Middle East News
Lukashenko calls Jews "dirty", Israeli ambassador returns home
Oct 19, 2007, 8:23 GMT
Minsk - Israel's ambassador to Belarus has returned home after authoritarian Belarus leader President Aleksander Lukashenko called a once predominantly-Jewish city in his country 'a pigstye.'
Ambassador Zeev Ben- Ari returned less than a week after October 12 remarks by Lukashenko to Russian reporters in Minsk, during which the Belarusian leader argued Slavic ethnicities such as Belarusians and Russians took better care of their cities than ethnic Jews.
'Have ever been to Bobrusk, have you ever seen what state the city is in? It was terrifying to go inside, it was such a pigstye,' Lukashenko said in a statement supporting his government's high priority on picking up trash and cleaning city streets.
'It (Bobrusk) was a predominantly Jewish city, and you know how Jews treat the places they live. Look at Israel, I've been there. I don't want to offend any one, but they (Israelis) don't try very hard that grass is neatly cut, not like in Moscow, among the Russians, among Belarusians.'
Tzipi Livni, Israel's Foreign Minister, on Wednesday criticised Lukashenko's comments, saying according to a Belapan news agency report 'World leaders should take upon themselves the responsibility of fighting anti-Semitism when it raises its ugly head in various parts of the world, and not inflame it.'
'In these remarks (of Lukashenko's) one can today hear the myth that I had hoped had long been been buried in history: that Jews supposedly are ungroomed, dirty, and bad-smelling,' he said.
Israel closed its embassy in 2002 citing Lukashenko's poor human rights record, and reopened it in 2004 with Zeev as the ambassador, in a bid to improve frigid relations between the two countries.
Much of modern Belarus was heavily settled by Jews in the 18th and 19th centuries as a result of a Russian Empire policy the ethnic group should only live in selected, and usually poor provinces.
The Holocaust of the Second World War effectively wiped out Belarus' Jewish population.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur