Knesset holds emergency debate about U.S. anti-Semitism

MK Nachman Shai (Hillel Maeir/TPS )

MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) slammed the government on Tuesday for displaying indifference to the wave of anti-Semitism that has swept the United States in recent weeks, in contrast to Israel’s history of standing up for Jewish communities under threat in other places.

“We have seen dozens of terrible incidents in recent times, including vandalism, defacing of Jewish cemeteries, threats against Jewish community centers and more. But despite our long-standing practice of coming to the defense of threatened Jewish communities, when it comes to the United States, we are silent.”

“Jews have always fought for the rights of minorities,” Shai told Tazpit Press Service (TPS) by email. “I call on the Israeli government to put the theory of being the leader of the Jewish people into practice by standing up for Jewish communities in the United States. We must defend them, like they have done for us so many times.”

Shai’s statement came on the heels of Tuesday’s stormy emergency session of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs about the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States.

Monday, a swastika was carved into the door of a synagogue in Ohio. Over the past two weeks Jewish cemeteries in Brooklyn Philadelphia and St. Louis have all been vandalized and dozens of Jewish community centers in 12 states have received approximately 90 bomb threats since January.

“For  many years there was a sense that the United States was the safest place for people of all religions and ethnic groups, a place with tolerance for any religion or race. Unfortunately, this has changed 180 degrees”, said committee chairman MK Avraham Neguise (Likud).

Commentators and politicians have been quick to blame the attacks on the heated rhetoric of US President Donald Trump.

“I do not think you can ignore the connection between the inauguration of a president who ran a campaign of xenophobia and the slew of organizations convening anti-Semitic rallies that would be worthy of Nazi Germany” said Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg.

“[Israel’s] political alliance with the American government has led the Israeli government to turn a blind eye to the hatred as long as it was directed toward Muslims the United States,” Zandberg continued.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) release catalogs unprecedented efforts by white supremacists on US campuses to spread their message. Without explicitly blaming the president, the report argues that groups like Identity Evropa and American Renaissancehave been “emboldened by the 2016 elections.” Notably, ADL chairman Jonathan Greenblatt warned in a tweet during the election season that some of Trump’s statements came dangerously close to historical anti-Semitic tropes.

The spike in anti-Semitism did not begin in 2017. Rather, the rise can even be traced back to Obama years. An ADL audit of 2016 reported that anti-Semitic assaults on American college campuses nearly doubled during 2015, an increase of about 3 percent over 2014.

President Trump has condemned the anti-Semitic attacks, statements that have been acknowledged by President Reuven Rivlin.

Andrew Friedman participated in this report.