Italy's Berlusconi links suffering from Gaza war to Holocaust in meeting with Palestinians
(Canadian Press) -- By Dalia Nammari --
Italy's prime minister on Wednesday called for empathy for all victims, whether from the Nazi Holocaust or Israel's war in Gaza, drawing a link that threatened to tarnish a visit that has cemented his already warm ties with Israel.
Silvio Berlusconi's comments, while avoiding direct comparisons to the Holocaust, nonetheless could touch a raw nerve in Israel - a country that was founded in the wake of the Nazi massacre of 6 million Jews and that is home to more than 200,000 Holocaust survivors.
Berlusconi has been warmly welcomed throughout this three-day visit to Israel, and he has repeatedly spoken of his strong affinity for the Jewish state and expressed sorrow over the Holocaust.
During a speech to the Israeli parliament early Wednesday, Berlusconi called Israel's war against Gaza militants last year justified self-defence. He said a U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes tried to "incriminate Israel for its legitimate response" to Palestinian militants' rocket attacks.
But during a last-minute meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, the Italian leader acknowledged the Gaza offensive, which killed some 1,400 people, including an estimated 900 civilians, had caused great pain to the Palestinians.
"Whenever war takes the place of peace, whenever violence takes the place of reason, humanity disappears. The relationship between men that should always be kept intact disappears," Berlusconi said at a joint news conference with Abbas. "So just as it's right to cry for the victims of the Shoah, it's right to show pain for what happened in Gaza."
Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.
The Holocaust is an extremely sensitive topic in Israel, where the attempted genocide of European Jewry is viewed as a unique event without parallel.
Berlusconi is one of Israel's closest friends in Europe.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined comment on his remark about the Holocaust...MORE...LINK
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