Malcolm Hoenlein, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has dismissed as “ridiculous” allegations that US President Donald Trump is an antisemite.
“He’s not,” declared Hoenlein at a meeting on Sunday with members of the editorial staff of The Jerusalem Post.
Hoenlein pointed to the number of Jews on the president’s staff as an indication of Trump’s objectivity where Jews are concerned.
Hoenlein, who came to Israel last week after visiting other countries in the region, called for a world conference on antisemitism for the purpose of mobilizing a global campaign against all forms of racism.
He declined to attribute the wave of antisemitism currently rocking America to the Trump election campaign or certain members of Trump’s cabinet, underscoring this by stating that there are people in the cabinet with long records of being pro-Israel.
Antisemitism in America was on the rise long before Trump announced he was running for president, he said.
Hoenlein also emphasized that Trump was proceeding with his pledge to fight hatred and incitement, just as he promised when on the campaign trail. Moreover, the Palestinian incitement issue was getting more attention than before.
“The Palestinians have too often gotten away with it, and people are now saying that [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas has to be held to account,” Hoenlein said.
As for the proposed world conference on antisemitism, he said he wanted to hear world leaders say that antisemitism was not acceptable.
“If you fight antisemitism successfully, you can fight all forms of racism,” he explained.
One of the purposes of the conference would be to formulate a universal definition of antisemitism so that people will be held accountable when Jews come under attack.
The antisemitism of today cannot be treated as something we can live with, said Hoenlein, insisting that there be zero tolerance for it on university campuses, in the entertainment industry and elsewhere.
“It must be treated like all other forms of racism and bigotry,” he said, adding: “I want people in America to act before it becomes like Europe.”
Hoenlein also touched on changes in attitudes in the Middle East, saying Israel is widely seen as the region’s great hope against a common enemy, Iran. He also mentioned US-Israel relations, the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, transformations in organized American Jewry and the future of Jonathan Pollard.
On the subject of US-Israel relations, Hoenlein thought Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting in Washington with Trump on February 15 conveyed an important message to the region about a “reset” in the relationship.
However, he cautioned Netanyahu to reach out to Democrats to ensure that the bi-partisan support of America for Israel remains intact.
“We can’t afford a split,” he said.
He also opined that “the United Nations has to be more honest and less biased if the organization is to be effective.”
As for organized American Jewry, he explained that prior to World War II the community had outstanding individual Jews as its leaders, whereas after the war, the leadership became more institutional and “collectivized” leadership.
The President’s Conference, he said, began with six organizations and now includes 56.