Jewish leaders converged on the State Department to discuss rising anti-Semitism across the globe, which is of “deep concern” to the Obama administration, US officials said this week.
Meeting with the group for four hours on Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry shared in worries over “the prevalence and pervasiveness of anti-Semitic threats and attacks,” the State Department said.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman led the discussions, attended only briefly by the secretary. Several other senior State Department officials participated the meeting.
Jewish representatives included leaders from the Jewish Federations of North America, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, B’nai B’rith, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and European Jewish communities.
While generally satisfied with efforts by the State Department to mobilize against the rising movement, several figures in attendance told The Jerusalem Post that Kerry’s presence was merely a “photo op.”
“The secretary came in only for a photo op in order to show his support for Ira Forman and the endeavor, and to show that this is a serious issue for the US State Department,” a source familiar with the matter said.
US officials say the department is “monitoring reported incidents, reaching out to Jewish leaders to better assess conditions on the ground and working closely through diplomatic channels to encourage governments to speak out against the rise in anti-Semitic threats and violence,” in light of a spike in anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence throughout the summer.
Anti-Israelism took on anti-Semitic characteristics in protests throughout Europe during the conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Jews were identified and targeted, their kosher foods boycotted and their synagogues pilloried, and occasionally firebombed.
US officials say they are collecting information on incidents taking place “worldwide.”
After taking photos with the Jewish representatives, Kerry made several off the cuff comments regarding the recent rise in European anti-Semitism, Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
“He talked about working with the Europeans” on combating anti-Semitism, as well as calling for negotiations as a way of ensure the continuation of the cease-fire with Hamas, the source said.
The secretary was critical of Israel, he stated, recalling that Kerry said the calm that has taken hold since the most recent flare-up between Israel and the terrorist group “can’t last if you don’t move ahead to solidify the situation through negotiations.”
Kerry brought up the issue of Jerusalem’s announcement that it was declaring 400 hectares of land in the Etzion settlement bloc near Jerusalem as state land, he added.
On Iran, the secretary was firm in stating that negotiations over that country’s nuclear program would not be extended past it’s November 24 deadline.
“I think he wanted us to communicate the message to Israel,” the source stated. “I think the message was quite serious: That he is frustrated about what is happening. They [the administration] feel they invested a lot in it [peace negotiations].”
Anti-Defamation League chief Abe Foxman disagreed about Kerry’s tone, saying that rather than being critical, the secretary indicated that he “continues to be optimistic and to offer his services,” and that he still believes that there could be a breakthrough in the peace process.
“He said no cease-fire is sustainable forever without some sort of agreement.
That is as true as it has always been. I don’t think he was critical of Israel,” Foxman said, explaining that Kerry seemed to believe that now is “another opportunity for Israel to take some courageous risks towards peace.”
The fact that Kerry took time from his “putting out fires globally” to attend the meeting alongside three separate undersecretaries was significant, he averred.
There was a consensus during the meeting that anti-Semitism today is a more serious issue than it has been in a long time, Foxman concluded.
Kerry indicated that there needs to be a “strategy of coming together not only here, but with European governments and Jewish communities [there] to deal with [the issue of anti-Semitism] on a high level,” he said.