Avigdor Liberman, chairman of the Yisrael Beytenu Party, said on Tuesday that Jews who “want their children and grandchildren to remain Jewish have only one choice: move to Israel as soon as possible.”“A wave of antisemitism is sweeping the world and gaining momentum,” Liberman said in the statement. “Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar in the US Congress expresses support for the BDS movement and writes antisemitic tweets.”
Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, rejected Liberman’s comments, saying that Jewish life in North America is “vibrant” and has “remarkable energy,” and invited Liberman to visit and see for himself.
Liberman’s comments came on Tuesday, almost 48 hours after Jewish and non-Jewish leaders across Israel and the US hastily responded to antisemitic comments by Omar, who tweeted that she believes AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel.
The former defense minister said that Omar’s tweets are not isolated, but rather are part of a rising wave of antisemitic incidents around the world, and point to an increasing rate of assimilation.
“Neo-Nazi demonstrations with hundreds of participants take place in Budapest, Hungary, and the police don’t lift a finger,” he said. “Antisemitic slurs are hurled at Jews on the London Underground and on the Frankfurt high-speed train in Germany. In the heart of Paris, yellow paint was sprayed on a Jewish-owned restaurant and the word ‘Jude’ was written all over it.”
Specifically, he cited a 16% increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK and a 74% increase in France.
“Jews throughout the world and in Europe in particular, must draw conclusions from these antisemitic incidents,” Liberman said.
However, some Diaspora leaders dismissed Liberman’s comments and rejected his opinion that Jewish life outside of Israel was in danger of dying out.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Liberman has not spent extended time visiting and experiencing Jewish life in America. He would observe a remarkable amount of energy,” Silverman said. “I don’t think he would make those statements if he spent time in day schools, in Jewish camps, congregations, Jewish community centers and Hillels. Federations welcome the opportunity to show him a glimpse of North America’s vibrant Jewish life.”
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism for Israel and Reform Zionism, similarly suggested that Liberman’s comments were based on a lack of familiarity with Jewish communities in the US.
“We, in the Reform Movement, have a wide reaching network of congregations, camps, youth experiences, and a youth movement that are proven to have a positive impact on lifelong Jewish identity which also extend to the next generation,” said Weinberg.
“As the largest North American Jewish movement, Israel and Zionism are core to Reform Judaism’s commitment to the unity of the Jewish people, to Aliyah, and to strengthening our ties to Israel so it continues to be a place that we can be proud of and where we feel at home,” he continued, and invited Liberman to “see for himself how authentic Jewish life is also thriving in the Diaspora and to help build ties to the Jewish community that go in both directions.”