Europe

Israeli president: Le Pen's Holocaust denial 'disturbing'

Israel's president on Monday denounced French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's recent comments denying France's role in the Holocaust as "uniquely disturbing" and urged his country not to make "unholy alliances" with rising nationalist parties in Europe.

President Reuven Rivlin spoke at a ceremony marking Israel's Holocaust memorial day that was attended by former German President Joachim Gauck. He called on Israel to "wage a war against the current and dangerous wave of Holocaust denial" rising in Europe.

Le Pen drew condemnation from other presidential candidates and Israel's Foreign Ministry when she suggested earlier this month that France wasn't responsible for its role in rounding up French Jews for deportation to Nazi Germany's death camps.

Mentioning the French election, Rivlin said a growing phenomenon in Europe of "renunciation of national responsibility in the name of alleged victimhood" was "a new, more destructive and dangerous kind" of Holocaust denial than previously witnessed.

Israel was founded three years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. A large number of Holocaust survivors fled to the fledgling state in the immediate aftermath of the war, and an estimated 160,000 remain. Holocaust memorial day is one of Israel's most solemn days, and is marked nationwide by memorial ceremonies and a siren that brings the country to a standstill.

Though Rivlin didn't mention Le Pen by name, he was one of the first Israeli government officials to respond to her winning 21 percent of the vote in the first round of France's presidential election on Sunday. The far-right candidate will face centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in a May 7 runoff.

Israel's president is largely a ceremonial head of state who serves as the country's moral compass. His strident criticism of Le Pen was exceptional for Israeli leaders, who often refrain from commenting on allies' internal politics. Rivlin said the country "must resist unholy alliances with extreme right-wing elements" in Europe.

"Although it may seem safe to think that we share common interests with these parties, we must recall that there was and will be nothing in common with anti-Semites in any shape or form," he said.