Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday declared an unspecified US congresswoman an anti-Semite, in what appeared to be a response to a recent tweet by freshman Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota suggesting that Jewish money was behind American elected officials’ support for Israel.
“There is a growing legitimacy to openly express anti-Semitism,” he told American Jewish leaders at a summit of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem. “This congresswoman is an anti-Semite, loud and clear.
“The single factor which can influence anti-Semitism, the increasing anti-Semitism, is the strength of the State of Israel,” Bennett continued. “The stronger Israel is, the more protected every Jew in the world is, regardless of their specific relationship with Israel.”
Omar, in her first term in the Congress, wrote last Sunday on Twitter that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee pays lawmakers to be pro-Israel, tweeting that congressional support is “all about the Benjamins” — a slang reference to $100 bills.
After Republicans and Democrats, including the Democratic leadership in the US House of Representatives, accused her of trafficking in stereotypes about Jews and money, she said she “unequivocally” apologized after speaking with “Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
But she fired back at US President Donald Trump when he called for her to resign over the incident, saying the US leader has “trafficked in hate” his whole life.
Some Republicans and pro-Israel groups also have called for Omar to be stripped of her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and other assignments
Bennett, who leads the New Right party, also commented on relations with Poland which have been thrown into turmoil over the role of Polish people in the Holocaust. Poland has sought to highlight that it was Nazi invaders who carried out the Holocaust on its territory, rather than the Polish people.
“I think that Poland today is, and will be, a friend of Israel,” Bennett said. “It is impossible to build a common future on the basis of erasing history.”
“Our history with the Polish people is long, and full of highs and lows,” he continued.
“But the reality is sadly that in the Holocaust, many Polish people played an active part in anti-Semitism, and yes, also murdered Jews. There were many other Poles who went out of their way to save Jews. They are the ‘Righteous Among the Nations.’
“The reality is that on the one hand independent Poland was the victim of Nazi Germany, under a brutal and harsh occupation, but there were many Poles who were involved in the anti-Semitism.”
Ties between Israel and Poland took a double blow in recent days following remarks by acting Foreign Minister Israel Katz and confusion over a comment from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Poland on Monday canceled its participation in a conference in Israel this week, as well as summoning Israel’s ambassador to Warsaw for a reprimand, after Katz, who is also transportation minister, said that the Poles “suckle anti-Semitism with their mother’s milk.”
Katz, the son of Holocaust survivors, doubled down on his remarks Monday telling Israel Radio that “the Poles took part in the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. Poland became the biggest cemetery of the Jewish people.”