish orphanage decimated during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Zoabi said that as a Palestinian, she “shared the struggle” of Europe’s persecuted Jews during WWII.
At least half a dozen pro-Israel protesters were escorted from the gathering by security personnel and uniformed Amsterdam city police, when at various points they yelled in protest of the speakers’ condemnations of Israel.
Matt Lebovic, Adiv Sterman and AP contributed to this report.