Netanyahu defends comparison of Iran, Nazi Holocaust

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism of his likening of a nuclear-armed Iran to the Nazi Holocaust as improper, saying in an address to the country on Wednesday that “uncomfortable truths” must be aired.

He defended his analogy on the eve of Israel’s annual day of Holocaust remembrance against those who say it is not only irreverent to the six million Jews killed by Hitler’s Germany but also stokes panic about a new war.

The Jewish state has not ruled out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities if international sanctions imposed on Tehran or diplomacy fail to curb its atomic program.

Western states suspect Iran is enriching uranium to develop the capability to build atomic bombs. The Islamic Republic says its enrichment program is solely for peaceful energy purposes and poses no threat to anyone.

Israel, widely assumed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal, say a nuclear-armed Iran would be a mortal threat and when speaking of the issue, Netanyahu often cites lessons learned from the Holocaust.

“I know there are people who believe that it is forbidden to mention the unique evil of the Holocaust while talking about the current threats facing the Jewish people. They claim that doing so cheapens the Holocaust and insults its victims,” Netanyahu said. “I completely reject this approach.”

An Israeli opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, has said it is inappropriate for the government to use such rhetoric and former military chief Dan Halutz said “Holocaust-like” invocations scare the entire nation.

Commentator Gideon Levy wrote in the liberal daily Haaretz that Netanyahu had “belittled and cheapened” memories of the Holocaust.

A report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last year revealed a trove of intelligence pointing to research activities in Iran of use in developing the means and technologies needed to assemble nuclear weapons, should it decide to do so.

But despite heightened speculation of a possible pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, the sense of unease has had little impact on normal life in Israel.

Few Israelis doubt they face hostility from the Islamic Republic. But some take umbrage at the Holocaust talk, given the protection now afforded by their seasoned military.

“I will continue saying the truth to the world but first of all to my own people, who I know are strong enough to hear the truth,” Netanyahu said. “And the truth is that it is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It is the duty of the world, but above all, it is our duty.”

Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Opinion: China’s outrageous comparison of the Dalai Lama to Nazis

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish Human Rights NGO, denounced China’s state-run media for equating Nobel Prize-winner the Dalai Lama to the Nazi perpetrator of the World War II Holocaust during which 6 million Jews were systematically murdered.

According to the New York Times, the commentary was posted on China Tibet Online and carried by the official Xinhua news agency. It accused the Dalai Lama of advocating policies that would result in the expulsion of ethnic Han Chinese from historically Tibetan parts of the country.

“The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the cruel Nazis during the Second World War,” it said, adding, “How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has the greatest regard for the Dalai Lama and his efforts on behalf of his people. Our Center honored him with our Humanitarian Prize in 1996, and he has always served as a role model for dissent with dignity. It is shocking, outrageous and totally unacceptable that any Chinese official would permit the denigrating of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust as a tactic to slander a spiritual leader who has earned the world’s respect over the span of decades, precisely because he pursues his agenda through peace and dialogue. Indeed, the Dalai Lama stands for the values that the Nazis sought to destroy. We urge China Tibet Online and the Xinhua News Agency to apologize for this double slander.

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Beck compares Reform Judaism to radical Islam

Glenn Beck said Reform rabbis are “almost like radicalized Islam.”

The Fox News host made the comments on his radio program Tuesday in the context of a wider discussion about a recent open letter, signed almost exclusively by non-Orthodox rabbis, criticizing him for repeatedly comparing his ideological foes to Nazis.

“There are the Orthodox rabbis and there are the Reform rabbis,” Beck said. “Reformed [sic] rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like radicalized Islam in a way where it is just—radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics.”

In a brief aside, Beck said that he wasn’t saying Reform Judaism and radical Islam were the same. He went on to note that for Orthodox rabbis faith is primary, before reiterating that Reform rabbis place politics before religion.

Reform movement leaders were nevertheless outraged by the comparison. Rabbi David Saperstein, the head of the movement’s Washington office, the Religious Action Center, told JTA the comments were “distasteful and offensive.”

“His description of the Reform movement ignores the fact that we’re the largest segment of American Jewry,” Saperstein said. “It has been over the last 30 years the fastest growing liberal theological denomination in America. And that is true because of the richness of the religious, spiritual and faith fulfillment it offers a very diverse constituency that defines our movement. For him to denigrate, not just all the Reform rabbis, Reform Judaism, but the million and half members of our synagogues is deeply distasteful and offensive.”

The flare-up is the latest involving Beck and the Jewish community. The talk show host, whose television ratings were down 39 percent last month, compared to January 2010, has come under fire for repeatedly comparing liberals to Hitler and the Nazis. He has also attacked Soros, a billionaire supporter of liberal causes and a Holocaust survivor, implying he was a Nazi collaborator, and flirting with classic anti-Semitic stereotypes in describing what he alleges are Soros’ shadowy efforts to bring down the United States government.

In January, Jewish Funds for Justice took out two full-page advertisements in national newspapers slamming Beck. The ads took the form of an open letter to Rupert Murdoch, the head of Fox’s parent company News Corporation, calling for Beck to be censured.

The Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish organization normally in the lead on issues of anti-Semitism and the use of Nazi imagery, criticized the timing of the ad and its singling out of political conservatives. But ADL chief Abraham Foxman was quick to denounce Beck’s latest comments and demand an apology.

“To compare Reform Judaism, which supports democratic institutions, to Islamic extremism, which supports anti-democratic movements and the repression of basic rights – including, for example, the denial of women’s rights – is beyond the pale,” Foxman said. “Glenn Beck has no right to discount the faith of any people, and he should think twice before commenting on something he doesn’t know much about. He owes the Reform movement an apology.”