When Jewish holy sites in Europe or South America are desecrated, the U.S. government’s special envoy for combating Anti-Semitism issues angry denunciations, calls urgent meetings, and sometimes even flies to the country in question to meet with the authorities.
But for some reason, he does not seem to exhibit the same sense of urgency in his response to Palestinian desecrations of Jewish holy sites.
The envoy is Ira N. Forman, formerly executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and Jewish Outreach Director for President Obama’s reelection campaign.
I admire Ambassador Forman’s energy in challenging attacks on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues in Hungary and Argentina. I just wish he would show the same level of interest when Palestinians are involved.
Last week, arsonists – police suspect Palestinian terrorists – set fire to the Tomb of Avshalom and the Tomb of Yehoshafat. They are located at the Mount of Olives, in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The attack caused extensive damage. I have not heard any response from Forman to these latest outrages.
Throughout this past year there have been numerous Palestinian attacks on Jewish holy sites.
They have thrown bombs at the Tomb of Rachel, near PA-controlled Bethlehem.
They have assaulted Jews who were on their way to recite prayers at the tombs of Itamar and Elazar, in the PA town of Awarta.
They have tore down the mezuzah from the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron.
They have thrown rocks and firebombs at Jews trying to pray at the Tomb of Joseph, in PA-controlled Nablus (Shechem).
They have thrown rocks from the Temple Mount at Jews visiting the Western Wall below.
Does anybody remember the elderly Jewish woman who was struck in the head by one of those rocks, on June 28? Or has she already been forgotten?
David Weinberg, writing in the Jerusalem Post in 2011, reported that the PA “has allowed villagers to encroach upon the important synagogue remains in Eshtemoa in the southern Mount Hebron area” and is permitting Palestinian real estate developers “to build practically atop” the ancient Naaran synagogue, in PA-controlled Tulul Abu el Alayiq.
That evokes painful memories of the Jordanians bulldozing hundreds of ancient Jewish graves on the Mount of Olives between 1949 and 1967 and building roads on top of them.
Ambassador Forman’s report on anti-Semitism around the world each year is included in the State Department’s annual country-by-country report on “International Religious Freedom.” The most recent report contains some scattered references to Palestinian attacks on Jewish worshippers or religious sites. But they tend to be couched in ambiguous or rationalizing language.
For example, the Palestinian attackers are characterized as “protesters” and “Muslim worshippers,” and their assaults are described as “clashes.” When Forman writes about Palestinians attacking Jews at the Tomb of Joseph, he says they “reportedly” threw rocks, seemingly going out of his way to inject an element of doubt.
Forman’s report also includes this incredible passage: “Palestinian youths reportedly committed arson and vandalism against the Mount of Olives cemetery, the Pitchei Olam Synagogue, and Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank. Because religion and ethnicity are often closely linked, it was difficult to categorize many incidents as being solely based on religious identity.”
What differences does it make if the Palestinian attacks are motivated partly by “ethnicity” and partly by “religious identity”? Does Forman really think the attackers sit around, discussing the fine points of such distinctions? Why won’t the ambassador simply acknowledge that Palestinians who attack Jewish worshippers and Jewish religious sites hate Jews?
Equally troubling is Forman’s failure to acknowledge the connection between these attacks and the Palestinian Authority’s constant incitement to hatred and violence against Jews. It’s as if the Palestinians who burn down Jewish holy sites or stone Jewish worshippers are operating in some kind of a vacuum, insulated from the rest of Palestinian society. But they’re not. They’re surrounded, every day, by the incitement to anti-Semitism that saturates the official PA newspapers, television, radio, and schools.
I don’t want to speculate as to the motives behind Forman’s reluctance to confront Palestinian anti-Semitism. I simply want to plead with him: in your final few months in office, Mr. Ambassador, you will compile one last report on anti-Semitism around the world (covering the year 2016). Please: tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Palestinian anti-Semitism.Stephen M. Flatow