Rivlin speaks at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot
Rivlin speaks at Kibbutz Lohamei HagetaotMark Neiman/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Monday criticized French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, accusing her of a new, dangerous form of Holocaust denial disregarding European responsibility for the World War II murder of Jews.

"The prevalent message arising from recent political statements is uniquely disturbing," Rivlin said at a ceremony for Israel's Holocaust Memorial Day at Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot, located north of Haifa.

"And in every place that message is the same: we are not responsible for the Holocaust. We are not responsible for the extermination of the Jews that occurred within our borders," he added.

"For example, some two weeks ago a French presidential candidate denied France's responsibility for the deportation of its Jewish citizens to the Nazi concentration and death camps," continued Rivlin.

He was referring to remarks made by Le Pen on April 9, when she said she did not "think France is responsible for the Vel d'Hiv," the 1942 round-up of Jews at a Paris cycling track who were then sent to Nazi death camps.

The Israeli government condemned her remark as "contrary to the historical truth, which has been expressed by French presidents who have recognized the country's responsibility for the fate of French Jews who died in the Holocaust."

In his speech on Monday, Rivlin warned of new form of Holocaust denial set to blur the boundaries between victims and perpetrators.

"The denial of responsibility of the crimes committed in the days of the Second World War is Holocaust denial of a new, more destructive and dangerous kind from that we have known till now," he said.

"Traditional Holocaust deniers belonged to the extreme fringes of the left and right" whose "success was minimal" while the new form "strives towards a more sophisticated goal" of "a denial of the distinction between a victim and a criminal."

"If I am the victim, I bear no responsibility; no responsibility for the horror that was; no responsibility to fight the renewed outbreak of anti-Semitism, the rise of xenophobia and the rise of nationalist violence," continued Rivlin.

"We must wage a war against the current and dangerous wave of Holocaust denial."

The comments came a day after Le Pen advanced to the runoff in the French presidential election, where she will face Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen previously made headlines when she said in an interview that, if elected president, she would move to prohibit dual citizenship for citizens of non-European countries.

Relating the case of Israel, where as many as 250,000 first and second generation French immigrants reside, Le Pen said no exception would be made.

“Israel is not a European country and doesn’t consider itself as such,” she told France 2 TV.

Le Pen later appeared to backtrack on those comments when she said she believes dual citizenship holders must decide which country is their real homeland, “but I’m not locked into abolishing dual citizenship.”

She added that she would permit dual citizenship if France and the other country in question had signed an agreement related to the matter.