Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, completely closed down a line of questioning by a CNN reporter concerning whether President Donald Trump shared some responsibility for the Saturday attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, which left 11 dead.
CNN’s Victor Blackwell pointed to a statistic released by Anti-Defamation League that found during the first year of Trump’s presidency there was a 57 percent increase in acts of harassment, vandalism and violence directed at the Jewish community in the U.S. Blackwell then asked Dermer to what he attributes the surge in anti-Semitic attacks.
“I think you’ve seen an increase in anti-Semitism really now for a couple of decades,” Dermer replied. He offered the example of a 2006 shooting at the Seattle Jewish Federation during the administration of George W. Bush, when six people were shot, one of whom died.
The ambassador then noted that there were attacks on two Jewish centers in Kansas City in 2014 when Barack Obama was president, during which five people were shot at and three died.
“I think that what you’ve seen in the past few years is an explosion of hatred on social media and that has allowed a lot of these people who maybe were alone in their hatred to build these communities online,” Dermer said.
He further highlighted in 2014-2015 over half the hate crimes recorded by the FBI were toward Jews, though they make up approximately 2 percent of the American population.
CNN reported at the time the number of hate crimes against Jews rose 9 percent to 664 incidents from 2014 to 2015. By comparison, the number of hate crimes against Muslims that year was 257.
When asked if he thought the president had any responsibility for Saturday’s attack, Dermer praised Trump’s response to it.
“I have been following anti-Semitism all of my adult life,” the Israeli official said. “I have never heard a stronger statement than the statement the president of the United States made (in Illinois).”
At a campaign rally in Murphysboro, Illinois, on the day of the shooting, Trump said, “This evil anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us. It’s an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from the world.”
The president then recounted that the “Jews have endured terrible persecution” through the centuries, but he promised, “Those seeking their destruction, we will seek their destruction.”
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Dermer added, “One of the reasons why is that anti-Semitism hits the president close to home (because) his daughter, his son-in-law, and his grandchildren are Jewish.”
“I was very glad to see how forcefully he pushed back against the (anti-Semitic shooting),” Dermer said.
In a separate interview on Fox News, the ambassador stated that he was heartened not just by Trump’s words at Saturday’s rally, but by his supporters’ response.
“Not only did I hear that statement, I heard it applauded by all of Trump’s supporters at that rally,” he said.
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