Obama: In Face of Rising Antisemitism, ‘We Are All Jews’
President Barack Obama honored International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday by declaring, “We are all Jews.”
Addressing the Righteous Among Nations Awards Ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, the President said, “We are all Jews, because anti-Semitism is a distillation, an expression of an evil that runs through so much of human history, and if we do not answer that, we do not answer any other form of evil.”
The event, honoring four individuals who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis seven decades ago, was the first time a sitting U.S. president has spoken at the Israeli Embassy, and just months after the vigorous debate over the Iran nuclear deal that pitted the Israeli government and the U.S. Administration against one another.
President Obama was introduced by Steven Speilberg, who said, “This president has a Jewish Soul,” and preceded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, via video, and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer.
In his remarks, Obama reflected on the visit he made to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 2009 with Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, after visiting Cairo and Turkey while skipping Israel.
“Even as the Holocaust is unique, a crime without parallel in history, the seeds of hate that gave rise to the Shoah — the ignorance that conspires with arrogance, the indifference that betrays compassion — those seeds have always been with us,” Obama said. “They have found root across cultures, and across faiths, and across generations. 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 to blame for our struggles.”
Addressing the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, the President stressed, “When we see some Jews leaving major European cities because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses — when we see all that and more, we must not be silent. An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths. 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. Which is why we are all Jews.”
“When any Jew anywhere is targeted just for being Jewish, we all have to respond as Roddie Edmonds (Sergeant Edmonds, the highest-ranking American noncommissioned officer at the Ziegenhein stalag prison in January of 1945) did — ‘We are all Jews,'” Obama stated. “All nations that prize diversity and tolerance and pluralism must speak out whenever and wherever Jews and other religious minorities are attacked.”
The President also reiterated his strong defense of Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks against her citizens and a commitment to Israel’s security. “When voices around the world veer from criticism of a particular Israeli policy to an unjust denial of Israel’s right to exist, when Israel faces terrorism, we stand up forcefully and proudly in defense of our ally, in defense of our friend, in defense of the Jewish State of Israel,” said Obama. “America’s commitment to Israel’s security remains, now and forever, unshakeable.”
The event was co-sponsored by the American Society for Yad Vashem, Yad Vashem and the Israeli Embassy.