Antisemitism like ‘disease’ that made Europe attack itself: Israel president

Brussels, Jan 27 (EFE).- Antisemitism was “like an autoimmune disease” that made Europe attack part of its DNA, Israel’s president Isaac Herzog said at a special session at the European Parliament on Thursday to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

To the backdrop of two solemn musical interludes, Herzog was joined by EP president Roberta Metsola, who warned of a disturbing rise in antisemitic trends in Europe as lawmakers marked the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust.

Israel’s president added that the Holocaust “was not born in a vacuum” and that “the Nazi death machine would not have been able to realize its terrible vision if it had not found soil fertilized with hatred of the Jews.”

The Israeli warned of a rise in “antisemitism that once more threatens to turn democratic and civilized societies into societies that devour their own people.”

“Unfortunately the outlook is deeply troubling,” Herzog continued. “Antisemitic discourse festers not only within dark regimes but in the heartland of the free and democratic West. Jew hatred still exists, antisemitism still exists, Holocaust denial continues to exist.”

Herzog addressed the MEPs and EU leaders including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, urging them to “read the warning signs, detect the symptoms of the antisemitism pandemic, and fight it at all costs.”

“Criticism of the State of Israel must not become a denial of the very existence of the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people,” he said at at a time when the country’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing growing protests over his recently formed ultra-right wing and Orthodox government’s bid to overhaul of the judicial system.

Herzog said Europe would not be what it is today without the contribution of Jews like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and Franz Kafka, an idea that was echoed by Metsola when she said that “to be antisemitic is to be anti-European”.

“Our first woman president, Simone Veil, was herself a survivor who grew up to change the face of Europe and her legacy is present in these halls and buildings,” said Metsola.

The Maltese lawmaker also quoted the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who in 2012 spoke of the “horror of the silence.”

“This (the Holocaust) was done in living memory, in the age of enlightenment, rationalism, science, art and culture,” Metsola continued.

“This did not happen in a frenzy of hate, it took time, it was built up. The dehumanization process started before the camps. And what was truly horrifying, he (Sacks) said, is the almost total absence of horror at that time,” she added.

Following the ceremony, Herzog and Metsola unveiled a replica of The Refugee, a 1939 painting by surrealist Jewish-German painter Felix Nussbaum who lived in exile in Brussels during World War II before being discovered and deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.

The painting, which depicts the artist’s despair and fear on the eve of World War II, will be displayed permanently at the entrance to the Brussels chamber in memory of the 6 million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust. EFE


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