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American Jewish leader: Danger of anti-Semitic ‘spillover’ in US criticism of Israel

In a Jerusalem meeting with Times of Israel staff, Conference of Presidents CEO Malcolm Hoenlein presses for prophylactic plan for massive aliyah

Amanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel's Jewish World and Archaeology editor.

Malcolm Hoenlein (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)
Malcolm Hoenlein (Yossi Zamir/Flash 90)

In a meeting with The Times of Israel staff Wednesday, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Executive Vice Chairman/CEO Malcolm Hoenlein sounded the alarm against rising anti-Semitism worldwide, including in the United States.

While it’s still not the popular, political anti-Semitism felt by Jews in Europe, there is a “danger of spillover,” said Hoenlein, as American criticism of Israel merges with anti-Semitic tropes, especially on campus.

There is “top-down anti-Semitism” in the US, said Hoenlein, and, much like in the United Kingdom, it is “the poison of the elite that trickles down into society.”

Hoenlein said almost every week there are anti-Semitic attacks on American college campuses. The Conference of Presidents, which accepted Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi into its ranks as a full member in 2014, has created a program offering legal advice to the dozens, if not hundreds, of Jewish students experiencing anti-Semitism on campus.

From February 15 to 19, the Conference of Presidents leadership mission to Israel will participate in a series of high-level briefings and meetings with Israeli politicians. The Conference leadership, which represents 50 American Jewish organizations, will stop in Vienna and Bratislava ahead of the Israel leg of the mission.

In Vienna the leaders will meet with international organizations IAEA, OSCE and OECD, and local government and Jewish leadership, both to learn from the European experts and to share their own knowledge.

Surging European anti-Semitism and radical Islam will be on the agenda in the European and Israeli meetings.

“Distance sometimes gives clarity,” said Hoenlein, who added that soon, “nobody will be immune to this.”

Hoenlein strongly suggested the Israeli government prepare “prophylactic” plans for dealing with tens of thousands of Jewish refugees from countries including Ukraine, Turkey, Iran and Argentina.

“We need to make Israel attractive and facilitate the ability to make aliyah,” he said.

He cautioned against hyping the level of anti-Semitism, however, which could create a self-fulfilling prophecy. But “we must see the reality” of the rapidly growing jihadist influence in Europe.

Citing the 2012 murders of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish day school in Toulouse, he asked, “What changed? What has the [French] government done differently?”

“Aliyah is not just a refuge,” said Hoenlein, who believes Jews should have the option of immigration to Israel regardless of their security status, “but Israel is a refuge.”

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