‘Deranged tweets can kill,’ Herzog tells EU Parliament

“The distance between a viral video and a physical attack hardly exists at all,” President Isaac Herzog told the European Parliament Thursday on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

By World Israel News Staff

Addressing the European Parliament Thursday ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed annually on January 27, Israeli President Isaac Herzog described his father’s and his grandfather’s descriptions of the horrors they had witnessed.

“In 1946, my grandfather and namesake, the Chief Rabbi of the Land of Israel, Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, embarked on a search and rescue mission for his Jewish sisters and brothers all across the ravaged continent of Europe. Looking around, he beheld not only smoldering heaps of stone and sand, but also the silent cry of a downtrodden nation. The lives of millions, men, women, and children that had come to an end; in their stead, only crumbling stone,” the president said.

His father Chaim, who was also an Israeli president, was among the liberators of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp.

“I shall never forget how he described to me the horrors that unfolded before his eyes, as one of the first liberators of the death camps, including Bergen-Belsen,” Herzog said.

“The human skeletons in the striped pajamas, the hell on earth, the stench, the heart of darkness. Millions of worlds, one third of the Jewish People, were wiped out—in the killing pits, in the gas chambers, in the furnaces, in the death camps.”

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Herzog recited the traditional prayer for the deceased before elaborating on the horrors of the Shoah followed by a warning against incitement to hatred and the power of social media.

“The Holocaust was not born in a vacuum,” he stated. “We must never forget that the Nazi death machine would not have succeeded in realizing its nightmarish vision had it not met soil fertilized with Jew-hatred, which is as old as time itself. The stereotypical depiction of Jews had struck roots through Europe for centuries and generations before the rise of Nazism. Nazi ideology intensified traditional antisemitism, and primordial fears fanned the flames of hatred.

“Even before a single extermination camp was built, in the minds of the masses, the Jew was already human dust, sub-human. It is precisely for this reason, precisely because the Holocaust was predicated on much older antisemitic foundations that had taken root and flourished in Europe, that this dark abyss is a terrible, profound, and compelling lesson for the whole of Europe…

“Today we see movements on the extremes of European and world politics, which proudly raise the ugly banner of antisemitism, which once more threatens to turn democratic and civilized societies into ones that devour their own people. Unfortunately, the picture is disturbing. Deeply disturbing.

“Antisemitic discourse festers not only within dark regimes; but within the heartlands of the free, democratic West. Jew-hatred still exists. Antisemitism still exists. Holocaust denial still exists. The latest reports point to new records of hatred, as antisemitism continues to don new guises, and this time it is active on virtual platforms as well—fueled by them, striking roots in them, thriving, spreading poison.

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“Throughout the internet, viral antisemitism is spreading at a record pace, at the click of a button. The distance between a viral video and a physical attack hardly exists at all. The distance between a Facebook post and the smashing of headstones in a cemetery is shorter than we would think. Deranged tweets can kill. They really can. Antisemites draw inspiration and ideas from virtual platforms. They are brainwashed and enraged as a result of unchecked and unrestrained online discourse…

“I call on you, elected officials of Europe: do not stand by. You must read the warning signs, detect the symptoms of the pandemic of antisemitism, and fight it at all costs. You must ensure that every Jew wanting to live a full Jewish life in your countries may do so safely and fearlessly.”

Questioning Israel’s right to exist is antisemitism

The president then underscored the antisemitic motive behind the delegitimization of the Jewish state.

“You and your countries must use every tool at your disposal, from education and legislation to security and enforcement, to deter and eradicate hatred, racism, and antisemitism in all their forms. You must instill the understanding across Europe that the Jewish People’s right to national and sovereign self-determination is sacred and manifested in our democratic state: the State of Israel,” he stated.

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“Which is why, among other things, you must move to fully adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism.

“From this plenary, I wish to underscore the fine line between criticism of the State of Israel and negation of the State of Israel’s existence. It is, of course, OK to criticize the state that I head. It is OK to criticize us, and it is OK to disagree with us, just as it is OK to criticize you and your states. Our country is open to criticism like all members in the family of nations, and Israeli democracy certainly excels in fierce and penetrating internal criticism. However—and this is the important and critical difference—criticism of the State of Israel must not cross the line into negation of the very existence of the State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish People, as recognized by the institutions of the international community.

“Casting doubt on the nation-state of the Jewish people’s right to exist is not legitimate diplomacy. It is antisemitism in the full sense of the word, and it must be thoroughly uprooted.

“The rule is simple: criticism of us must pass the basic test of fairness and integrity, and it must not cross the line into dehumanization or delegitimization.”