Obama: Only One Generation After Holocaust, Antisemitic and Anti-Israel Rhetoric on the Rise
“Only a generation removed from the Holocaust, it seems that antisemitic rhetoric and anti-Israeli rhetoric is on the rise,” President Barack Obama told The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in an interview published on Thursday.
“You have a Middle East that is turbulent and chaotic, and where terrorists seem to be full of enthusiasm and momentum. You have Europe, where … there is an emergence of a more overt and dangerous antisemitism,” he said, adding, “And that will make people fearful.”
The U.S. president was responding to what Goldberg called the “bifurcation” in American Jewish opinion toward the present, with an outspoken current saying Obama has taken steps in the last several years that have gone against Israeli interests and isolated the Jewish state, including in Washington’s dealings with the Iranian nuclear issue.
The president said, “precisely because I care so much about the Jewish people, I feel obliged to speak honestly and truthfully about what I think will be most likely to lead to long-term security, and will best position us to continue to combat antisemitism.”
Among the issues the U.S. president discussed with Goldberg were prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and of course the apparently impending announcement of a nuclear deal with Iran, to which the president said he had a “personal interest” as well as a “national-security” one.
Obama continued to insist that the Iranian regime’s antisemitism had not completely tainted its policy, saying Tehran’s desire to maintain legitimacy and remove Iran from its economic “rut” were its guiding principles.
“The fact that you are antisemitic, or racist, doesn’t preclude you from being interested in survival,” he said. “So the fact that the supreme leader [of Iran] is antisemitic does not mean that this overrides all of his other considerations.”
He said that precisely because the stakes are so high for Iran as it nears the June 30 deadline to complete an agreement with Western powers over its nuclear ambitions, antisemitism could not be the guiding principle behind the country’s political strategy.
“What we’ve been very clear [about] to the Iranian regime over the past six years is that we will continue to ratchet up the costs, not simply for their anti-Semitism, but also for whatever expansionist ambitions they may have. That’s what the sanctions represent. That’s what the military option I’ve made clear I preserve represents,” he said.