(JTA) – White nationalist leader Richard Spencer told Israelis during an evening TV interview that they should respect him because he is essentially a “white Zionist.”
Spencer made the comment to Channel 2 Wednesday in response to the anchor’s question about how he should feel about the anti-Semitism on display over the weekend at the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“As an Israeli citizen, someone who understands your identity, who has a sense of nationhood and peoplehood and the history and experience of the Jewish people, you should respect someone like me who has analogous feelings about whites,” Spencer said. “I mean, you could say that I’m a white Zionist in the sense that I care about my people. I want us to have a secure homeland that for us and ourselves just like you want a secure homeland in Israel.”
Dany Cushmaro did not follow up on Spencer’s comparison, which is not uncommon in far-right circles, though it is widely rejected by Israelis and Israel-supporters.
Earlier in the interview, Cushmaro pressed Spencer to explain why the far-right protestors’ chants of “Jews will not replace us” and other “anti-Jewish slogans” were not anti-Semitism. Spencer, who is a leader of the racist and anti-Semitic alt-right movement, justified the rhetoric, citing Americans’ right to free speech and Jews outsized role in left-wing American politics.
“The fact is, Jews, let’s be honest, Jews have been vastly overrepresented in the historical left. Jews are vastly overrepresented in the left right now. They’re vastly overrepresented in what you could call the establishment, that is, Ivy League-educated people who really determine policy, and white people are being disposed from this country,” he said. “So some in the crowd were making a statement. This is a free country. People are allowed to speak their mind.”
Asked by Cushmaro how he would like to see U.S. President Donald Trump respond to Charlottesville, Spencer said he should investigate why the city’s Mayor Michael Signer, who is Jewish, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe “allowed chaos to reign.” He claimed that he and the other protestors were “peaceful.”
Spencer also said both the alt-right and Trump are “symptoms of a greater cause, and that is the demographic dispossession of white people in the United States and around the world.”
Far-right protestors converged on Charlottesville in defence of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and brawled with counter-protestors. Some of the protestors carried Nazi and Confederate flags, gave Nazi salutes and expressed anti-Semitic and racist views.
After police broke up the the rally, a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of the counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally.
Spencer said it was not yet clear whether Fields had committed murder, but that he would condemn “absolutely reject” his actions if they were proved to be “malicious” after a “fair trial.”
Trump said at a news conference Tuesday that not all the participants in the rally were white supremacists. Confronted about whether he was putting white supremacists and neo-Nazis on the same “moral plane” as the liberal and leftist counter-protestors, he said, “I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane.” Trump seemed to backtrack from his statement a day earlier condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the violence.
Trump’s statements were widely criticized, including by Jewish and Israeli leaders and Republicans, but Spencer quickly tweeted praise, calling them “fair and down to earth.”