The irony was not lost on Israelis when France and Italy, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, warmly welcomed President Rouhani of Iran, a country that vows to annihilate the Jewish state.
Prominent Israeli officials and members of Knesset (MKs) expressed their disappointment with France and Italy on Wednesday for inviting and hosting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“We all learned yesterday that the President of Iran, who we thought was a cruel and insensitive man who holds Holocaust-denial exhibits, is actually such a sensitive person that the statues in Rome were covered in his honor so as not to offend him,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein remarked sarcastically during a session of the Knesset plenum.
In Rome on Wednesday, Rouhani acknowledged the effort, saying, “I know that Italians are a very hospitable people, a people who try to do the most to put their guests at ease, and I thank you for this.”
“And if we thought he [Rouhani] was not a cultured man and does not respect science and culture, it turns out that he will be addressing UNESCO, the United Nations science and culture organization, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” Edelstein added.
Edelstein sent a letter earlier this month, addressed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in which he expressed Israel’s outrage over Iran’s plans to hold its International Holocaust Cartoon Contest for the third time in recent years.
“We will continue our struggle to commemorate the Holocaust and other people will act as their conscience dictates,” Edelstein stated.
On Tuesday, Rouhani met Pope Francis, who urged Iran to work with other Middle Eastern countries against terrorism and arms trafficking, the Vatican said. Meanwhile, Iran is a leading sponsor of global terrorism, empowering terror organizations such as Hezbollah.
MK Michael Oren, former ambassador to the United States, expressed displeasure during a meeting with Wojciech Sawicki, secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
“How can Europe honor the memory of the Holocaust and on the same exact day host the leader of the Iranian regime, which denies that the Holocaust actually happened?” Oren asked.
Oren, who is in Strasbourg, France, representing Israel at a Council of Europe ceremony commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also expressed doubts about Europe’s commitment to fighting anti-Semitism.
“Israel welcomes Europe’s commitment to combat anti-Semitism, but its latest actions, such as the labeling of goods manufactured in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, coupled with the repeated [anti-Israel] statements by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, raise doubts regarding this commitment,” Oren said.
In a televised statement ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that once again Jews are being targeted for annihilation, but this time they are not powerless and will defend themselves. However, he added, “Where is Europe? Where is the rest of civilization?”
“When a state like Iran and movements like Daesh (ISIS) and Hamas openly declare their goal of committing another Holocaust, we will not let it happen,” continued the prime minister. “But Europe and the rest of the world must stand up together with us. Not for our sake; for theirs.”
By: United with Israel Staff and Jonathan Benedek/TPS