New York, NY, June 11, 2023 – The attack on Israel’s Economy Minister Nir Barkat by an Israeli citizen during a visit to Jewish communities in Boston is a disturbing development. It cannot be treated as business as usual. It calls for a pause on all sides of the political debate in Israel to condemn it and – more crucially – to pledge not to turn this into a trend: Israelis and Jews mounting attacks as a form of political expression on officials of the State of Israel as they conduct their official business abroad.
Minister Barkat’s interview and remarks at the Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York were repeatedly interrupted by protestors shouting “shame.”  He canceled his participation in an event at a Reform synagogue in Boston out of fear of being disturbed by protestors.
A video clip on social media shows a man violating Barkat’s security cordon as the Minister exits a hotel elevator on his way to a Jewish community meeting. The unidentified man aims for what looks like a physical attack on Barkat, before being quickly intercepted by Israeli security and pulled to the ground. The man does not stop and proceeds to scuffle with Minister Barkat’s security.
As a matter of principle, we at the American Jewish Congress reject and oppose physical attacks on government officials discharging their duties and refuse to consider it an acceptable form of political dissent. This is true for officials of the U.S. Government and for officials of the Government of Israel.
Political divide is no excuse not to condemn this behavior because it lacks decency and should not come under the domain of acceptable forms of political expression. It is disappointing that a clear case of political overreach is getting sucked into the whirlwind of Israeli politics. The initial media coverage of the incident appears divided between either blaming the attacker or the minister’s security, and between glorifying the culprit as a pro-democracy protester or putting him down as an attacker and condemning him as a leftist.
It would be wise for political actors in Israel, and within the American Jewish community, to acknowledge the abnormality of the sight of Israelis and Jews attacking Government officials abroad. Back in 1995, then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was attacked and assassinated by an Israeli citizen, and a nation was united in condemning that unfortunate incident. Those who rightly condemned that attack across the political divide should be united again in rejecting what transpired with Minister Nir Barkat in Boston.
Passionate debate and protest in Israel turned heads worldwide for the diversity and liveliness of Israeli democracy and politics. The attempted attack on an Israeli minister during a visit to the United States spoils that positive image and should be roundly condemned, as we, at the American Jewish Congress, do here today.

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