Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged action against “the tyrants of Tehran” during a Holocaust memorial speech on Thursday in Jerusalem, comparing what he considers the threat from Iran to that once posed by Nazi Germany.
Netanyahu denounced Iran as “the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet” in a speech in front of world leaders gathered at the Yad Vashem memorial institute to mark 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Soviet troops.
However, Netanyahu told world leaders, “We have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet, a regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state.
“Israel will do whatever it must do to defend our state, defend our people, and defend the Jewish future,” he said, vowing “there will not be another Holocaust”.
Tehran denies it is trying to build a nuclear bomb and accusations of anti-Semitism, insisting while it opposes Israel and supports the Palestinian cause, it has no problem with Jewish people, including its own Jewish minority.
Pence, who spoke shortly after Netanyahu, warned Iran’s nuclear programme posed a security threat to all nations, not just Israel. He urged people to “confront and expose the vile tide of anti-Semitism” around the world.
“In that same spirit, we must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism, against the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pence said.
No immediate reaction was available from Iranian officials.
Tensions between the US and Iran escalated after a US air raid killed Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, on January 3 with fears of all-out war breaking out.
A high-level delegation of Muslim religious leaders visited Auschwitz on Thursday along with a Jewish group in what organisers called “the most senior Islamic leadership delegation” to visit the site of the Nazi death camp.
The interfaith visit came four days before the 75th anniversary of the January 27, 1945, liberation of the camp by the Red Army.
The visit was led by the secretary-general of the Muslim World League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, and the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris.
In a statement, the AJC said al-Issa, who is based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from some 28 countries on several continents. It called the visit “groundbreaking”.
The AJC delegation included members of the organisation, among them some children of Holocaust survivors.
“To be here, among the children of Holocaust survivors and members of the Jewish and Islamic communities, is both a sacred duty and a profound honour,” al-Issa said.
“The unconscionable crimes to which we bear witness today are truly crimes against humanity. That is to say, a violation of us all, an affront to all of God’s children.”
On Friday, the members of the group will visit the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and will attend Muslim and Jewish religious services there.