US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference.
(photo credit: SAUL LOEB / AFP)
In this strangest of election years, one element of the political discourse keeps getting stranger: the crusade to uncover any smidgen of antisemitism.
With great zeal, journalists – particularly in the Jewish media – have gone to extraordinary lengths hunting for the slightest hint of anti-Jewish hostility. Their findings have been enlightening, though perhaps not exactly as intended.
Donald Trump has faced some unusual charges, under the apparent premise that Trump, deep down, must be an antisemite. One “proof” came from discovering that, nine years ago, the ex-wife of new Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon claimed in divorce proceedings that Bannon had made disparaging comments (unwitnessed) about how Jewish parents raised their children. Every major media outlet ran with the story. It was little noted that the same Steve Bannon, a former banker at Goldman Sachs, later ran Breitbart News with a staunch pro-Israel outlook and a disproportionately Jewish staff, including Orthodox star writers Ben Shapiro and Joel Pollak.
Trump has also been tarred with the antisemitism brush for criticizing Hillary Clinton’s alleged corrupt connections to global financial powers and special interests – not a word about Jews, but deemed antisemitic because antisemites make similar allegations about Jewish global financial powers. Trump has also been attacked for retweeting messages not remotely antisemitic in themselves, but containing images originally crafted by antisemites. Such sensitivity! Even this newspaper ran a front-page “special report” on Trump’s supposed “complex history” with Jews. After two full pages (including nine paragraphs devoted to the lunatic ruminations of David Duke, whose support Trump has repeatedly disavowed), the story found only, if anything, Trump’s pro-Jewish bias. This was spun as Trump’s problematic “affirmative prejudice” regarding Jews – he respects and admires Jews too much.
Has that really been our biggest problem with political leadership throughout history? One can never be too careful, I suppose.
On a certain level, such accountability for even a whiff of antisemitism is welcome. Which makes it all the more puzzling why the media has ignored more overtly antisemitic statements. How have journalists not excoriated the candidate for blasting a campaign manager as a “f---ing Jew bastard” in front of multiple witnesses? Or yelling at a Jewish political consultant asking for a raise, “Money – that’s all you people care about is money”? Oops, my mistake: those noxious statements didn’t come from Trump; they were said by Hillary Clinton.
Further examples abound. Arkansas State Trooper and Clinton bodyguard for seven years Larry Patterson reported hearing Hillary use anti-Jewish epithets between 10-20 times, including calling her husband a “Jew Boy” or a “Motherf------ Jew.” (He also reported that they both used the “N” word.) Former congressman Earl Hilliard blamed an election loss on “Jewish interests” and “Jewish media”; Clinton appointed him to her campaign’s leadership team.
In a 2011 email, former ambassador Thomas Pickering, a Clinton adviser, suggested that the US treacherously and covertly generate Palestinian unrest to weaken the Netanyahu government and push Israel to the negotiating table. Clinton, self-declared “unshakeable” ally of Israel, reacted by asking an aide to print out a copy for her.
Clinton repeatedly praised unhinged anti-Israel articles by aide Sidney Blumenthal’s son, Max – a man so pathologically hateful of Israel as to be disavowed even by the hard Left. After one rant connecting Benghazi with “Ultra-Zionist Jews,” Clinton emailed Sidney: “Your Max is a Mitzvah.”
In her 2000 Senate race, a fundraiser for Clinton (at which she spoke) was hosted by the American Muslim Alliance, which has variously sanctioned terrorism, supported Hamas, published antisemitic statements, denounced Jews and defended jihad. She accepted their $50,000 donation – but recorded the donation in federal filings as coming from the American Museum Alliance.
In the 1980s, Clinton chaired the New World Foundation, which funded various far-left organizations. Under her leadership, the foundation made an unrestricted grant to Grassroots International, which funneled money to PLO-affiliated groups in the West Bank. This was while the PLO was a US-designated terrorist organization officially committed to the annihilation of Israel.
In 1973, Hillary and future-husband Bill went to visit a politically connected friend in Little Rock, Arkansas.
When she saw a menorah on the door, she refused to get out of the car. Bill apologized to his host, saying “I’m sorry, but Hillary’s real tight with the people in the PLO in New York. They’re friends of hers, and she just doesn’t feel right about the menorah.”
The list goes on. Hillary has denied some of the stories – but what respectable journalist accepts Clinton’s word, especially against the word of several witnesses? Each of these documented stories implicates Clinton herself, not her campaign staff or supporters. How does the media, professing such ultra-sensitivity to antisemitism when involving Donald Trump, justify not delving into any of these incidents involving Hillary Clinton? Antisemitism is intolerable. Period. Journalists refusing to pursue antisemitism equally on both sides of an election betray their own insincerity, and dishonorably misuse this serious issue for partisan purposes. Though the election approaches, let’s see whether any honorable, evenhanded journalism yet emerges.
The author is an American attorney and political commentator living in Israel. He serves as counsel to Republicans Overseas Israel.