Commentary

Donald Trump tries to disguise his antisemitism as support for Israel. He doesn’t do it well

Trump, Jews, Isreal
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During his occupancy at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and since reluctantly leaving the residence, Donald Trump has consistently used Jewish bodies as stepstones to promote his far-right conspiracies. His latest diatribe chastising Jews came recently on his so-called “Truth Social” media website.

“U.S. Jews have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel — before it is too late!” he wrote.

Trump is still smarting from having to exit the Oval Office; an estimated 75% of Jews voted for his opponent, Joe Biden, while a mere 22% gave their vote to the twice-impeached former President.

During his second Presidential campaign, Trump tried to appeal to Jews by touting his supposed accomplishments for Jews and the state of Israel. He moved the U.S. embassy to what Israeli leaders claim as its capital, Jerusalem, and declared the Golan Heights, taken from Syria in 1967, as the sovereign territory of Israel.

On his social media website, however, Trump rebuked Jews, who comprise a mere 2.4% of the U.S. adult population, for not fully appreciating his actions in support of Israel.

“No President has done more for Israel than I have,” he asserted. “Somewhat surprisingly, however, our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the U.S.”

Trump has continually fallen for the longstanding antisemitic trope of Jews allegedly having multiple loyalties: with their faith, with worldwide Jewry, with the state of Israel, and lastly, with their resident country. This is a repetition of what he argued in 2019 while still President when he said of Jews: “If you want to vote Democrat, you are being very disloyal to Jewish people and very disloyal to Israel.”

Trump signed an Executive Order allegedly to reduce discrimination toward Jewish people, particularly on college and university campuses.

The order gave Trump more executive powers to inhibit, challenge, and classify college anti-Israel activism associated with the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement – aimed to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” — as discriminatory, which could risk the loss of national funds targeted to institutions of higher education.

The order interpreted Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance” – as giving protections from antisemitism.

Though Trump never issued similar Presidential Executive Orders to protect members of other minoritized religious groups in the United States – for example, Islam, Hindu, and Sikh – these groups are granted protections under Title VI on shared social identities in terms of ancestry or ethnic/cultural characteristics.

So, what were potential benefits and negative consequences of Trump’s Executive Order on antisemitism in this expansion of Judaism to include “race, color, and national origin” (nationality)?

Did Trump’s Executive Order refer only to worldwide Jews of Eastern, Central, or Western European heritage — Ashkenazim whose primary European language is/was Yiddish?

What about the Sephardim — Jews of Southern European (primarily Portuguese and Spanish), North Africa, and Middle Eastern heritage whose primary language is/was Ladino (also called Judezmo or Judeo-Spanish), and Mizrachim — Jews who lived or are living in Arab countries and Turkey, whose native language is or was Judeo-Arabic who often do not have the same degree of “white skin privilege” currently accorded to most Ashkenazim?

A primary condition of liberation is the freedom to define oneself; but Trump’s order defined Jews as a separate and unified “race,” a “color,” and a “national origin”/nationality, and not just a religion.

So, if Judaism is our collective “nation of origin,” does Trump suppose that Jews come from the country of “Jew,” or are we from Judea or Israel. Or rather, since Trump obviously does not know that Jews comprise many national origins, does he suppose our nationality to be Jewish, or Polish, or English?

Are Ashkenazim of the identical “nationality” as Sephardim or Mizrachim? Do Ashkenazim, Sephardim, and Mizrachim even have the same “culture”? The answer to that question is a resounding “No”!

Trump’s Antisemitism & Attempts to Silence Dissent

Trump proclaimed a definition of Jews and Judaism, which is the height of arrogance and hypocrisy even for him.

His Executive Order was less about protecting Jewish students and Jews in the larger society, and more about squashing dissent against Israeli policies and First Amendment “freedom of speech” rights to placate his right-wing base of supporters and other conservative apologists of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and suppression of Palestinian rights.

If we cannot discuss, debate, propose, and challenge points of view on a college and university campus – whose mandate writ large values and promotes the free exchange of ideas – then where can these needed discussions occur?

And primarily, Trump must confront his own antisemitic words and actions before he will have any credibility in allegedly protecting the civil and human rights of Jews (or anyone else) in his own country.

Only a few days prior to the release of his Executive Order, Trump told an audience at a meeting of the American Israeli Council: “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,” he charged. “But you have to vote for me – you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas [a reference to Elizabeth Warren], I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100% of your wealth away!”

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office earlier that year that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat – I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

He didn’t say originally to whom this would be “disloyal,” though later in front of a gaggle of reporters on the White House lawn he clarified, “In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” he said, “and only weak people would say anything other than that.”

In a speech before the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2019, Trump said that the recently reelected Benjamin Netanyahu was “your prime minister.” This implied that Jews are not or cannot be U.S. citizens, but we are actually citizens only of Israel.

So, any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat is both ignorant and disloyal to Israel, possibly to the United States as an ally of Israel, and by extension, to himself as an alleged defender of Israel.

The context of Trump’s charge developed as controversy swirled around first-term Representative Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn). In 2012 she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world. May Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

A few weeks later, she told an audience in D.C. that “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Confronted about this latter remark by her Democratic colleague, Nita Lowey, Omar replied, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committees.”

Trump seemed not to understand the irony in his attacks on Omar since we must chastise both Omar and Trump for invoking the centuries-old antisemitic trope of Jews allegedly having duel or multiple loyalties.

It goes back to Europe in the Middle Ages when the nobility and the larger citizenry accused Jews of isolating themselves and having no desire to integrate and hold allegiance to the state. Jews were blamed as national churches conducted massive campaigns, often brutal, to convert Jews to Christianity, and as monarchs forced Jews onto the poorest lands and from their countries entirely.

Trump, though, would not settle by invoking the antisemitic trope of disloyalty or dual loyalties, but he went so much further into the domain of Jews as cheap money-grubbers and as controllers of financial systems and of governments. This long-established libel gave populations throughout Europe justification for wide-scale attacks and government-sponsored pogroms against the Jewish people.

John O’Donnell, in a 1991 book about the former president of the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, said Trump had told him: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

Before the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2015, Trump gloated that “I’m a negotiator like you folks, we are negotiators … Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”

Trump also argued that the assembled Jews would not support him because he couldn’t be bought: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. Isn’t it crazy?”

The Unite the Right rally, Charlottesville, Virginia, August 11 – 12, 2017 brought together white supremacists, members of the alt-right, neo-Confederates, neo-fascists, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and far-right militias chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us.” They killed a counter-protester by plowing a car into the crowd.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” said Trump about the Charlottesville, Virginia Unite the Right rally. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”

He criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent.” He later stated that “There were very fine people on both sides.”

Trump focused his venom on Jewish billionaire George Soros. He erroneously accused him of funding protesters of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and also suggested that Soros might have funded the refugee caravan from Central America.

This added to the conspiracy theory that Jews are bringing immigrants into the United States to replace white people (thus the “Jews will not replace us” chant of the neo-Nazi white nationalists at the Charlottesville rally).

The shooter of the horrific murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 parishioners and wounding 6 others, including four brave police officers, blamed Jews for bringing in an invasion of nonwhite immigrants to the United States who will diminish and slaughter the white race.

“The Washington establishment and the financial and media corporations that fund it exist for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself,” stated Trump in his rally speech in West Palm Beach, Florida on October 14, 2016.

He continued, “For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests…[i]t’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities… This is a conspiracy against you, the American people, and we cannot let this happen or continue. This is our moment of reckoning as a society and as a civilization itself.”

Trump certainly has no general grasp the history, but he definitely understood how to use the propaganda of fascism to sway public opinion.

While his wife, Melania, finally admitted to plagiarizing the words of Michelle Obama in her speech before the delegates at the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016, Donald will never admit to lifting sentiments and words verbatim from the notorious Protocols (Minutes) of a Meeting of the Learned Elders of Zion.

The Protocols was a fabricated antisemitic text dating from 1903 that was widely distributed by Russian Czarist forces to turn public opinion against a so-called “Jewish Revolution” for the purpose of convincing the populace that Jews were plotting to impose a conspiratorial international Jewish government.

It is the alleged minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders planned to subvert the minds, morals, and cultures of non-Jews by controlling politicians, the press, and world economies for world domination. The Protocols was translated into many languages and circulated throughout the world.

During his Florida speech, Donald Trump succeeded in having his antisemitic leitmotiv dog whistle heard, since, among many of his ardent supporters, the racist Christian white supremacist so-called “alt-right” received it loud and clear.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader and current racist radio host, David Duke, added his praise of Trump’s “incredible speech” on his radio show October 14, 2016:

“Donald Trump had an incredible speech last night in West Palm Beach, maybe the strongest, most all out speech concerning the war that is being waged against us and the war that is being waged by the oligarchs who control the international banks and the globalists….” he charged.

“These Jewish supremacists and these Jewish radicals who have been dominating international banking, the financing of politics and leaders, bribing them in effect, the people who have controlled the media, the people who have controlled the political apparatus in so many countries, who have controlled much of the academia, much of the discourse, they’re crazy….They’re willing to risk World War III for their political objectives in the Middle East, in Israel, and elsewhere.”

The Christian white nationalist website, The Right Stuff, celebrated Trump’s Florida speech. Lawrence Murray wrote an article affirming that “somehow Trump manages to channel Goebbels and ‘Detroit Republicanism’ all at the same time.”

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi minister for Propaganda and Public Education, wrote and spoke continually of an alleged “Jewish conspiracy” to undermine German culture and civilization itself. Speaking at the September 1935 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, for example, Goebbels connected Bolshevism with international Jewry. He warned Nazi party members of a supposed international Jewish conspiracy to snuff out western civilization.

Toward the end of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump ran an ad portraying three rich Jews — then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and financier George Soros — with the narration denouncing “those who control the levers of power in Washington,” and the “global special interests” who “partner with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”

Donald Trump, during his presidential campaign, tweeted a picture of Hillary Clinton with $100. bills and a six-pointed Star of David (Mogen David) evoking the age-old stereotype of Jews as money-grubbing cheats. The meme was also on a neo-Nazi website. Trump did not apologize, but he ultimately took the tweet down from his site.

Wayne Allyn Root, a far-right conspiracy theorist, asserted that Jews in Israel regard Trump as something akin to “the King of Israel” or “the second coming of God.” Does Root not realize that Jews do not believe in Jesus as the son of G*d or of a “second coming.”

Of course, Trump delighted in Root’s words, and only half-jokingly announced to a group of reporters that “I am the Chosen One.”

Though he talks about Jews, Trump rarely talks to us. He directs his comments to conservative Christian Evangelicals.

He stirred up what Christians call “The Rapture” in which Armageddon will come in the area of Israel. Jews will be sacrificed so that “good Christians” will go forth to meet Jesus on the final judgment day. It is a cynical use of the Jewish people to conform to prophecy in the Christian testaments. Many of these people are known as “Christian Zionists.” They use Jews for their own supposed “purposes.”

It does not matter that Trump’s son-in-law is an orthodox Jew, that his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism, and that he has Jewish grandchildren.

It does not matter that Trump has employed Jewish people and counts Jews among his friends.

What is clear, though, it that when anyone “uses” an already marginalized group to advance their own agendas or careers by tokenizing or feigning support, that itself is an act of oppression, in this case, antisemitic.

Donald Trump used Jews, and by so doing, he demonstrated his hateful antisemitic bigotry by attempting to weaponize Jewish bodies!

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