It’s been fascinating to watch local TV news programs examining the upsurge in violent anti-Semitic acts — most recently, attacks on Jews in Jersey City and Monsey, N.Y. — and not hear any Jewish leaders draw a straight line to the national elected official stirring up anti-Jewish hatred: President Donald Trump.
In modern United States history, there’s never been a president who so blithely trafficked in anti-Semitic stereotypes and vulgar condemnations of his Jewish political opponents.
Many will recall the puzzling silence from Trump, in early 2017, when there was a spate of bomb threats being called in to JCCs (including those in the Twin Cities) and other Jewish institutions across the country. Trump said nothing. Roused to respond on one occasion, he asserted: “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” Actually, after working at the Jewish World for the past 24 years, I can think of a few individuals that likely are not as anti-Semitic as the president.
In August, Trump thanked a conspiracy theorist for saying that Jews in Israel love the president “like he’s the King of Israel,” according to the New York Times. And while our local Jewish communal officials were quick to condemn U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar for her rhetorical use of an “anti-Semitic trope” suggesting American Jews’ dual loyalty, Trump apparently makes no distinction between Jews here and those in Israel. Addressing an American Jewish gathering, he referred to “your prime minister” — that would be Benjamin Netanyahu, whom very few of us voted for.
While basking in the glow of his anointment as “King of Israel,” Trump bashed American Jews who vote for Democratic candidates, i.e., the great majority of us. “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel,” Trump told reporters in August, as he was leaving the White House to speak before a veterans group in Louisville, Ky.
And he keeps up the drumbeat of anti-Jewish rhetoric, in the recent tradition of gentiles who profess to know what’s good for the Jews and set themselves up as arbiters of anti-Semitism (cf. Meghan McCain and Rudy Giuliani).
In December, at a speech to the Israeli American Council (IAC), in Hollywood, Fla., Trump popped off with a litany of his favorite anti-Semitic tropes. As for dual loyalty, the Jewish attendees heard that some Jews “don’t love Israel enough.” Then he launched into the long-running, ugly stereotype about Jews and their money: “A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me—you have no choice.”
Trump continued to pound away about Jews and money before the IAC crowd, indulging his racist nickname, “Pocahantas,” for Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (He’s an equal opportunity offender.) “You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away!”
No Democratic presidential candidate proposes confiscatory tax policies, but on top of everything, Trump is a profligate liar.
“Some of you don’t like me,” Trump blathered on. “Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So, I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that.”
Thought exercise: Imagine if Barack Obama had uttered something, say, 10 percent this offensive.
We hear from some Jewish World readers that “Trump is good for Israel.” Without investigating the transactional relationship between Trump and Netanyahu (and between Trump and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson), it seems that the last few years, during the political ascendancy of Donald Trump, have been a very parlous time for Jews.
In 2018, we saw the most violent attack on a Jewish community in U.S. history, the murder of 11 worshipers at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Exactly six months later, another deranged gunman shot up the Chabad of Poway, Calif., shul, killing one woman and wounding several other people. In recent days, we have witnessed the aforementioned violent attacks on Jews in Jersey City and Monsey, N.Y.
Also in December, there was a lot of back and forth about Trump signing an executive order ostensibly to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses. This is a complicated issue; but Haile Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), hit the nail on the head when she noted that President Trump has “zero credibility to take meaningful action to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism for which he is partially responsible. If President Trump truly wanted to combat anti-Semitism, he would accept responsibility for his role in perpetuating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and emboldening white nationalism. We said it before and we’ll say it again — Donald Trump is the biggest threat to American Jews.”
Just once, it would be a relief to hear one of our local rabbis or communal officials tell a TV reporter that Trump is aiding and abetting anti-Semites and the White Power faction in this country and that he poses a threat to the safety of Jews. I know that many of us are hoping and praying for sea change in our politics in 2020.
Mordecai Specktor / editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com