The Chinese Embassy in Israel has apologised for its ambassador’s earlier remarks about Israel’s travel restrictions from China, when acting envoy Dai Yuming said the country’s travel ban reminded him of the Holocaust during World War II.
“I feel bad and sad. Because it actually recalled [for] me, the old days, the old stories, that happened in World War II, the Holocaust”, the ambassador said during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, as quoted by The Times of Israel.
In his own words: Chinese deputy ambassador to Israel says Israel’s decision to bar flights from China and ban entry for Chinese tourists reminds him of the Holocaust pic.twitter.com/JApHRcJmUT— Boaz Arad 博雅 (@aradboaz) February 2, 2020
“Millions of Jewish [people] were killed, and many Jewish [people] were refused when they tried to seek assistance. Only very, very few countries opened their doors, one of them is China. I hope Israel will never close their door to the Chinese”, Dai Yuming continued, apparently referring to thousands of European refugees of Jewish descent who travelled to Shanghai to escape the horrors of the Nazis.
He also noted that the phobia over being infected by the virus was worse than the actual threat itself and called upon countries to prevent panic surrounding the new coronavirus. The illness has already taken the lives of more than 350 people in China and 1 person in the Philippines, with more than 17,000 infected in various countries worldwide, according to official data from health authorities.
The ambassador’s comments raised some eyebrows among the audience and the embassy rushed to express their regret for the unfortunate comparison later in the day, saying that the reference to the Holocaust was unintentional.
“Regarding the press conference held today by the Chinese Embassy in Israel, we would like to clarify that there was no intention whatsoever to compare the dark days of the Holocaust with the current situation and the efforts taken by the Israeli government to protect its citizens”, a statement from the Chinese Embassy read, as conveyed by the Foreign Ministry of Israel.
“We would like to apologise if someone understood our message the wrong way”, the Chinese Embassy concluded.
Over the last week, Israeli authorities toughened their measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus to the country, as cases have already been registered in more than 20 nations, including Russia, Great Britain, the United States, France, Australia, and Sweden.
Israel’s foreign minister has issued recommendations to avoid travelling to China, while barring entry for anyone, except Israeli citizens who were in the People’s Republic in the last 14 days – measures that have also been implemented in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. All direct flights from China have also been halted by Tel Aviv, while Russia, Mongolia, and Nepal have closed their land borders with the state.
On 30 January, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak of the previously unknown coronavirus a global emergency. The new illness originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei Province in late December.