Netanyahu, Pence slam 'anti-Semitic' Iran

Jeffrey Heller
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced Iran at the World Holocaust Forum

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced Iran as "the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet" at a gathering of world leaders at a Holocaust memorial event.

Israel has hailed the World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem memorial centre, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp during World War II, as the biggest international gathering in its history.

The conference is being held against the backdrop of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the US and Europe.

"At the core of Israel's establishment is the command - there will not be another Holocaust. As prime minister of Israel, that is my greatest commitment," Netanyahu said in his address to world leaders, who included Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Vice President Mike Pence.

Netanyahu then lashed out at his country's arch-foe Iran, whose nuclear ambitions he says are aimed at building atomic weapons with the aim of destroying Israel. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear arms.

"I am concerned that 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," Netanyahu said on Thursday.

"Israel salutes President (Donald) Trump and Vice President Pence for confronting the tyrants of Tehran," he added.

In 2018, Washington abandoned the nuclear deal that Iran signed with world powers in 2015. Under the accord, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for a lifting of international sanctions against it.

In his comments, Pence also took aim at Iran, saying it was the one country "that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map".

Prince Charles used his address to pay homage to his grandmother for sheltering Jews in Nazi-occupied Greece.

"I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943 in Nazi-occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them," Charles told the forum.

"My grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives, has a tree planted in her name here at Yad Vashem and is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations ... a fact which gives me and my family immense pride."

A global survey by the US-based Anti-Defamation League in November found global anti-Semitic attitudes had increased, and significantly so in eastern and central Europe.

It found large percentages of people in many European countries think Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.

At a meeting earlier on Thursday with Israel's President Reuven Rivlin, Russia's Putin said it was important to oppose xenophobia and anti-Semitism everywhere.

"You just said that it's not known where anti-Semitism ends," Putin told Rivlin, referring to remarks the Israeli president made at their meeting.

"Unfortunately we do know this - Auschwitz is its end result."