A discussion about the rise of antisemitic incidents in the US held at the Knesset on Tuesday became heated after opposition MKs pointed fingers at both the US and Israeli leadership.
Speaking at the meeting hosted by the Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee, MK Dov Henin (Joint List) accused US President Donald Trump of antisemitism.
“The elephant in the room is the president of the United States and the team around him,” Henin said, recalling recent comments made by Trump that bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions in recent weeks could be false flags designed “to make others look bad.”
“I don’t remember a US administration ever speaking in this way. It’s a dangerous phenomenon of right-wing nostalgia for fascism,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is supporting “antisemitic Trump.”
Committee chairman Avraham Neguise (Likud) was quick to denounce and distance himself from Henin’s remarks, saying they do not reflect the committee’s stance. He later released a statement saying that the aim of the meeting had been to discuss the issue with US representatives and to find solutions to eradicate the phenomenon of growing antisemitism in the US.
“Unfortunately, the opposition MKs politically exploited a subject of consensus,” Neguise said, adding that he fears it could have caused diplomatic damage to the best friendship Israel has.
The chairman also indicated that MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) was using the debate to further her own political agenda after she accused Israel of turning a blind eye to the role it plays in the rise of “new antisemitism” – a term used to describe antisemitism disguised as anti-Israel critique.
Pointing to bill passed in the Knesset the night before that will bar people who support the boycott of Israel from entering the country, Zandberg slammed the law as political censorship of those who criticize the settlements, saying that legislation of this kind only provides further ammunition to movements such as BDS. “We should not confuse antisemitism and criticism of the occupation, of which there are many opponents in Israel and the world,” she said.
“The state of Israel was established so that we would be a majority and not a persecuted minority,” she continued, adding that the connection between the inauguration of Trump, “who managed a campaign of xenophobia,” and the situation in the US today should not be ignored. “The political alliance with the US government is leading to a blind eye on the part of the Israeli government,” she stated.
MK Yael Cohen Paran (Zionist Union) defended Zandberg – following Neguise’s accusation that she was taking the discussion in a political direction – saying that looking at Israel’s role is part and parcel of the issue.
“There is a link… there is double the amount of new antisemitism and we also need to look at what is happening here – to say we have no connection to it is just not right, she said, adding that such an approach only diminishes Israel’s ability to deal with the situation. “If we don’t deal with this question, it will come to us from outside,” she said.
Conversely, MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) purported that loud Jewish criticism of the US president contributes to antisemitism. MK Michal Biran (Zionist Union) retorted that “those who do not understand the connection between Trump’s rise and the rise of antisemitism are disconnected from reality.”
“To be a Jew is to fight injustice, social injustice and racism everywhere. I am proud of the Jews in the US, who even in times of crisis fight all of these, even when they are not being targeted,” she added.
Meanwhile, Oded Ben-Hur, senior diplomatic adviser to the Knesset, said religion is at the root of antisemitism.
“The disease is not likely to disappear from our view in the near future,” he said. “We are the victims, and we do not need to lead the fight against antisemitism.”
A key solution is to ensure that heads of states and parliaments pass legislation against antisemitism and, most importantly, that there is education against antisemitism in every country, Ben-Hur said.