Holocaust Remembrance Day under cloud of UN racism conference

Israel began marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at sundown on Monday, hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has desribed the Holocaust as a "myth," prompted walkouts and protests at Durban II.


AFP - Israel began marking Holocaust Remembrance Day at sundown on Monday with a ceremony at the national memorial to the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II.

The ceremony took place hours after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has described the Holocaust as a "myth", stirred a storm of criticism when speaking at a controversial UN conference on racism in Switzerland.

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem where survivors of the Nazi genocide lit six candles in memory of the victims.

"Anti-Semitism is an ancient historic phenomenon. If anyone thought that following the horrific events of the Holocaust this malignant phenomenon would vanish from this world, it is today obvious that he was wrong," Netanyahu said in his speech.

"The sad fact is that while we mark the Holocaust Memorial Day here at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, some chose to attend the show of hatred against Israel held as we speak in the heart of Europe.

"We will not let Holocaust deniers carry out another Holocaust of the Jewish people. This is the supreme commitment of the state of Israel," Netanyahu said.

Peres said that the "conference opening today in Geneva is an acceptance of racism. Its main speaker calls for the destruction of Israel and denies the Holocaust... this is shameful."

The UN conference, which had already been hit by a boycott by several Western governments, fell into disarray after Ahmadinejad launched a new tirade against Israel, triggering a walkout by several European delegations and a rebuke from UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Ahmadinejad, who has previously predicted that the Jewish state is doomed to be wiped off the map, criticised the creation of a "totally racist government in occupied Palestine" in 1948, calling it "the most cruel and racist regime".

Sirens will sound across Israel for two minutes at 0700 GMT on Tuesday in memory of the Holocaust victims, bringing all traffic to a halt.

More than 230,000 Holocaust survivors currently live in Israel, according to estimates by advocacy groups.

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