Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out Tuesday against what he described as a rising trend of anti-Semitism around the world, calling for an international effort to combat the phenomenon.
Addressing delegates in Jerusalem for the Foreign Ministry’s fourth annual anti-Semitism conference, Netanyahu launched a scathing critique of Israel critics whom, he asserted, were promoting an anti-Semitic agenda.
“What was unfashionable is now becoming fashionable again,” the prime minster said in the video address.
“What is fashionable today is to say: ‘Well, I don’t hate Jews – I just don’t think they should have a state’ or, effectively, that their state is an illegitimate one that doesn’t have a right to exist,” said Netanyahu, asserting that to deny the Jewish people’s right to a state was anti-Semitic.
He went on to list major arguments made by critics of Israel, namely that Israel was guilty of war crimes, was unwilling to make concessions for peace, and was violating human rights.
After issuing a separate rebuttal of each of the anti-Israel arguments, the prime minister claimed that such allegations were based on false information and represented a growing anti-Semitic trend.
“These three vilifications… are part and parcel of the anti-Semitic campaign that is leveled against the Jewish people and their state,” he said.
Netanyahu concluded with an appeal to the delegates, urging them to “fight and win the battle” for an honest representation of Israel.
“You have a lot of tasks ahead of you,” he said. “There is only one remedy for this slander and that is the truth.”
More than 500 delegates, from over 50 countries and representing six religions, gathered Tuesday in Jerusalem, with the declared goal to “develop a specific and proactive plan of response” to increasing anti-Semitism, according to organizers. The event was organized by the Foreign Ministry and the newly created Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, led by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett.
Anti-Jewish sentiment — and violence — is on the rise globally, according to the 2012 International Religious Freedom Report published by the US government. “Even well into the 21st century, traditional forms of anti-Semitism, such as conspiracy theories, use of the discredited myth of ‘blood libel,’ and cartoons demonizing Jews, continued to flourish,” the report states.
“The time for simply monitoring and discussing the growth of anti-Semitism is over,” said Gideon Behar, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s department for Holocaust remembrance and combating Jew hatred, who chairs this week’s conference. “Now we need to come together to determine what actions need to be taken to counter this alarming trend and to move quickly forward with their execution.”
Anti-Semitism in Arab countries will be a special focus of the program, organizers said, adding that a “sizable representation is expected from the Muslim world.”
Ten working groups will attempt to “develop a work plan to combat anti-Semitism including anti-Semitism on the Internet and in Social Media; in the Muslim and Arab world and on university campuses,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.