Foxman scolds Israeli envoys for wading into debate over Trump and Pittsburgh

Former ADL chief says officials from Jerusalem should limit their activity to standing with the Jewish community in its time of need

Abraham Foxman (Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)
Abraham Foxman (Miriam Alster/Flash90/File)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Abraham Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League who is known for his closeness to the Israeli establishment, has a message for Israeli officials defending US President Donald Trump in the wake of the worst-ever attack on US Jews: Butt out.

“I think Israeli officials and Israeli representatives should come and stand in solidarity with the American Jewish community in a time of pain and anguish and tragedy,” Foxman told Jewish Insider in its Thursday edition.

“I don’t think they should come to the United States and stand in solidarity with the President of the United States, especially during an election period. I can thank Trump on one hand for the good things that he’s done, but that does not take away from me the right to be able to criticize him on issues of value and that I feel are part of our tradition.”

Earlier, in interviews with Israeli media, Foxman said that Trump was not aware of how his rhetoric, often derisive of his opponents and of some minorities, influences extremists, but that he nonetheless bore some of the responsibility for the actions of extremists.

“He is part of the problem, because of his rhetoric, his focusing on issues — it’s the unforeseen consequences of his ideology, of his political philosophy,” Foxman told Times of Israel. “He is a demagogue.”

In retirement, Foxman spends a good portion of his time in Israel. While heading the ADL, he was known as one of the American Jewish leaders most comfortable representing the US Jewish community to successive Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s. He also consistently urged American Jewish organizations to defer to the judgment of the democratically elected government of Israel on security matters there.

A number of Israeli officials have praised Trump’s response to the killing of 11 worshippers at The Tree of Life synagogue complex on Saturday, allegedly by a man who shared Trump’s expressed fear that Central American migrants planned to “invade” the United States.

Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett speaks to the media near the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Sunday, October 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Naftali Bennett, the minister for the Diaspora, has appeared on American media arguing that tarring Trump with helping to spur anti-Semitic acts was unfair because he was the most pro-Israel US president in memory, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Israel’s US ambassador, Ron Dermer, in an MSNBC interview cast anti-Israel activity on campuses as a threat on par with white supremacists and said he was pleased with Trump’s response.

Trump at an Illinois rally called the attack “an assault on all of us” and said of those seeking the destruction of the Jews, “we will seek their destruction.”

Trump also has continued with campaign rallies and used his popular Twitter feed to continue his lacerating attacks on opponents and — within hours of the attacks — to comment on baseball.

Trump visited Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life on Tuesday. Dermer, in video of Trump’s arrival, appears to take the lead in greeting him, which is highly unusual for a diplomat at a US domestic event.

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