American anti-Semitism rises, and the Israeli Right remains silent

Why is nearly every Israeli elected official silent in the face of the violent anti-Semitism sweeping across the United States?

By Amir Segal

A rabbi is arrested by NYPD during a protest against the refugee ban outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan, February 6, 2017. (Gili Getz)
A rabbi is arrested by NYPD during a protest against the refugee ban outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan, February 6, 2017. (Gili Getz)

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, the United States has witnessed a disturbing increase of anti-Semitic incidents. This is a wave the likes of which we haven’t seen for many years, accompanied by outright racism that has been bolstered by Trump’s election, his right-wing and racist supporters, and specifically by the fact that the president had, until Monday, refused to condemn racism and anti-Semitism outright. What is especially disturbing, however, is the fact that the Israeli Right continues to remain silent in the face of rising anti-Semitism in America.

While Israelis saw fit to respond to Trump’s comments on whether the one state solution was preferable to two states during his press conference with Prime Minister Netanyahu last week, Americans were focused to a different response, one that Trump gave after being asked about the increase in anti-Semitism since his election. His response was long, confounding, and strange — and he was unable to do the basic and necessary thing: condemn every incident and instance of anti-Semitism.

A special responsibility

Even more disturbing is the fact that Trump seemed totally apathetic to these incidents, until he was resigned to condemn them under heavy public pressure, and there is reason to believe that he even supports some of them. And if we needed confirmation for for our suspicions of Trump’s anti-Semitism, we got it last week at another press conference, in which he berated an ultra-Orthodox journalist for asking about rising anti-Jewish incidents, and followed it up with the outlandish claim that he is “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holds a press conference with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, February 15, 2017. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Trump’s responses had an effect, and in the following days came another wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions. Then on Monday it was discovered that nearly 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis had been vandalized. This is not just a matter of words or threats — these are real, violent attacks.

The struggle against anti-Semitism in America should greatly disturb the Israeli government, which remains silent. Those who gladly attacked U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for every comment made by a member of his party now remain silent in the face of anti-Semitism in the U.S. that clearly has American Jews worried. Israel always viewed itself as the home of the Jewish people that has a special responsibility for Jews in the diaspora — not only in allowing every Jew to acquire Israeli citizenship, but also in providing security for Jewish institutions worldwide. Many Jews around the world view Israel as the heart of the Jewish people, and its prime minister, president, and ministers are viewed as representatives of the Jewish people — not only of Israeli citizens. When it is convenient, the government makes use of its position to raise money and public support from abroad, or as good opportunity for a chance to travel the world. These days, they should be expected to stand alongside Jews in the diaspora.

Yes, the occupation corrupts

Instead of remaining silent as Trump tried to evade criticism, Netanyahu should have taken the opportunity to condemn every instance of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, President Rivlin, who as a former member of Knesset and minister did nothing to promote a one-state solution, should focus his efforts on the Jewish people, which is being threatened once again, rather than making empty remarks about Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank (which he knows will never happen).

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, on February 20, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jerusalem, February 20, 2017. Bennett, along with the rest of the Israeli Right, has remained silent on rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

It is amazing to see how the Israeli Right has abandoned the notion of protecting Jews around the world. Journalists, activists, and a few elected officials on the Israeli Left have decried this wave of anti-Semitism (along with plenty of American political figures, Hillary Clinton among them). Meanwhile the prime minister, president, ministers, and right-wing and centrist members of Knesset remain silent — a shameful silence that paints Israel as hypocritical and ungrateful toward Jews in the diaspora. And this is before we even speak about the Israeli Right’s treatment of Conservative and Reform Jews.

If you have ever wondered just how much the occupation and the settlements have corrupted Israeli society and have held the Right and the political leadership hostage, look no further than the shameful silence of just about every Israeli official vis-a-vis American anti-Semitism. Notice that the absolute majority of figures condemning them come from the Left. This is because the Israeli Right has become a single-issue movement: it is willing to sell out the State of Israel for the entire Land of Israel, not to mention worldwide Jewry in exchange for a vague, unreliable statement by an unstable American president.

Amir Segal lives in Jerusalem and is the CEO of Ovdim. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.