BARCELONA – The Catalunya government has called off the ceremony marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was scheduled to take place on January 27, citing the Israeli offensive in Gaza as the reason.
The Gaza campaign has inflamed the already pro-Palestinian public opinion in the northeastern Spanish region, and the local media has run endless stories comparing the Israeli stance on the situation in the Strip to Nazi atrocities.
Over 30,000 people marched in Catalunya's streets in support of Hamas, during the three-week campaign, burning Israeli flags and handing out flyers threatening local pro-Israel journalists.
The overwhelming public support for the Palestinians has prompted the government to cancel the Holocaust Remembrance Day service. This was to be the only public event marking the day, and was scheduled to take place in Barcelona's central piazza.
"Marking the Jewish Holocaust while a Palestinian Holocaust is taking place is not right," a local City official told Barcelona's La Vanguardia newspaper.
'Comparison a distortion of history'
Rafael Shutz, the Israeli ambassador to Madrid, sent a letter to President of the Government of Catalunya José Montilla Aguilera, expressing his concern over the flaring anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments sweeping through his region.
Meanwhile, other European countries have also compared Israel's actions in Operation Cast Lead to those of Nazi Germany: A Norwegian diplomat stationed in Saudi Arabia sent a mass-distributed email stating that "the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are doing the same thing to the Palestinians, as the Nazis did to their grandparents," using her official Norwegian Foreign Ministry address.
In Germany, the Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD - Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) announced it would be mounting a protest march in Berlin on January 27, under the banner of "Stop the Israeli Holocaust in the Gaza Strip."
Avner Shalev, head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, admonished both the comparison and the use of Nazi symbols in many of the anti-Gaza operation protests around the world.
"These comparisons are a manipulative distortion of history," he said, adding that the Holocaust would be best left out of the contemporary political discourse.
Eldad Beck in Berlin contributed to this report