Lithuanian MP Denounces Israel for Razing Palestinian School EU Financed

Lithuanian MP Denounces Israel for Razing Palestinian School EU Financed

Lithuanian MP Remigijus Žemaitaitis, chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party formed of two rival liberal parties to contest municipal elections in Vilnius in 2014, denounced Israel’s destruction of a school in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The US, Israeli and German ambassadors called for him to apologize for the remarks, first made on facebook on Monday, May 8, repeated in parliament Tuesday, the same day Israel started bombing the Gaza Strip in what it calls Operation Shield and Arrow. Despite the demands of the ambassadors and his fellow MPs, Žemaitaitis said he won’t apologize.

On Tuesday he told parliament assembled: “I want to emphasize this school was fully financed by the European Union, by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain and the other countries. … And if we believe that it’s alright to allow in the 21st century some country to blow up or destroy these kinds of sites of another country, then ask yourselves, what sort of moral and political values do you live by today? Mine are much higher than you think.”

The Lithuanian news agency ELTA reported that on Monday Žemaitaitis discussed the school near Bethlehem destroyed by Israel on his facebook page. He reportedly said “Besides Putin another group of animals has appeared in the world: Israel.” ELTA reported he also wrote: “One destroys schools with tanks, the other with tractors. … The EU claims it is horrified by the incident during which Israeli forces arrived at the school at the break of dawn. What has to happen to make Israel realize these sorts of provocations and these kinds of actions only serve to fuel more anger and at the same time hatred of the Jews and their people.” In the same facebook post he quoted an anti-Semitic Lithuanian song about beating Jews with sticks, and said these sorts of statements and texts didn’t cause surprise in light of recent events near Bethlehem.

Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky commented on the MP’s comments during her current visit to Israel: “If we didn’t know this person, we would think this was just incoherent ramblings. But they aren’t intended for Jews, they’re intended for Lithuanians. It’s unethical to make analogous the war happening in Israel and expressions of anti-Semitism in Lithuania and Europe. Moreover, to do so on May 8 when the world is celebrating the victory against the Nazis and the end of the Holocaust. If Mr. Žemaitaitis made a mistake, let’s give him a chance to apologize for it.”

Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein addressed the issue of the school near Bethlehem and said it was removed because it didn’t have the right construction permits and was dangerous. She said there was a difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and Israeli policies and anti-Semitic speech, of which she accused Žemaitaitis by making a connection between Israeli actions and hatred of Jews.

The largest Lithuanian newspaper Lietuvos Rytas reports police have launched an investigation into whether the MP broke laws against sowing ethnic discord in making his comments. The US and German ambassadors to Lithuania and the World Jewish Congress have expressed dismay at the anti-Semitic remarks the Lithuanian member of parliament posted on the internet. Fellow MPs have called for an investigation by the parliament’s Ethics and Procedures Commission for breach of ethics which could, according to the speaker of parliament, constitute grounds for impeaching the MP.

Full story in Lithuanian here.