Donald Trump and the Antisemitism Smear
Let’s cut through all the clutter and get straight to the main issues surrounding Donald Trump and the allegations of antisemitism.
Firstly, to suggest that President Trump dislikes Jews would have us believe that he despises his own daughter and grandchildren when precisely the opposite appears to be true. Ivanka seems to be the apple of his eye. Indeed, when his daughter was dating Jared Kushner, an orthodox Jew from a famously observant family, her father could have easily dissuaded her from converting, but instead publicly supported her doing so and threw a kosher wedding for the couple.
Secondly, the charge also suggests that Trump’s strong support for Israel is inauthentic, though he has worn those views on his sleeve for his entire adult life.
Trump as antisemite is not implausible; it is absurd and libelous.
Okay, so Trump is definitely not an antisemite. One would even suggest that he’s a philo-Semite. He has surrounded himself with Jews who are his business colleagues, employees and friends. I know orthodox Jews who have long worked for Trump and say that his respect for the Jewish faith has been exemplary.
But is Trump sending dog whistles to his white supremacist supporters who dislike Jews? Has his fear of alienating racist backers been behind his failure to publicly decry antisemitism until late last week?
To answer that we have to identify two different varieties of modern antisemitism. The first is hatred of Israel and a spoken desire to annihilate the Jewish state. Think Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, which openly call for holocausts of the Jews. On these threats Trump has thus far been far better than Barack Obama, who legitimized Iran and gave it $150 billion — even as Obama surrogates, like then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice, admitted that some of that money would go toward murdering innocent people. As Trump was campaigning against the Iran deal, President Obama was literally sending hundreds of millions of dollars by plane in cash to the mullahs, while they openly referred to Israel as a cancer that must be completely obliterated.
Trump has also condemned the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement infesting Western universities and which Obama was reluctant to openly confront.
So, Trump is definitely not sending any hidden signals to the Israel-haters. On the contrary, his strong and vocal support for Israel is far better than that of the previous administration.
Let’s move on, then, to the second kind of antisemitism. This is the much more traditional, good-old “I hate Jews” variety — the world’s oldest hatred, which precedes the creation of the state of Israel and is the source of hatred for it. Is Trump sending signals to its carriers, like white supremacists?
Well, what are those signals? That the Jews control finance and media? In that case, Trump is sending a pretty bad signal by choosing people like Steve Mnuchen to be secretary of the treasury and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to be senior adviser to the president. After all, how can you say that Trump is using dog whistles to promote traditional antisemitic tropes if he is the one actually perpetuating alleged Jewish control of finance and the reins of power by appointing Jewish individuals to the highest offices in the land?
So clearly, it’s ridiculous to say that Trump is sending any kind of hidden signal other than, “I really respect Jewish people, consider them colleagues, and rely on them for some pretty important stuff.”
Take, for example, the radical and ridiculous attack on Trump by Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, who said, “Make no mistake: The antisemitism coming out of this administration is the worst we have ever seen from any administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial.”
Antisemitism coming out of this administration is the worst ever? Who, pray tell, is it coming from? The president’s son-in-law, who is an orthodox Jew and comes from a family famous for its support for Jewish causes? Is it coming, perhaps, from Jason Greenblatt, another senior adviser to the president who is also an orthodox Jew completely invested in Jewish life? Is the antisemitism coming from David Friedman, Trump’s nominee for America’s ambassador to Israel, also orthodox and a huge supporter of Jewish causes?
What we’re left with is this: The Trump administration was late to condemn the growing tide of antisemitism in America and the president’s strong condemnation that came at the National Museum of African-American History should have come earlier. That is a legitimate criticism and it is good that the president has now stepped up. Likewise, it was absurd not to focus on the Jewish nature of the Holocaust in the White House statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day. These are valid concerns that the administration must correct.
Beyond strong statements, the administration should, as Alan Dershowitz recommended, immediately establish a Justice Department task force to investigate the growing threats against Jewish institutions and the vandalism against Jewish cemeteries. These are serious matters that must be addressed with actions and not just words.
But amidst these genuine concerns, people like Goldstein — who are throwing hysterics and making the most vile accusations against Trump — would do well to ponder that President Obama never once criticized Iran’s threats of annihilation against the Jewish people. Even while he brought Iran out of decades-old diplomatic isolation and gave the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terror $150 billion dollars in unfrozen assets, President Obama never once demanded that, as a precondition to any deal, Iran must stop threatening six million Jews in Israel with extermination. Furthermore, while President Obama was abstaining from defending Israel at the United Nations Security Council against a blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel resolution in the last weeks of his presidency, President-elect Trump was publicly condemning that same resolution and defending the Jewish state. And President Trump has been extremely forceful in warning Iran about their ballistic missile violations, missiles which the Iranians proudly proclaim are aimed at Israel.
So when accusing a man of being an antisemite, let’s be a bit factual, lest we falsely libel friends and label allies as foes.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.