NEW YORK, June 17, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Forcefully condemning increasing hatred targeting Jews in Europe, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, addressing the AJC New York Region annual meeting, called for an "unmistakable and consistent" response to acts of anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism "is the cancer that never went away," said de Blasio. "That cancer was not eradicated at the end of World War II."
Speaking tonight at AJC headquarters to a standing-room-only crowd about his visit to Paris earlier this year after the fatal terror attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket, the mayor said that "the values we hold – democracy, pluralism, tolerance – are under attack."
The tragic events in Paris in January and in Copenhagen in February were "a particular wake-up call" that addressing anti-Semitism needs to be "on the front burner, on the front page," he said.
One profound takeaway from his trip to France the mayor shared was his conversation with a leading French rabbi, who said "there was an indifference before the attack," that despite a series of assaults on Jews over the years, not enough was done to respond until after the kosher market attack.
"The indifference is the profound challenge," said de Blasio. He emphasized that "historical parallels are important so that tragic mistakes are not repeated."
"It is important for European governments to stand up with vigor and resolve against anti-Semitism and show there will be consequences. That's a signal to society that such things will not be tolerated," he said.
The mayor noted that with New York having the largest Jewish population of any city in the world, what happens to Jews in other countries does have an impact here. "When we see discrimination against Jews anywhere, it hits home," he said. "I hope we can provide a model for protecting our Jewish neighbors."
Praising AJC's "tremendously enlightened world view" in fighting injustice, the mayor noted that 50 years ago, during the civil rights movement, AJC "understood the upheaval in this nation, the cancer of discrimination in this nation." He also cited AJC's support for Japanese-American citizens who were ill-treated during the war. "History proved you right in your past actions, and I want history to prove you right again," the mayor said.
On the current challenge of rising anti-Semitism, de Blasio said, "The fact that AJC is rallying people to address this issue is important."
AJC convened in Brussels on May 5 a high-level strategy conference on combatting anti-Semitism in Europe, issued an action plan with specific recommendations for European governments and civil society, and also has been encouraging American political leaders to speak out firmly on the scourge of rising anti-Semitism.