American Jewish leader: President Herzog will be a unifier

Malcolm Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents VP, talks about the role of Israel's new president and the battle against anti-Semitism

Yoni Kempinski , | updated: 7:29 PM

Malcolm Hoenlein
Malcolm Hoenlein
Arutz Sheva

The president of Israel is in a unique position to be someone free of political constraints who can reach out “in an unfettered way.”

Speaking to Arutz Sheva from a special ceremony for the inauguration of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said that he’s known Herzog for many years. He also knew and worked with his father, former President Chaim Herzog, when he was the UN Ambassador.

“There’s a long history,” he said. “He comes from great lineage, and he continues that tradition of service to both the State of Israel and Am Yisrael.”

He called the role of the president as being one of a unifier. “The fundamental role as a unifier, as somebody who goes above the political fray can serve as a focal point, as a symbol for the state and for the people, and to reach out to Jewish communities and the world.”

He added, “I think President Rivlin did that often and I think Mr. Herzog will do that as well.”

Remarking that Israel has a critical role to play in the fight against the growth of anti-Semitism worldwide, he noted that there is increasing recognition by the Israeli government and all political parties that this is a dangerous trend.

He noted that the number of American Jews experiencing anti-Semitism is increasing every day. Half say they have experienced an anti-Semitic incident. The NYPD recently released an alarming statistic: 69 percent of hate crimes in New York are against Jews. The FBI said last week that Jewish people are the most common target of hate crimes in America.

“The statistics are overwhelming and the vast majority of incidents aren’t even reported. We are seeing it every day in many ways manifested in circles of influence like academia, entertainment, politics, education, and we have to root it out.”

What is the best way to fight the surge in Jew hatred?

“Physical security is an important part” but “there is a much larger issue…Jew hatred has to be called out,” he said.

“It has to be non-Jews who call it out. We’re the victims, not the perpetrators. For us to protest anti-Semitism is not the key. It is to get those who are in positions of influence… enlisted to speak out against it in very strong and powerful ways.”

Hoenlein called anti-Semitism “unique in the numbers and unique in the ways it is being expressed.”

“They want to deny Jews the right they accord all other people. So the Jewish State becomes the collective Jew. Instead of saying ‘I hate that Jew’ which they may not be allowed to do or be criticized for it, they say ‘I hate the Jewish State,’ – the collective Jew. Many people who didn’t want to hear this message before are hearing it now and realizing it’s true, that Israel is just a substitute for attacking… they mean all of us.”

Many seniors leaders in the Democratic Party he has talked to are “deeply concerned” about extreme anti-Israel and and-Semitic statements made by certain members of the party. However, he noted that Congress still “overwhelmingly” supports Israel.

“What we have to do is to enlist the people of good will, which is the majority of people, and demand of the leadership of the Democratic Party, and we have been meeting regularly with them and we find they were receptive,” he said.

But it means when somebody in Congress makes statements that are abhorrent, attacking the Jewish people or Israel in ways that are not acceptable, they have to pay a price for it, and if it’s excused then anybody reads that as a message.”

For Hoenlein, it’s not an issue of partisan politics but of seeing to it “that everybody is held to account.”

Years ago, he began warning that the “model of Europe” was coming to America – a model where “we see the loss of the political center.” In this model, politics fractures into hyper-partisan extremes on the left and the right.

“We are seeing that now. The anti-Semitism comes from the extreme left and the extreme right,” he said. “We have to assure that the next generation is going to be secure, and that means what we do today will determine that.”



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