Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer said on Sunday that both the right and the left are responsible for anti-Semitism, dismissing the notion that U.S. President Donald Trump's election played a part in the rising number of such incidents.
"It's not a new problem," Dermer said in an MSNBC interview following the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead. He cited FBI data according to which "attacks against Jews accounted for over 50 percent of hate crimes in America – and that was before Trump."
Dermer praised Trump's condemnation of the attack, saying he is "not aware of a single non-Israeli leader that has made such a strong statement in condemning anti-Semitism."
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When the interviewer, Ayman Mohyeldin, played clips of Trump describing himself as "a nationalist" as well as his infamous "both sides" speech following Charlottesville, Dermer rejected the idea these were "dog whistles to anti-Semitic white nationalist groups in the U.S."
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"I see a lot of people on both sides who attack Jews," Dermer said. "I didn't thing the president's comments after Charlottesville were very good," he conceded, but again praised Trump's "strong comments" on the Pittsburgh shooting.
"The problem, Ayman," Dermer continued, "is that when people attribute anti-Semitism to one side of the political debate, they make a very big mistake."
"To simply say that this is because of one person, only comes on one side, is to not understand the history of anti-Semitism or the reality of anti-Semitism," Dermer went on. "One of the big forces in college campuses today is anti-Semitism. And those anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis, on college campuses. They’re coming from the radical left. We have to stand against anti-Semitism whether it comes from the right or whether it comes from the left."
Asked about billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros becoming "a punching bag for the far right," Dermer said criticism of Soros is not necessarily anti-Semitic. He again objected to people who are "only looking on the other side of the political aisle," citing the lack of universal condemnation for Minister Louis Farrakhan's "Jews are termites" comments.