Prime Minister Ariel Sharon slammed opponents of his Gaza plan for comparing Israel's planned pullout of all 8,500 Jewish settlers from the territory to the atrocities committed to Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.
"Anyone who tries to compare the situation of the Jewish people today to their situation then is making a very grave mistake," he told reporters travelling with him to a Holocaust memorial service at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
"Israel is an independent country with a large army and it has the ability to do what it thinks is right," he said.
Jewish settlers in Gaza who oppose Sharon's plan to evacuate all 21 settlements in the area and four of 120 from the West Bank have said the pullout constituted an expulsion of Jews and many have protested against it by pinning small orange stars on their lapels, similar to the yellow stars the Germans forced the Jews to wear during World War II.
Nazi graffiti and slogans of incitement against Sharon were sprayed in Jerusalem on Thursday, including at the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, marking the latest incidents in a growing number of similar desecrations reported in recent months ahead of the upcoming Gaza and West Bank pullout.
Swastikas were spray-painted inside the museum complex, hours before Israeli leaders joined thousands at an annual ceremony to commemorate the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.
Various slogans of incitement against the prime minister were also found in various areas in Jerusalem, including his official residence, reading: “Sharon is following Hitler’s path” and “Sharon - Hitler would have been proud of you.”
Police said they would investigate the incidents, which likely stemmed from ideological motives. They said more cases of vandalism were likely to occur before the pullout.
Police foil road blocking protest
The grave of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was desecrated last month, in an incident police said was “based on the same motives.”
Settlers and rightists oppose Israel’s planned pullout from all 21 settlements in Gaza and four of 120 in the West Bank, claiming the land as their biblical birthright. Thousands have vowed to resist it and many were arrested in recent months for blocking roads with burning tires to protest the plan.
Also Thursday, Police said they saw a number of youngsters carrying tires and heading toward the entrance to a major highway. When they saw officers had spotted them, the youngsters ran away, police said.
Sharon plans to participate in the annual "March of the Living" procession from Auschwitz along with thousands of Jews and sympathizers from around the world later in the day.