“The government of the United States . . . gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance. May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.” –President George Washington, Letter to the Touro Synagogue, Newport, RI, 1790
While the first president of the United States offered support and aid to Jewish people in assuring their safety, our 45th chief executive has reneged on that commitment by promoting classically dangerous anti-Semitic stereotypes.
From the presidential primary season through his occupation of the Oval Office, beginning as an imperceptible dog whistle and ever increasing in volume to an amplified bullhorn, Donald Trump has blared out blatantly anti-Semitic themes to excite and scare his base of supporters.
Trump has argued that “international bankers” and other “blood suckers” are undertaking a secret plot to control the U.S. and its citizens through “a global power structure.”
He places blame for most problems on globalist policies and he positions George Soros as one of its biggest threats. Trump accuses Soros, a progressive Jewish billionaire and Hungarian-American Holocaust survivor, of funding the migrant caravan slowly approaching the southern U.S. which Trump argues will invade our nation with drugs and crime while stealing jobs from our citizens.
Trump equates immigration with globalism, which if allowed to continue, will undermine U.S. values, culture, and our very civilization. But this trope of Jewish power, wealth, and control is longstanding and foundational to antisemitism.
The Anti-Defamation League accused Trump of “conjuring painful [anti-Semitic] stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories” in his language and in his political ads. Jonathan Greenblatt, the organization’s chief executive, went on to write, “Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in [Trump’s] ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages. This needs to stop.”
While the dominant society has frequently been concerned that Jewish individuals can “pass” without detection into the mainstream, they have also historically portrayed Jews as invaders, controllers, manipulators, and destroyers of society.
During the Middle Ages, for example, Christians characterized Jews as having tails concealed beneath their garments and a peculiar smell. This led to reports that they were in the service of the Devil, actually that the Devil was their father.
The “Judensau,” an anti-Jewish motif that was used in medieval texts and even carved on several churches in Central Europe, depicted a Jew sexually entwined with a pig, sucking the sow’s udder and eating and drinking its excrement.
Furthermore, a 13th-century law forwarded the idea that Jews were less than human by explicitly stating that Christians who had sex with Jews were the same as Christians who had sex with animals. The ravages of the Black Death throughout Europe, which wiped out an estimated one-fourth to one-half of the population in the 12th and 13th centuries were also blamed on Jews, who were accused of poisoning drinking wells.
Christians charged Jews with transmitting other diseases as well, most notably syphilis, which they referred to as “the Jewish disease” throughout Europe in the 19th century, even though the incidence of syphilis within the Jewish community had been no higher than in the larger population.
Medical literature of the time alleged that syphilis was spread to newly circumcised Jewish infants through the practice of metsitsah, the sucking of the penis by the mohel (the ritual circumciser) to stop the bleeding. Fellatio thus became not only a marker of “perversion” but also a sign of the Jewish transmission of disease.
A crucial point in the psychology of stereotyping and scapegoating is the representation of minoritized groups as, in historian John Boswell’s words, “animals bent on the destruction of the children of the majority,” and dominant groups have long alleged that Jews acted as dangerous predators of young people.
In 1144 began the so-called “Blood Libel” in England when Christian leaders accused Jews of slaying William of Norwich, a Christian male child, to use his blood in the making of the sacred Jewish matzos. Many Christians believed that Jews used the blood of Christian youth because it was virginal and innocent and, therefore, was the most potent medication to heal hemorrhoids, to relieve pain during circumcision, to increase fertility, and to cure the so-called “stink of the Jews.”
Also, in line with the assertion by Christian leaders that Jewish men menstruate because they practice circumcision, they, along with Jewish women need the blood from Christian youth to replenish their bodies of the blood lost during menstruation.
In 1475, Simon of Trent in Northern Italy, the son of a tanner and barely 3 years old, was allegedly killed by the Jews for his blood. Christians also accused Jews of slaughtering Christian male youth because they wanted to symbolically re-execute Jesus.
Local leaders falsely indicted several Jews in Trent for Simon’s death and had Jews in the area killed. The charge of ritual murder continued into the 20th century. Christian clergy have also accused Jews of inflicting circumcision on Christian infants as a means of inflicting involuntary conversion to Judaism (“recruitment”).
Jews, who were excluded from land owning and from most professions during the Middle Ages, increasingly become moneylenders, especially since the Catholic Church forbade Christians from practicing usury. Functioning at times as royal moneylenders and tax collectors, Jews were scapegoated by local princes as alien “bloodsuckers” and despised by the populace.
Officials marked Jews in the Middle Ages with yellow identification badges, which Hitler’s Nazis replicated, for Jews’ alleged relationship with wealth (gold), and for Christians’ charge of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus for money. To the Nazis, yellow was also a sign of “racial” pollution.
By the 14th century, usury incurred severe penalties in canon (church) law equating it with sinning against “natural law” by charging interest in lending, which was considered as making money unnaturally. Wrote Bernadino Ramazzini, an Italian physician in 1700, “They do not plough, harrow, or sow, but they always reap.”
Jews and money was likened to prostitution, a degradation of the higher values of love and beauty. According to historian Sander Gilman, “The Jew becomes the representative of the deviant genitalia, the genitalia not under the control of the moral, rational conscience.”
The stereotype of Jews as obsessed with money and power persisted into the modern era. First appearing around 1903 in Europe, the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, a fabricated anti-Semitic pamphlet attributed to members of the czarist secret police and circulated to convince the Russian people that those who favored a so-called “Jewish Revolution” were actually plotting to impose a Jewish government on their way toward eventual worldwide domination.
It is the alleged minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders supposedly planned to subvert the minds, morals, and cultures of non-Jews by controlling politicians, the press, and world economies for world domination.
In more contemporary times, the 1940 Nazi propaganda film, The Eternal Jew, portrays Jews as spreading infection and degeneracy, which, if allowed to continue, would result in the eventual collapse of civilization and its institutions.
In The Eternal Jew, Jewish people were said to commit 47% of all robberies and to make up 98% of those involved in prostitution. “The Jews,” according to the film’s narrator, “are only one percent of the population” but they know how to “terrorize a great, tolerant nation” by controlling finance, the arts, education, and the media.
On one hand, Jews have been stereotyped as “super capitalists” whose inordinate wealth enables them to manipulate world banking systems and to control politicians and the media through well-financed lobbying campaigns. They are perceived as a “privileged class” highly educated and disproportionately represented in the “cultural elite.”
On the other hand, they are seen as radicals who are attempting to overthrow the capitalist system and the dominant culture.
During the “McCarthy Era” at the height of the Cold War, for example, several U.S. Congressional leaders declared that Communists (associated in the public mind at the time with Jews) corrupted the minds of “good upstanding Americans” as well as the integrity of the governmental system, and, therefore, they must be purged from their positions.
At the other end of the political spectrum Karl Marx, a Jewish antisemite, wrote of Jews, “What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money… Money is the universal and self-sufficient value of all things. It has, therefore, deprived the whole world, both the human world and nature, of their own proper value.”
In the 1920s, automotive pioneer Henry Ford Sr. helped to spread the false conspiracy that Jews controlled finance, and he introduced The Protocols to a large U.S. audience through his newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, and in a series of pamphlets, which together formed his book The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem.
The Protocols was translated into many languages and distributed worldwide. The French version, for example, depicts a caricature of an animalistic mean and ugly Jew grabbing the Earth with his bloodied fingers. Above the title is written in extra large letters, “Le Peril Juif,” (The Jewish Peril).
At least 20 cover versions translated into several languages represent classic anti-Semitic motifs of enormous hook-nosed “Jewish” male faces attached to the bodies snakes, arachnids, octopi, and squids encircling and smothering the globe.
For Donald Trump and his Republican co-conspirators, it only took a very small leap to update the figure of George Soros as the embodiment of the conniving, controlling, powerful, sinister wealthy Jew who is financing a revolutionary takeover of the U.S. government as part of his globalist plot.
“Every time some Anti-White, Anti-American, Anti-freedom event takes place, you look at it, and it’s Jews behind it.”
This headline blamed Jews for sexual assault charges against new Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh printed in bold capital letters on covertly posted extremist fliers distributed at the Universities of California at Berkeley and Davis in addition to Vassar and Marist colleges in New York state.
Fliers showed a photo of Kavanaugh surrounded by distorted caricatures of Jewish U.S. Senate members, including Diane Feinstein and Chuck Schumer, with Stars of David branded on their foreheads, plus Jewish billionaire, George Soros, whom the political right has blamed for funding anti-Kavanaugh opposition, allegedly paying protesters, and funding the caravan of migrants currently inching its way to the U.S.
The murder of 11 Jewish congregants, and injury to six others, including four police officers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in addition to a spike of 57% of reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 over just one year earlier, indicate that Jews and other marginalized groups remain at increased risk.
Donald Trump, through his actions and through the bullhorn of his rhetoric, has moved the once right-wing political extremes front and center into the mainstream, and along the way, has empowered and enabled the hate and the haters to thrive.
George Washington would speak out to counter the bigotry if he were alive. We the people must now step up and step in to fill the deep void in moral leadership and direction created by Trump and his administration, and to make sure that hate finds no lodging in our country.