panel plea

Jewish leaders call out Qataris and ‘disappointing’ allies at Davos antisemitism panel

The experts urged attendees at the exclusive confab to do more to fight antisemitism

Markus Schreiber/AP

From right to left: Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League; David Rosen, special interfaith adviser of the Abrahamic Family House; Michal Herzog, Israel's first lady; and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff participate in the "Addressing antisemitism" panel discussion during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024.

Speaking to a crowd of foreign officials and corporate executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a group of prominent Jewish leaders called out those at the exclusive Swiss gathering who had not done enough to confront antisemitism after the Oct. 7 terror attacks — and those who had purposely fanned the flames of anti-Jewish hate.

“Why did the violence go up on October the 7th? Because antisemitism is a foreign policy plank of certain governments, i.e. Iran,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said at a Thursday panel about antisemitism. “It’s great the foreign minister of Iran was here, but he needs to be called out. It’s great that the Qataris are here, and they need to be called out for using antisemitism as a tool, as a weapon, because all of us suffer as a result.” 

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff described feeling “unmoored” after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, particularly after he had worked to incorporate Judaism into his and Vice President Kamala Harris’ life in Washington and to “normalize” it, to show Americans “this is what a Jew looks like.”

“As American Jews I think the feeling is one of aloneness and being hated and being unmoored and all of these things. We maybe fooled ourselves into thinking that, ‘This wasn’t so bad, we’re not really experiencing antisemitism, it’s never going to be this horrible.’ It happened,” Emhoff said. “We kind of saw who our friends were and who our friends weren’t, and there were too many in the ‘weren’t’ category.”

He called on Davos attendees to speak out more forcefully against antisemitism.

“We say silence is complicity. You’ve got to speak up and speak out if you’re in a position of leadership, and this is a room full of leaders,” Emhoff said. 

The panel, which also included Israeli First Lady Michal Herzog and Rabbi David Rosen, special advisor to the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi, condemned the global rise in antisemitism that began swiftly on Oct. 7, as Hamas’ attacks were ongoing.

“Antisemitism, as we know, was always there,” said Herzog, who wore a pin with the face of Kfir Bibas, the youngest hostage held by Hamas. He turned 1 year old on Thursday. “The massacre, the attack of Hamas on Israel on October 7, I think unleashed everything. The masks were taken off, and we have to remember that the rallies and the calls and the demonstrations began immediately after October 7, even before Israel started the maneuver in Gaza itself.” 

While bemoaning the lack of allyship many Jews have felt since Oct. 7, the panelists pledged that the only path forward is working with partners from other communities. 

“What’s happened since October the 7th, and with some of the most disappointing either lack of responses on the part of many colleagues — not only Muslim but also from many Christians, from whom we would have expected more — and often just silence, which is disappointing, is very, very sad,” said Rosen, who works closely with other faith leaders around the world. “But that must not lead us to assume that this work is not of enormous significance.”

Emhoff described conversations with many American Jews after Oct. 7 who tell him, “‘I feel alone and hated and I’ve never, ever, ever felt this way and hate feeling this way. How can we not feel this way?’” he recalled. “It’s the coalition building. We cannot do this alone.”

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