Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Duterte calls Hitler 'insane' at Israeli Holocaust memorial

The comments were a turnaround for Duterte who once compared his anti-drug war to the Holocaust

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, centre, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Monday, Sept 3, 2018. AP
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, centre, visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, Monday, Sept 3, 2018. AP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once compared himself favourably to Adolf Hitler, paid a solemn visit to Israel's national Holocaust memorial on Monday, branding the Nazi leader "insane" as he lamented the genocide of six million Jews.

The comments marked a sharp turnaround for Mr Duterte, who only two years ago had compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and said he would be "happy to slaughter" three million addicts. He later apologised.

Mr Duterte, known for his profane outbursts and accused of committing widespread human rights abuses, spoke quietly and respectfully during his stop at the Yad Vashem memorial. He said the Holocaust should never be repeated and that "despots" have no place in the modern world.

"I could not imagine a country obeying an insane leader, and I could not ever fathom the spectacle of the human being going into a killing spree, murdering old men, women and children. I hope this will not happen again," he said.

"There is always a lesson to learn: that despots and leaders who show insanity, they should be disposed of at the first instance."

Mr Duterte, the first Philippine president to visit Israel, has received a warm welcome from the government, despite criticism that it is embracing a leader accused of rights abuses in his deadly crackdown on drug dealers.

The agenda reportedly is expected to include an arms sale to the Philippines. Israel agreed in the past to sell assault rifles to the Philippines national police force.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked Monday on the countries' long friendship. He said the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after the Second World War and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel's establishment. He noted that Filipino health aides now assist the elderly in Israel, including Mr Netanyahu's father.

"We remember our friends, and that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years," Mr Netanyahu told Mr Duterte. "There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino caretakers for the elderly."


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Mr Duterte thanked Israel for hosting some 28,000 Filipino workers and for assisting his country in times of need.

"We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But also we share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology, who know nothing but to kill and destroy," he said at a joint appearance with Mr Netanyahu. "And in this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country."

The countries established diplomatic relations in 1957. Mr Netanyahu has worked to cultivate new allies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where many countries have historically sided with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel, to help chip away at the number of anti-Israel votes at the United Nations.

But Mr Netanyahu has come under fire for embracing Mr Duterte, 73, a former government prosecutor whose forces are accused of killing thousands in anti-drug raids since he took office in 2016.

Mr Duterte drew outrage that year when he compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and himself to Hitler. More recently, he forcibly kissed a woman on stage and said there would be many rape cases in a Philippine city "if there were many beautiful women".

In its lead editorial Monday, the liberal Haaretz daily accused Mr Netanyahu of selling out Israeli values for dubious allies.

"Under the shadow of Duterte's visit, Israel once again proves it's willing to overlook leaders' human rights violations for the sake of opportunities for arms deals and defence contracts," the newspaper said.

Updated: September 4, 2018 01:17 PM