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July 14, 2016 1:35 pm

Jewish Human Rights Champion Foxman: Trump Didn’t Create, Encourage Antisemitism Among Followers

avatar by Lea Speyer

Former ADL national director Abraham Foxman. Photo: Wikipedia.

Former ADL national director Abraham Foxman. Photo: Wikipedia.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has neither created antisemites nor encouraged them, a Jewish human rights leader told Slate in a recent interview.

Abe Foxman, former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said critics of Trump must differentiate between the man and his followers.

“I wouldn’t focus on the Trump campaign as much as I would focus on Trumpism,” he said. “All Donald Trump has done is identified an anger and frustration and unhappiness in our society…. He is not responsible for them. But he has broken some taboos that have existed in our country.”

When it comes to racism and discrimination in the US, Foxman said, “You can have bigotry in your heart, but if you act out bigotry, there will be consequences.” Trump, who has effectively removed the taboos of “criticiz[ing] a veteran, a woman’s looks, a Mexican, a Muslim,” Foxman said, has released and given life to such sentiments, but, “He hasn’t created it.”

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Foxman’s comments come amid several antisemitism scandals that have plagued the Trump campaign in recent months.

Earlier in July, Trump came under fire for tweeting what many called an antisemitic image — which was traced back to a white supremacist website — featuring the Star of David that invoked antisemitic tropes. The image showed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton against a background of $100 bills alongside a Star of David with the text, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”

Trump later deleted the post, following intense backlash, and tweeted a new image, this time covering the Star of David with a circle. Taking to Twitter, Trump defending the tweet, writing, “Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star!”

The Republican presidential hopeful has also attracted the attention and garnered the support of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, who have rallied around his “America first” credo, and attacked his critics on social media with antisemitic and racial slurs.

According to Foxman, the reason antisemitism has become much more noticeable today is not because of Trump, but due to society’s ability to shirk responsibility for words and actions.

“Antisemitism exists and unfortunately existed. The fact that it manifests itself shouldn’t surprise anybody. The advent of the internet and social media is really what’s fueling not the antisemitism but the ability to communicate in nanoseconds, respond quickly and be anonymous,” he said. “Anonymity makes things uglier because it encourages people to be ugly. It’s nothing new, except for the phenomenon of how you express it.”

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