Just one week after President Joe Biden announced the creation of a task force to fight antisemitism, his State Department is criticizing Israel for deporting a violent antisemite.
The name of the antisemite is Salah Hamouri. He happens to be a Palestinian Arab. Hamouri pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiring to murder the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ovadia Yosef. Hamouri admitted that he purchased weapons to be used in the murder and conducted surveillance of the chief rabbi’s home in Jerusalem.
Now imagine if a white supremacist pleaded guilty to conspiring to murder the most famous rabbi in America. And imagine that he was not merely thinking about murdering the rabbi, but actually bought the guns and drove around the rabbi’s house.
Surely, we can all agree that someone who conspires to murder a prominent rabbi—whether the would-be murderer is an American or a Palestinian Arab—is an antisemite. We’re not talking about somebody who had a personal or professional dispute that led him to want to murder the rabbi. We’re talking about somebody who wanted to murder the rabbi because he was a rabbi.
After being released by Israel in a prisoner exchange in 2011, Hamouri completed a law degree and went to work for a fake “human rights” group in Jerusalem called Addameer, which defends Palestinian Arab terrorists. Earlier this year, the left-of-center Israeli government headed by Yair Lapid outlawed Addameer after discovering that the group is a front for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
For anyone who has forgotten, the PFLP was a pioneer of the infamous airline hijackings of the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, its bloody record included the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister and the infamous massacre of five rabbis—including American citizens—in Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood.
Following Hamouri’s release, he in effect justified the idea of murdering the chief rabbi. On the PFLP’s official website, he declared that the chief rabbi was “a symbol of racism and fanaticism.” Talk about the pot calling the kettle black… Just in case anybody didn’t get the point, Hamouri’s statement was accompanied by a photograph of him waving the official PFLP flag, which features a map of all of Israel as “Palestine.”
Last week, Israel deported Salah Hamouri to France, since he holds French citizenship. It’s not hard to understand why Prime Minister Lapid would want to remove a violent antisemite from Israel’s capital. The question is, why is the Biden administration criticizing Lapid for doing so?
At a Dec. 19 press conference, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked about the deportation of Hamouri. There were a number of ways Price could have answered the question. For example, he could have said, “Last week, President Biden announced the creation of a task force to combat antisemitism. Conspiring to murder the chief rabbi of Israel clearly fits any definition of antisemitism. So, we see the Israeli deportation of a violent antisemite as part of the fight against antisemitism.”
Or Price could have focused on the terrorism aspect, along these lines: “The United States and Israel are partners in the war on terror. We see the Israeli deportation of an admitted terrorist as part of the fight against terrorism.”
Or Price could have just focused on the Jerusalem aspect, such as, “We can understand why Israel does not want violent bigots in its capital. We don’t want violent bigots in our capital either.”
Instead, Price replied: “We have concerns about the practice of deportation and revocation of residency, and the potential threat of such policies on the demographic character of Jerusalem.”
In other words, President Biden’s State Department believes that for the sake of the “demographic character” of Jerusalem, Israel should permit a violent antisemite to reside there.
Keep in mind that statements such as Price’s are not made off the cuff. Before he steps to the podium, the State Department spokesman and his colleagues carefully plan what he is going to say about the various issues that are likely to be brought up by reporters in the room.
What State Department officials are hoping, in a case like this, is that the journalists on hand are so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause that they will not ask the State Department spokesman any uncomfortable follow-up questions. They could have asked Price if he regards the planned murder of a chief rabbi as an act of antisemitism. They could have asked Price how his objection to the deportation of an antisemite is consistent with the president’s creation of a task force to combat antisemitism. But they didn’t.
All of this creates a potentially embarrassing dilemma for Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, who was recently appointed as the State Department’s Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
To be clear, the State Department never wanted to have a position called “Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.” It fought tooth and nail against creating such a post. But Congress forced them to do it, and now they have to deal with Lipstadt.
Lipstadt has promised to speak out against all antisemitism, no matter what its source. She has vowed to be nonpartisan, and to denounce all antisemites, regardless of whether they are affiliated with causes or regimes that the Biden administration befriends. So, what does she have to say about the deportation of a violent Palestinian Arab antisemite from Jerusalem?
Or is Lipstadt also counting on journalists to refrain from asking such questions? Is she hoping that American Jewish organizations will never bring up the issue? Does she imagine she can just wait out the news cycle and avoid the embarrassment of having to face up to what her own State Department is doing? Time will tell.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.