Reality Check: The Holocaust conference’s missing guest

Since Trump became president, there has been a startling increase in attacks on American Jews.

A participant wears a Trump "Make America Great Again" yarmulke as they attend a White House Hanukkah reception where U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on anti-semitism in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. (photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
A participant wears a Trump "Make America Great Again" yarmulke as they attend a White House Hanukkah reception where U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on anti-semitism in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S.
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
This Thursday, leaders from around the world will gather in Jerusalem for the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, under the heading “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism.” The list of heads of state and grandees attending the conference is impressive, including as it does the presidents of Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Austria, as well as the Prince of Wales.
It’s only a shame that US President Donald Trump will be missing, for there is much he needs to learn about fighting antisemitism, despite his signing an executive order last Hanukkah to prohibit federal funding for colleges and universities that allow antisemitism.
As Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev noted in his remarks announcing the conference, some of the age-old antisemitic tropes that influenced the spread of Nazi ideology are still present in our post-Holocaust global society.
These antisemitic stereotypes include the smear that Jews are part of a global banking cabal, that they control the media and politicians, engage in unscrupulous business practices, have a dual loyalty and so on.
A quick look at Trump both on the 2016 campaign trail and as US president shows just how right Shalev is in determining that these dangerous motifs are still present in our society, and at the highest level.
In particular, Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton while campaigning stand out. First off there was the graphic showing Clinton against a backdrop of $100 bills. Inside a six-pointed red star (clearly a Magen David) were the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
Trump quickly replaced the Magen David graphic with a circle, but the dog whistle to the racists among his supporters had been released. To show that the image was no innocent error, Trump later followed up with a speech in which he said: “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”
His supporters didn’t need to hear the word “Jew” to have their antisemitic prejudices confirmed.
Even when appearing before Jewish Republican supporters, Trump simply found himself unable to stop digging into the poisonous ditch of antisemitic slurs. First came the ruthless businessman trope: “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.”
And the highlight: “And I know why you’re not going to support me. You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. Isn’t it crazy? You want to control your own politician.”
Once president, Trump has repeatedly accused Jews who vote Democrat of disloyalty: not to the United States, the country of which they are citizens, but of disloyalty to Israel.
“Where has the Democratic Party gone... where they’re defending these two people [Democratic congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar] over the State of Israel?” Trump asked last year. “I think any Jewish people who would vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” He’s also told an American Jewish audience that Benjamin Netanyahu is “your prime minister.”
THESE WORDS have consequences.
Since Trump became president, there has been a startling increase in attacks on American Jews. In fact, 2017 was the worst year for antisemitic acts in the United States since the Anti-Defamation League began counting three decades ago, with nearly 2,000 cases of physical assaults, vandalism, bomb threats and other incidents. It should not be forgotten that 2017 was the year of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s talk of “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes between white supremacists and protesters.
And over the years, these antisemitic incidents have become more deadly. In October 2018, 11 worshipers were killed during Shabbat morning prayers at the Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh. The gunman shouted “All Jews must die” as he began his attack. Last year, during Passover, at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego, a woman was murdered by a white extremist gunman who claimed: “I’m defending our nation against the Jewish people, who are trying to destroy all white people.”
In this atmosphere of antisemitism, it’s not just white extremists who are emerging out of the shadows. In the New York area, three people were killed in an attack on a kosher store in Jersey City last month by two attackers linked to the Black Hebrew Israelites, while five people were stabbed during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey by an African-American who authorities say had handwritten journals with antisemitic references and had used his phone to look up information on Hitler.
While Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the World Holocaust Forum, talks of Jewish life “once again [being] under threat in Europe,” it’s time that Jewish and Israeli leaders stop ignoring the antisemitism, racism and xenophobia that America’s president has unleashed.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.


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