President Bush yesterday chided Europe and the Arab world for growing anti-Semitism, but was himself criticized by the Democratic National Committee for not singling out Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
“Anti-Semitism is not a problem of the past. The hatred of Jews did not die in a Berlin bunker,” Mr. Bush told a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“In its cruder forms, it can be found in some Arab media, and this government will continue to call upon Arab governments to end libels and incitements,” he added.
Mr. Bush did not specifically mention Prince Abdullah, who earlier this month blamed “Zionism” for the killing of two Americans and five other Westerners in the desert kingdom. But the president alluded to the slur when discussing the insidious nature of anti-Semitism.
“Such hatred can also take subtler forms,” he said. “The demonization of Israel, the most extreme anti-Zionist rhetoric can be a flimsy cover for anti-Semitism, and contribute to an atmosphere of fear in which synagogues are desecrated, people are slandered, folks are threatened.”
The rebuke did not satisfy the Democratic National Committee, which dispatched Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, to criticize the president.
“I am deeply disappointed that President Bush continues to ignore the outrageous comments Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah made accusing ‘Zionists’ of recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia,” she said. “Using code words to disparage Israel and the Jewish people is no way to respond to the heinous acts of terrorists.”
The president’s comments received a more positive reception from AIPAC members at the Washington Convention Center. They interrupted his 39-minute speech with applause dozens of times and gave him several standing ovations as he defended Israel’s right to counterattack Palestinian terrorists.
“The United States is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state,” he said. “Israel is a democracy and a friend, and has every right to defend itself from terror.”
Mr. Bush also called on Palestinians to “reject corrupt and failed leaders, and insist on a leadership committed to reform and progress and peace.” It was a reference to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, whom the president views as an impediment to Middle East peace.
The president used his speech to reiterate his support for Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza and hold lands in the West Bank.
“The unfolding violence in the Gaza Strip is troubling and underscores the need for all parties to seize every opportunity for peace,” he said. “The prime minister’s plan is a bold, courageous step.”
Mr. Bush leveled the charge of anti-Semitism against not just the Arab world, but Europe as well, where violence against Jews is on the rise.
“I will continue to call upon our friends in Europe to renounce and fight any sign of anti-Semitism in their midst,” he said.