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Marking Holocaust, Sharon Blasts Israel Critics (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERUSALEM, ISRAEL With additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa 01/27/05 05:13 AM ET)Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7449069 Reuters News Service Reuters News Service Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon branded as anti- Semites those critics of Israel who liken its crackdown on a Palestinian revolt to Nazi efforts to exterminate Jews.

Speaking on the eve of a gathering of world leaders in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, Sharon said on Wednesday the lessons of the Holocaust were still ignored by the world.

"This phenomenon, of Jews protecting themselves and fighting back, is deemed outrageous by the new anti-Semites," he told Israel´s parliament.

"The legitimate self-defense measures which Israel takes in its war against Palestinian terror -- measures any sovereign state would be obliged to take in order to safeguard its residents -- are presented by sundry anti-Semites as Nazi-style acts of aggression," the right- wing former army general said.

Israel´s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and killing of more than 3,000 Palestinians in violence that erupted in 2000 have drawn comparisons in parts of the Arab and European press to Nazi actions.

"Sixty years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the evil that begat the horror still exists, and still poses a threat," Sharon said. "We know we can trust no one but ourselves."

More than 1,000 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks during the 4-year-old Palestinian uprising.

60 YEARS ON

More than 40 world leaders including the presidents of Russia, Israel, Germany and France will gather on Thursday in Auschwitz, near the Polish town of Oswiecim, to mark the 60th anniversary of the day when Soviet troops liberated the camp.

Several hundred survivors will also attend the ceremonies.

Some 1.5 million people, 90 percent of them Jews, perished in the gas chambers and crematoria in Auschwitz during the World War II Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews in all.

A snap of cold weather and snowstorms are set to accompany the ceremonies according to weather forecasts. Bad weather has already delayed the arrival of some leaders, including Russia´s Vladimir Putin.

The United States will be represented by Vice-President Dick Cheney, while President Bush issued a proclamation saying Auschwitz served as a reminder to the world to oppose evil and join forces in combating anti-Semitism.

"It is a sobering reminder of the power of evil and the need for people to oppose evil wherever it exists," he said.

While leaders of France and Germany recalled that Auschwitz taught mankind never to let race hate and genocide rise again, small groups across Europe showed that, 60 years on, not everyone was united on the lessons of the Holocaust.

Russian Jews were outraged after a letter signed by about 500 people including 20 nationalist and Communist parliamentary deputies charged that Jews themselves provoked anti-Semitism.

The deputies later retracted their call, and Russia´s Foreign Ministry denounced its "openly anti-Semitic views."

In London, Muslim leaders said they would not attend a British Auschwitz commemoration, arguing that Holocaust Memorial Day should commemorate victims of genocide everywhere.

PROTEST

A protest in Israel last month by a group of Jewish settlers sparked widespread outrage for invoking the Holocaust.

The settlers donned yellow Star of David badges recalling those forced on European Jews by the Nazis in a protest against Sharon´s planned pullout this year from Gaza. The settlers eventually scrapped the protest.

"With all the empathy one feels for people ... the notion that the State of Israel is about to send them (settlers) to Auschwitz is a horrible distortion," said Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Nazi- hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center. -- With additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa (© Reuters 2005 01/27/05)


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