'We are all Jews,' Obama declares as world marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

"Anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot deny it," the president said during a historic address at Israel's embassy honoring the Righteous Among the Nations.

January 28, 2016 00:50
3 minute read.

Obama live at Israel embassy

Obama live at Israel embassy


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US President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned of the growing threat of anti-Semitism, declaring that "any attack on any faith is an attack on all our faiths."

Speaking at the Israeli embassy in Washington to honor non-Jews who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust, the president declared: "We are all indeed Jews."

"Anti-Semitism is on the rise, we cannot deny it," the president said.

"When we see Jews leaving Europe… and attacks on Jewish centers from Mumbai to Kansas; when we see swastikas appear on college campuses, we must not stay silent," Obama said.

"When any Jew anywhere is targeted, we must all respond as if we are all Jewish… we must all do what we can… we have a responsibility, and as president I will make sure the US is leading the fight against anti-Semitism," the president said.

Obama's participation at the event is considered noteworthy particularly due to his historically tense relationship with the Israeli government and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's hand-picked envoy to Washington, Ron Dermer, warmly welcomed the president during his opening remarks.

"This is the first time a sitting president has ever spoken to our embassy," Dermer said, calling the event a "message of friendship."

The prime minister sent a video-taped message that was played during the festivities.

"I thank you for your commitment to continue to work with us to bolster Israel's security," the premier said, addressing Obama.

Obama warned against the rise of religious intolerance in veiled criticism of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during the event.

The ceremony at the Israeli embassy posthumously honored two Americans and two Polish people who protected Jews from the Nazis during World War Two. The event came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

His remarks, the first of a sitting US president at Israel's embassy, were also a sign of lowering tensions between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration. The event was hosted by Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who helped orchestrate Netanyahu's speech last year to Congress about the then-pending Iran nuclear deal.

The speech irked the White House. Dermer, at the ceremony on Wednesday, thanked Obama for the message of friendship he conveyed by attending.

The president is also clearly irked by Trump's rhetoric. The billionaire businessman, the front-runner in the race for the Republican nomination for the Nov. 8 election, has called for the United States to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country as a national security measure.

"An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths," Obama said.

"For Americans, in particular, we should understand that it's an attack on our diversity, on the very idea that people of different backgrounds can live together and thrive together."

Obama added: "Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it."

"Too often, especially in times of change, especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we are too willing to give into a base desire to find someone else - someone different - to blame for our struggles," he said.

Before Obama spoke, "Righteous Among the Nations" awards were presented to the families of Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds, teacher Lois Gunden, and a Polish couple, Walery and Maryla Zbijewski, for risking their lives to save Jews from the Holocaust.

The awards were given by Yad Vashem, an organization to commemorate the Holocaust, on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.

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