Photo Credit: Flash 90
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yair Lapid.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has faced harsh criticism in recent days following a speech he gave on anti-Semitism which defined an anti-Semite ambiguously as “anyone who hates so much that they want to kill and eliminate.”

Speaking at the 7th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism on Wednesday, Lapid said that “it’s time to tell the right story about the anti-Semites. It’s time to tell the world what we’re standing against. The anti-Semites weren’t only in the Budapest Ghetto. The anti-Semites were also slave traders who threw people bound together with chains into the sea. The anti-Semites were the extremist Hutu in Rwanda who massacred Tutsis. The anti-Semites are Muslim fanatics who have murdered millions of other Muslims in the past century. The anti-Semites are ISIS and Boko Haram. The anti-Semites are people who beat LGBT people to death. The anti-Semites are those who hunt people not because of what they did, but because of who they are. Because of how they were born. ”

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“Anti-Semitism isn’t the first name of hate, it’s the family name. It is anyone who hates so much that they want to kill and eliminate and persecute and expel people just because they are different,” he explained. The last one is a bit ironic considering Lapid’s opinion on the the expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif.

His speech generated a massive uproar in Israel and abroad.

Former Prime Minister, Member of Knesset (MK) Benjamin Netanyahu said that Lapid’s statement “dwarfs the uniqueness of hatred of Jews in history and the magnitude of the tragedy of the Holocaust that destroyed a third of our people.”

“It is a scandalous and irresponsible statement that distorts history and empties the concept of anti-Semitism of any content. If all terrible violence is anti-Semitic then everyone is anti-Semitic and there is no anti-Semitism anyway,” he charged.

“If this is what the Foreign Minister says, how will the State of Israel continue to demand that the countries of the world continue to make a special effort in protecting Jewish communities abroad from anti-Semitic attacks and in a stubborn war of incitement against our people?” he demanded.

“It is not for nothing that most enlightened and educated leaders in the world understand that anti-Semitism is a unique phenomenon that must be specifically condemned in order to fight it,” he said.

“The simple historical truth is that anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews and the new anti-Semitism is hatred of the Jewish state. Yair Lapid should understand this and correct his words immediately,” he concluded.

Writing on the potential long-term damage caused by Lapid’s speech, MK Simcha Rothman noted that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), to which 35 countries have joined to date, and its working definition of anti-Semitism, is now in danger.

“Since the definition was adopted, the State of Israel has invested enormous efforts so that more and more countries will adopt this definition of work. In 2017 it was the EU, in 2019 following heavy pressure the German parliament adopted a resolution in a similar vein and recognized the BDS movement as anti-Semitic and finally a few days ago the Foreign Minister [Lapid] also congratulated Canada on adopting the IHRA job definition.”

“All this so that at the end of one speech, Yair Lapid can take the State of Israel back years and say in a speech to the Global Anti-Semitism Forum that anti-Semites are the Hutu who slaughtered the Tutsi tribe in Rwanda. Israel’s Foreign Service has never been entrusted to such an irresponsible person,” he concluded.

Lapid responded by accusing “spokesmen for the far-right” of attacking his speech and vaguely charged that “not only Israeli society these people are trying to destroy, for political bashing they are willing to help even anti-Semites.”

Historian Dr, Gadi Taub wrote that “after all, the government is post-Zionist. It is therefore not surprising that its postmodern and ignorant foreign minister is concerned with blurring the uniqueness of anti-Semitism.”

Lapid is “a son of a Holocaust survivor, who buys the propaganda of its deniers. Lapid serves the ideology that at the end awaits the delegitimization of nationalism, and therefore also of Zionism,” he underscored.

The Zionist Organization (ZOA) of America issued a scathing critique of Lapid’s thesis, calling it an “irresponsible and even dangerous speech.”

The ZOA’s director of activity in Israel, Dan Illuz, wrote a letter to Lapid accused him of “played into the hands of haters of Israel while also challenged the uniqueness of anti-Semitism.”

“As the Foreign Minister of the State of Israel, you delivered a speech that was completely contrary to the interests of the Jewish people. You harmed our ability to continue fighting anti-Semitism on campuses and at international forums,” he wrote.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett remained silent.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.