Abe Foxman as the guardian of the Jewish people, he recently pointed his finger at world leaders for refusing to name radical Islam as the enemy. French President Holland was the focus of his ire, as was President Obama. Even Netanyahu caught a bit of flak at a recent event at the Boca West Country Club to honor Foxman on his retirement, he let loose with the accusations. He began by targeting French President Hollande.

“What we are living through this week, the horrors in France, murders committed by terrorists, is no longer a threat to the Jews of France alone. It is a threat to France itself. The attacks have been going on in France for 10 years. The Prime Minister in France is correct in stating that if France can’t help the Jews of France, then it is a failure of the French Republic. He was also right to say that without Jews, France would no longer be France.”

Foxman’s main complaint seemed to be against leaders who refused to recognize that fundamental Islam is the problem, and in its presence, it is impossible for a country to remain democratic.

“The French president, although not the French prime minister, has said he has no problem with Islam, but with terrorists … But it is a disservice not to look at fundamental Islam as the problem. France must stand up for what is right. Terrorists see Jews as representing evil in radical Islamic thought. France needs to find a way to integrate the Muslim population in the country. Standing up for Jews is standing up for a democratic society itself. Without a support for Jews, we will be giving in to the wishes of the terrorists.”

In a recent interview with Haaretz, Foxman included Obama in this assessment.

“If French President Hollande continues to say that what happened last week in Paris has nothing to do with Islam, then we’re going nowhere,” Foxman told Haaretz. “If Obama cannot articulate the words ‘radical Islam’, then it’s a lost cause. What are they going to say at this meeting that the U.S. is convening in Washington on February 18? That the subject is radical extremism? If we cannot articulate what it is then we won’t be able to deal with it either.”

“One can say that we are dealing with extremist radical Islam or that the religion has been hijacked in a way that does not sully or defame Islam. But if we have trouble saying that this is extremist Islam, why should Muslim moderates speak up?”

When asked about Islam in America, he reasoned that it was different than in Europe. “We have a different culture of absorption and integration,” he replied. “America is a country of immigrants that puts a value on integration and assimilation; they used to speak about the melting pot. Immigrants come to America with a desire to become American, and the American desire is to integrate them, thus making them inevitably less Chinese, less French, less Russian or less Muslim. This is the American tradition. We have absorbed waves after waves of immigrants of foreigners who came with very different cultures and religions and who for the most part have become Americans. Some Jews will tell you that for this, we paid a price of assimilation.”

“Europe does not have that tradition. Look at Germany – it has third or fourth generation Turks who can’t speak Turkish, who’ve never been to Turkey and yet they’re still Turks. There is no tradition in Europe to make immigrants Greeks and Norwegians and French and British. Even Algerians who are born in France, like some of the terrorists, are still Algerian.”

“That culture of incubating puts pressure on them, causes them to live separately, to be unassimilated, to be angry, and, in some cases, to turn to violence. Of course there are people in American who don’t like Chinese or Hispanics or other immigrants, but these problems are largely overcome once you say they are Americans. In Germany or in Greece, where there are demonstrations, they don’t want them to be Germans or Greeks.”

“The irony is that the supposed antidotes to the Muslim growth and power are not allies to the Jewish community or an answer to its concerns. In this case, the enemy of my enemy isn’t my friend; he’s also my enemy. When the extreme right speaks of immigrants, it is referring to Jews as well; when they go after halal food, they’re aiming for Jewish slaughter as well.”

“The recent elections for the European parliament, in which the radical right picked up 20 percent of the vote, casts a dark cloud over Europe. Many Jews might feel that they are caught between a rock and a hard place.”

Why do you think President Obama is so reluctant to address the issue by name? He was asked by Haaretz. “Political correctness,” Foxman replied emphatically. “In other places it might be fear, but I think in the U.S. it’s political correctness. We are so concerned not to hurt the image of good Muslims that were not willing to single out the bad Muslims.”

“Separating and segregating the Jews and only protecting them, is not going to resolve the issue,” Foxman added. “This is not about Jews anymore, nor is it about Muslims: this is about France, about Europe, about democracy and about freedom. Unlike in the past, thank god, Jews have a place to go, whether it’s Israel or Canada or the U.S. or Australia. But if France doesn’t heal itself, ultimately, the Jews will leave.”

And what about Obama’s decision not to attend or to send a senior administration representative to the mass rally held in Paris on Sunday? “Well, that was a screw-up,” Foxman remarked. “Nobody asked the question who’s going, and nobody answered. I don’t think it was critical, I don’t think there is anything behind it: it was just incompetence.”

Despite his criticism, President Obama had words of Praise for Foxman on his retirement. In an official statement, the president said: “For decades, Abe Foxman has been a tireless voice against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all of its forms, always calling us to reject hatred and embrace our common humanity,” Obama said. “Abe is irreplaceable, but the causes that he has dedicated his life to will continue to inspire people in the United States, Israel, and around the world.”

Foxman didn’t restrict his criticism to those two world leaders.

“There was a very significant element of hypocrisy there. Standing in the front row, for example, was the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu: there are more journalists in jail in Turkey today than in China. Half the leaders that came to express their outrage don’t themselves respect or permit freedom of speech.”
I agree with President Rivlin that the proper posture of the Jewish state is that we will do everything we can to help you live as Jews wherever you want to live, but at the same time, if we can’t and you don’t think it’s enough, we will be there with open arms to welcome you. I don’t think it’s wise for the Jewish state to tell Jews: go, get out.”

The Haaretz interviewer, Chemi Shalev, asked the ultimate question that most of us are afraid to ask of watchmen like Foxman. If it could happen there, do you think it could happen here as well? After a pause and a sigh, Foxman, a Holocaust survivor himself, replied: “I will never say to you it cannot ever happen here. I don’t think any Jew who understands history, who knows what happened in Germany, who knows what happened in Spain, will ever say to you it can never happen again. The answer is – it can happen anywhere: cataclysmic changes, economic upheavals, the Internet. All of these can move things. It’s very unlikely here, but I will not say to you it can never happen. People who came from Europe won’t say it about Europe, and they won’t say it about America either.”