Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised US President Donald 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’s condemnation of denunciation of anti-Semitism as “horrible,” “painful” and a “sad reminder” of evil on Tuesday came after the US president faced mounting criticism from US Jewish groups for failing to explicitly denounce anti-Semitism.
The US president’s comments came a day after bomb threats were issued against Jewish community centers across the United States for the fourth time in just over a month, and after gravestones were toppled at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
Speaking at an event for the Jewish community Wednesday at the Great Synagogue in Sydney, where he is on a state visit, Netanyahu described anti-Semitism as a growing trend that needs to be combated.
“We have a battle against those who seek to demonize our people and against the resurgent anti-Semitism we see in many parts of the world,” he said, adding that “it is something that we need to fight together.”
The prime minister said that in addition to Trump taking “a strong stand against anti-Semitism… it is important that we all continue to do so in the years ahead,” adding that it is “important in Europe, it is important in America.”
During a joint press conference with Trump last week at the White House, Netanyahu brushed off a question about surging anti-Jewish sentiment in the US since the November 8 election.
Even though the question was addressed to Trump, Netanyahu stepped in to say that “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.
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.”
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) February 21, 2017
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.”
Although Trump’s statements appeared to be aimed at appeasing the numerous American Jewish groups who have been critical of his administration for seeming to play down anti-Semitism, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect Steven Goldstein said the president’s statement was “a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism.”
Trump’s “sudden acknowledgement is a band-aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration,” he added.
In response to the Anne Frank Center, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “It’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this that it’s never good enough.”