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'When we say Never Again, it means anywhere in the world'

Israel must stand up against anti-Semitism in US, Rivlin says

President thanks Trump for his ‘clear’ stance against recent incidents, says this ‘need to be repeated and reiterated without hesitation’

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

President Rivlin hosts Israeli diplomats stationed in North America, February 28, 2017 (Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Rivlin hosts Israeli diplomats stationed in North America, February 28, 2017 (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Israel must speak up against rising anti-Semitism in America, President Reuven Rivlin said Tuesday, while calling on the US administration to continue denouncing the phenomenon.

“I think the issue of anti-Semitism is an issue that the State of Israel and its representatives must stand unequivocally against, shoulder to shoulder,” Rivlin told the heads of Israeli diplomatic missions to North America in his Jerusalem residence.

“I also want to express my appreciation to President [Donald] Trump for his clear words last week, and for his clear position. These things need to be repeated and reiterated without hesitation,” he added.

Since the beginning of 2017, 90 bomb threats have been called into Jewish community centers, in many cases forcing the total evacuation of the buildings. Dozens of tombstones have also recently been toppled in Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

US President Donald Trump gives a press conference at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Monday, February 21, 2017 (screen capture: Facebook)
US President Donald Trump gives a press conference at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington on Monday, February 21, 2017 (screen capture: Facebook)

For weeks, Trump did not comment directly on the perceived uptick in anti-Semitism. The US president broke his silence last Tuesday, denouncing it as “horrible,” “painful” and a “sad reminder” of evil. On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned over reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.”

Trump “continues to condemn these and any other form of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms. No one in America should feel afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely and openly,” Spicer said.

A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)
A man looks at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery, February 26, 2017, in Philadelphia. AFP/DOMINICK REUTER)

Addressing the US-based senior diplomats, who are currently in Israel for series of meetings, Rivlin spoke at length about the recent anti-Semitic incidents. “The Jewish people, certainly for generations and for generations to come, cannot allow such phenomena to pass unchecked. When we say ‘Never Again,’ it means anywhere in the world,” he said.

The Israeli president acknowledged an “uneasy feeling” by many American Jews, which stems, in part, from political tensions between Jerusalem and Washington. Disagreements exist in any relationship between two governments, he indicated.

However, Rivlin said, America’s staunch support for Israel is based on mutual values and that will remain as governments come and go. “The partnership between the citizens of the United States and the State of Israel is a moral symbol, a beacon carried by the American Jewish community,” he said.

During the discussion at the president’s residence, the diplomats also brought up their challenges dealing with religion and state issues and the concerns of various segments of American society regarding the conflict with the Palestinians.

“We are going through significant changes with everything that relates to our relationship with the US,” said Liora Herzl, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general. The current time was a period of “many opportunities, but also not without its challenges,” she said, according to a statement released by Rivlin’s office.

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