Ex-ADL head Abe Foxman: Don’t blame Trump for Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

“Trump is part of the problem but not the problem," Abraham Foxman told the 'Post.'

Mourners react during a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 28, 2018 (photo credit: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS)
Mourners react during a memorial service at the Sailors and Soldiers Memorial Hall of the University of Pittsburgh, a day after 11 worshippers were shot dead at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 28, 2018
(photo credit: CATHAL MCNAUGHTON/REUTERS)
Abraham Foxman, who headed the Anti-Defamation League for 27 years and worked there for 50, defended US President Donald Trump on Monday from charges he is to blame for Saturday’s massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post at the capital’s King David Hotel, Foxman, who was in touch with Trump for many years but not since he was elected president, said he did not believe Trump is an antisemite. He said he believes Trump loves the Jewish people and cares about Israel.
Abraham Foxman (Credit: Justin Hoch/Wikimedia Commons)Abraham Foxman (Credit: Justin Hoch/Wikimedia Commons)
But Foxman said the president does not understand the consequences of his political rhetoric and that when he speaks about issues like immigration, globalization and gun control, it ignites bigots like Pittsburgh murderer Robert Bowers, who opposed Trump, because he saw him as controlled by the Jews.
“We need to not blame Trump but engage him,” Foxman said. “He has said the right things on antisemitism this week. But he needs to change the rhetoric he uses to explain his policies, which gives millions of bigots a rationale for their bigotry. I think this is doable, but we won’t accomplish it if we put the blame for Pittsburgh on him. We need to sensitize him, so he’ll realize his words can harm his [Jewish] children and grandchildren.”
Foxman said Trump did not create the motivation for Bowers or Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of the August 2017 white supremacist rally. He said they were there before Trump, but he did embolden them.
“Trumpism legitimized the bigots to come out of the sewers and gave them a platform to play on,” Foxman said. “Trump is part of the problem but not the problem. We have to make him not the problem because we don’t want to politicize antisemitism, which is a disease of both the Left and the Right.”
Foxman said the murders in Pittsburgh should shock people because of their carnage and enormity but should not surprise anyone, because antisemitism has never gone away and never will. He said there was a reason ADL has trained thousands of law enforcement officers and facilitated hundreds of seminars at synagogues and other Jewish institutions.
When asked why such a harsh attack can take place now, Foxman listed five recent changes that ended what he called the containment of latent antisemitism that has infected millions of Americans.
He said political antisemitism has risen under the guise of being anti-Israel, the removal of established taboos in civil establishment, the undermining of the credibility of the media, the Internet informing people of previously unreported antisemitic incidents, and finally the fading memory of the Holocaust.
“The memory of the Shoah protected Jews from antisemitism because it added to its containment,” Foxman said. “But ‘Never again’ was never a mandate. It was a wish. No survivor would say ‘Never again’ was guaranteed, and the further you move away from the Shoah, the less it’s guaranteed.”