After 3 days, PM condemns Charlottesville in vague statement
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After 3 days, PM condemns Charlottesville in vague statement

Netanyahu tweets his outrage over ‘expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism,’ but does not specify where

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara touring Israel's North, August 15, 2017 (Koby Gideon/PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara touring Israel's North, August 15, 2017 (Koby Gideon/PMO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday afternoon vaguely condemned a neo-Nazi rally three days after it took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Outraged by expressions of anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism and racism. Everyone should oppose this hatred,” the prime minister posted on his Twitter account, without specifically referring to the actual incident.

Netanyahu’s delayed and non-specific response to the anti-Semitic events came after US President Donald Trump was criticized for not giving a clear, strong and rapid condemnation of the white supremacist rally and killing.

At the weekend, hundreds of white supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan and other radical nationalists marched through the university town, carrying torches, waving Confederate flags and swastikas and shouting slogans including “Jews will not replace us.”

Netanyahu’s tweet did not explicitly refer to the events in Charlottesville, which culminated in the death of a woman when a suspected white supremacist drove his vehicle into a counter-demonstration. Several others were wounded in the attack.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not reply to a Times of Israel query asking why it took Netanyahu — who toured Israel’s north on Tuesday with his wife Sara — three full days to issue a condemnation, and why it was formulated so vaguely.

On Monday, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer addressed the events in Charlottesville during a speech to the Jewish community of Little Rock, Arkansas. He called the car ramming “an act of terrorism” and said that “the hatefest on display there by neo-Nazis and Klansman was utterly despicable.”

According to the Washington embassy’s Facebook page, Dermer said Netanyahu had asked him to “convey Israel’s outrage over the attack and over the expressions of antisemitism and racism” and to send Israel’s condolences to the victims and their families.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu’s exact words were that these people should crawl back under the rock they came from,” Dermer said.

But in the days and hours before Netanyahu himself made his first public comment about the matter Tuesday afternoon, critics attacked him for his failure to clearly denounce the events.

“I think that it is the duty of any prime minister to speak loudly and forcefully against any hate events. Netanyahu hasn’t done so and thus he has failed this crucial task,” Eytan Gilboa, a senior researcher at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Times of Israel earlier Tuesday.

“I’ve had a hard time explaining to Israelis how neo-Nazis and white supremacists could march in American streets with swastika flags and chanting slogans against Jews, African-Americans, and other minorities, and our President [Donald Trump] was so slow to clearly condemn it,” former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said.

“It would also be hard to explain the Israeli government’s own silence in the face of such outrages,” said Shapiro. “Israeli leaders have an opportunity to speak out against this kind of hate, as they traditionally have, and I assume they will.”

Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the "Unite the Right" rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)
Hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” march down East Market Street toward Lee Park during the “Unite the Right” rally August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

MK Yair Lapid said: “The US-Israel relationship is built on values of democracy, freedom, tolerance and respect. Israeli leaders should never shy away from speaking out forcefully against anti-Semitism wherever it is in the world.”

Trump was harshly criticized by American politicians and pundits from both sides of the aisle for failing to forcefully and speedily condemn Saturday’s neo-Nazi march and the subsequent suspected terror attack that killed one and injured 19 people.

On Monday — two full days after the rally — he finally issued a firm denunciation, adding that those “who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

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