Opposition leader Isaac Herzog on Monday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to establish an “emergency national program” to prepare for a “waves” of Jewish immigration, amid a series of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and France.
“I wish to express my shock and vociferous condemnation of the outbreak of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, France and other places around the world,” Herzog told his weekly Zionist Union faction meeting.
“I call on the government to urgently prepare and establish and emergency national program for the possibility that we will see waves of our Jewish brothers immigrating to Israel,” Herzog said.
The opposition leader spoke a day after dozens of headstones were found toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, a week after a similar incident last week in which over 150 graves were damaged at a Jewish graveyard near St. Louis, and shortly before the latest in a series of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the US.
“I am sure that the US government will do all it can to put an end to this phenomenon with all its might,” he added.
Over the past two months, US Jewish community centers have been hit with a wave of bomb threats, prompting concerns among American Jews about what is perceived as an uptick in anti-Semitism in the United States. Those fears were also compounded by a barrage of online anti-Semitism directed against Jewish reporters during the US election.
While US Jewish leaders have sounded the alarm on the trend, there is insufficient up-to-date data to corroborate whether there is a rise in anti-Semitism in the United States since the US election. There were also few indications the sporadic attacks would spur a mass exodus of US Jews to Israel.
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) February 27, 2017
Netanyahu has downplayed the concerns of increased anti-Semitism, and particularly of claims that US President Donald Trump was fueling the wave of anti-Jewish hate. In a joint press conference in Washington alongside Trump on February 15, Netanyahu responded to a question about anti-Semitism by saying “there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than Donald Trump.
“I think we should put that to rest,” he added.
Last week, Netanyahu praised Trump for condemning a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the US, saying that “it is very important that President Trump took a strong stand against anti-Semitism.”
Trump denounced anti-Semitism as “horrible,” “painful” and a “sad reminder” of evil last Tuesday, after the US president faced mounting criticism from US Jewish groups for failing to explicitly condemn the trend.
Speaking during a visit to the National Museum of African American History in Washington on Tuesday, Trump said, “We have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” before adding that “the anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Trump earlier told MSNBC that “anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s going to stop and it has to stop.” Asked if he denounced displays of anti-Semitism, the president said: “Oh of course, and I do it wherever I get a chance.”
Trump’s statements came a few days after he drew the ire of much of the American Jewish community for declining to denounce anti-Semitism when asked twice about it in two consecutive press conferences.
In one memorable instance, the president shouted down an ultra-Orthodox Jewish reporter, calling his question “unfair” and telling him to be “quiet.”
“It’s not a simple question, not a fair question,” he said. “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life.” The reporter, Ami Magazine’s Jake Turx, had not insinuated the US president was anti-Semitic in his question. He later defended the US president’s response.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.