Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli criticized Thursday an anonymous source from the Biden administration that spoke negatively about him.
While many would assume he was talking about US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism Deborah Lipstadt, he later told The Jerusalem Post that he actually meant to criticize a “clerk” that works with the special envoy, without mentioning who it is.
Asked about the claims of the White House official during an interview with KAN radio, Chikli hinted in a very obvious way that the anonymous official was actually Lipstadt, who was in Israel this week. “She is a nice lady that I met who deals with antisemitism,” he said, without mentioning Lipstadt’s name.
He added that “her opinions are different from mine, she is ultimately a left-wing woman.” The minister continued by saying that “she didn't like that I attacked George Soros and she didn't like it that I attacked J Street.”
Chikli said, “this is a clerk; a very marginal event,” meaning, not an important official. “She said I didn't meet any community; I don't even know how to count the number of communities and Jewish Federations I visited.”
A month ago, Chikli tweeted that "the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli citizens see Elon Musk as an amazing entrepreneur and a role model."
Asked by the Post on Thursday if he intended to criticize Lipstadt, the minister immediately answered “I wasn’t speaking of her, but of a clerk who works with her, who uses his position to speak in the most disgusting way to tell lies on behalf of the government. I was not attacking Lipstadt. I respect her.
"I appreciate her, I don't believe she would have briefed on behalf of the Biden administration against the Israeli government, she wouldn’t stoop to that level. Nobody will come between the US and Israel.” He added, “I met with so many Jewish organizations; we invested NIS 750,000 in the parade and will invest $40 million in Jewish education. We care and I care about diaspora Jewry and diaspora Jews.”
A JTA report quoted an anonymous source in the White House that criticized Chikli: “The fact that a senior Israeli official came to the United States and did not have a single public meeting with the American Jewish community, and the fact [that] his only public interaction is to flip someone off or ask them to smile is telling,” said a White House official, who, according to the report, “deals extensively with Israeli dignitaries.”
This claim is factually not true: Chikli has been in the US a number of times in the past few months and has met with many heads of Jewish organizations, heads of Jewish Federations as well as Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis. He has probably been the most active Diaspora Affairs Minister in recent years in regard to the many visits and meetings around the world.
Chikli's controversy during Celebrate Israel Parade
During the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York, Chikli told the anti-judicial reform protesters to smile and to some it seemed as if he was making an obscene gesture. The photo became viral and many left-wing organizations have been using it and sharing it ever since. Even Coalition Chairman MK Yair Lapid shared it and criticized Chikli on social media. Many who were in the area of Chikli during the parade have said that he didn’t make any sort of gesture towards the demonstrators.
According to JTA, the Biden administration official was especially incensed by Chikli’s defense of the incident in an appearance on Monday night on Israeli TV, when Chikli called his critics’ tweets about the photograph “fake news.”
“Blaming the photographer shows how much he does not understand the American Jewish Diaspora,” the official said. “His comments have ramifications. The Biden administration is watching.”
Chikli asked the hosts to return to speaking about the photo of him that has become a viral image promoting the protests against the government. He said that there were people near him such as the director-general of the Heritage Ministry, as well as “people from the Jewish Agency who contacted Yesh Atid and told them to take down this post, since it is a fake.”
Seventy-six-year-old Lipstadt is an esteemed American historian and diplomat, who has made significant contributions to the field of Holocaust studies through her influential books and academic role at Emory University. Lipstadt served as a consultant to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and was appointed by president Bill Clinton to the US Holocaust Memorial Council. Lipstadt's achievements were acknowledged by Time magazine, which named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2023.