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Remarks to the Israeli Knesset Marking the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism

By Ariel Sharon

For the second year, we mark the day commemorating the State of Israel’s struggle against anti-Semitism. We chose to mark this day of struggle against anti-Semitism on the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, that horrible symbol of the Holocaust.

The allies knew of the annihilation of the Jews. They knew and did nothing. On April 19, 1943, the Bermuda Conference gathered, with the participation of representatives from Britain and the United States, in order to discuss saving the Jews of Europe. In fact, the participants did everything in their power to avoid dealing with the problem. All the suggestions for rescue operations which the Jewish organizations presented were rejected. They simply did not want to deal with it.

The Bermuda Conference was nothing more than a continuation of the shocking story of the ‘Ship of the Damned,’ the Saint Louis, which set sail from Germany in 1939 with 1,000 Jews who had succeeded in escaping from the Third Reich on board. The passengers knocked on the doors of Cuba and ports in the eastern United States, but were refused sanctuary and were forced to return to the shores of Europe. Most of them were murdered in the death camps. The leadership of the British Mandate displayed the same obtuseness and insensitivity by locking the gates to Israel to Jewish refugees who sought a haven in the Land of Israel. Thus were rejected the requests of the 769 passengers of the ship Struma who escaped from Europe — and all but one found their deaths at sea.

Throughout the war, nothing was done to stop the annihilation. When, in the summer of 1944, the mass deportations in Hungary were carried out, the allies did not bomb the train tracks which led to Auschwitz from Hungary, nor the murder facilities in Birkenau, and this was despite the fact that they had the ability to do so. Allied planes attacked targets near Auschwitz but they refused to bomb the camp itself, in which 10,000 Jews were murdered daily. Thus were 618,000 Jews annihilated in a number of weeks — the Jews of Hungary.

Mr. Speaker, the sad and horrible conclusion is that no one cared that Jews were being murdered.

‘Do not put your trust in men in power,’ said the poet of the Psalms. And indeed, during the most terrible, critical hour, those in power and the declared friends did not lift a finger. This is the Jewish lesson of the Holocaust and this is the lesson which Auschwitz taught us, the enchained people.

The State of Israel has learned this lesson, and since its establishment it has done its utmost to defend itself and its citizens, and provide a safe haven for any Jew, wherever he may be. We know that we can trust no one but ourselves. This phenomenon of Jews defending themselves and fighting back is anathema to the new anti- Semites. Legitimate steps of self-defense which Israel takes in its war against Palestinian terrorist — actions which any sovereign state is obligated to undertake to ensure the security of its citizens — are presented by those who hate Israel as aggressive, ‘Nazi-like steps.

Many of the manifestations of anti-Semitism in the past years are no longer aimed only at Jews as individuals. Rather, they are aimed at the embodiment of all Jews: the State of Israel, the Jewish state. As early as 1967, in ‘A Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,’ Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that anti-Zionism is no less than disguised anti-Semitism.

I quote, ‘The times have made it unpopular, in the West, to proclaim openly a hatred of the Jews. This being the case, the anti- Semite must constantly seek new forms and forums for his poison. He does not hate the Jews, he is just ‘anti-Zionist’! My friend, when people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews — make no mistake about it.’

These days, the generation that was witness to the horrors is disappearing, and ignorance is increasing. Fewer people around the world have heard of the Holocaust or are aware of what happened in Auschwitz, and the manifestations of anti-Semitism are on the rise. Sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the evil that gave rise to the horror still exists and still threatens us.

Israel stands with governments, as well as Jewish and international organizations around the world, that remember Auschwitz and are determined to fight this evil uncompromisingly and relentlessly.

We will continue to act tirelessly in order to ensure that the memory of Auschwitz and the lessons of the Holocaust will not be forgotten, so that Auschwitz will never again return.

Israel is a very small country, blessed with talented and courageous people. However, it must always be remembered that this is the only place in the world where we, the Jews, have the right and the capability to defend ourselves, by ourselves. And we will never relinquish this. It is our historic responsibility. It is my personal historic responsibility.

Prime Minister’s Bureau, Jerusalem, January 25, 2005