Opinion |

Netanyahu's Betrayal of American Jewry

During all these stormy months, when American Jews felt under attack, Israel and its leaders did not stand by them.

Nitzan Horowitz
Nitzan Horowitz
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A neo-Nazi demonstration in Kentucky.
A neo-Nazi demonstration in Kentucky.Credit: John Flavell / AP
Nitzan Horowitz
Nitzan Horowitz

On this issue there can be no dispute and no pretending that he didn’t understand. Benjamin Netanyahu, more than anyone else at the pinnacle of the Israeli leadership, maybe apart from Naftali Bennett, knows America in depth, closely follows what goes on there and is in close connection with various Jewish representatives. Therefore, he knows two things: that the rise of Donald Trump has given a green light to a dramatic outburst of anti-Semitic and racist incidents, and that American Jews are shocked and horrified to the depth of their souls. Yet instead of embracing them, he chooses to embrace Trump, while Trump repeatedly refused to condemn, or even admit, what has been happening. (Only on Tuesday, after the fourth wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, did the president finally speak out.)

The first issue is a factual, quantitative piece of data: The Anti-Defamation League, one of the most important Jewish organizations, has documented a spike in cases of vandalism and anti-Semitic and racist graffiti, including the use of Nazi symbols. On Monday a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in St. Louis. Since the beginning of the year, no fewer than 57 Jewish educational and community institutions in the United States received bomb threats. On Monday alone there were 14 such threats. Every threat of this type necessitates an immediate evacuation.

The second matter, the anxiety among the Jews, is difficult to gauge numerically. But it is shouting out from every website, on the social networks and media, in every conference and almost every discussion with Jews – from community leaders to people in the street. I myself have heard it from hundreds of American Jews in recent months.

It is no exaggeration to state that this is the most troubling issue for American Jews since Trump became the Republican candidate for the presidency — it was already so during the campaign,and since then the anxiety has only increased. Anyone who says that he hasn’t noticed it is lying.

During the joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump deliberately ignored a question from Channel 10’s Moav Vardi on the issue, and chose to speak instead about the size of his electoral victory and his Jewish grandchildren. The following day, at another stormy, angry press conference, Trump turned to the ultra-Orthodox journalist Jake Turx of Ami magazine. “I want to find a friendly journalist,” he said with a broad smile on his face.

Turx opened his question by stating that he does not accuse Trump or any of his staff of anti-Semitism, and even noted that the president’s grandchildren are Jewish. He then asked the president’s opinion of the wave of anti-Semitism. Trump snarled at him: “Sit down. I understood the question. I am the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life I am the least racist person.”

The correspondent tried to complete his question, but Trump castigated him: “Quiet, quiet, quiet. Sit down. He lied when he said he’ll ask a simple, easy question. I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me You heard Netanyahu, Bibi. He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump a long time,’ and he said ‘Forget it.’ So you should take that, instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”

When another correspondent tried again to ask a question on the subject, the president claimed, without a shred of evidence, that every anti-Semitic incident is the work of his political rivals. “They’re not my people,” Trump said. “They are from the other side.”

Trump may claim that he’s not anti-Semitic, but his actions display, in the best case, apathy and imperviousness regarding rising anti-Semitism and, in the worst case, clear support for this blight.

“It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction,” said ADL Chairman Marvin Nathan and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement. “This is not a partisan issue. It’s a potentially lethal problem — and it’s growing.”

The first thing that should have happened after this outbreak, and the use of the prime minister of Israel to brush off questions on the rise of anti-Semitism, is a clarification from the prime minister’s bureau that Israel views with great concern the reports of anti-Semitic incidents and calls on the American authorities to do everything to eradicate the phenomenon. Such a clarification has yet to be issued.

In fact, during all these stormy months, when American Jews feel that they are under attack, Israel and its leaders did not stand by them.

Israel should also have been the first to object to the appointment of David Friedman as ambassador. Whoever calls a Jewish organization “worse than kapos” is not suitable to serve as an ambassador. Of course, Israel did not do this. Thus Israel and Netanyahu, who sees himself as the leader of the Jewish people and talks repeatedly about the persecution of Jews, is betraying the largest and most important Jewish community.

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