US President Donald Trump just named an acting attorney general who doesn’t think Jews belong on the federal bench. Either the president knew this and agreed or he did a poor job of vetting a man he lied about even knowing.
Matthew Whittaker, the nation’s new chief law enforcement officer, believes all federal judges must have a New Testament “biblical view of justice,” which also rules out Muslims and all other non-Christians. This was part of his platform in his failed 2014 Senate candidacy in Iowa, and there’s no sign he’s changed his mind.
When Trump was asked at a press conference last week whether calling himself a “nationalist” inspires white supremacists antisemitism and violence, the president evaded answering and angrily told the reporter – an African-American woman, a favorite target for his scorn – that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called him the most pro-Israel president in history and gave him a plaque.
Abe Foxman, the former ADL leader, said he doesn’t believe Trump is an antisemite, but his “extreme rhetoric” encourages his “bigoted base” and “helped create” conditions that “triggered” the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Trump is a “demagogue” and a threat to American democracy, and that “sure as hell threatens Jews,” Foxman told Times of Israel writer David Horovitz.
Israeli author Gershom Gorenberg makes a persuasive argument that Trump is an anti-Semite and says having a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren doesn’t change that.
Trump’s non-answer to the black reporter was part of a larger problem. This president is a racist who has staked his political career on encouraging racists. The evidence is overwhelming and it predates his presidential campaign, which started out with an attack on Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals and rapists. He went deeper into the muck from there.
He is an equal opportunity bigot. It’s hard to think of a group he hasn’t attacked. Immigrants. African Americans. LBGT. Native Americans. Latinos. Muslims. African countries (“shitholes”). Women. And if you think Jews won’t eventually be targets, you’re living in a dream world.
Trump’s white identity politics gets little or no pushback from the Republican Party. Jonathan Greenblatt, Foxman’s successor at ADL, said some elements of the GOP have embraced antisemitic language and the “rhetoric of white supremacists.”
With Trump’s strong authoritarian bent and mile-wide mean streak, how can Jews watch him go after every other minority group and not feel vulnerable?
It’s not that he hasn’t targeted Jews in his tweets and rants. One favorite is an 88-year-old Holocaust survivor and billionaire philanthropist, George Soros, the subject of countless anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Trump has accused him of financing the immigrant caravan “invasion” of the southern border – a hoax Trump cooked up, at a cost to taxpayers of an estimated $200 million, to frighten his base and dropped the day after the election – and being behind the demonstrations against Brett Kavanaugh’s court nomination.
Those protesters were “paid for by Soros,” Trump tweeted, leading columnist Max Book to respond that Soros has “replaced the Rothschilds as the symbol of Jewish finance.” Trump also has named Soros among the sinister “faces of international finance,” along with fellow Jews investment banker Lloyd Blankfein and former Fed chair Janet Yellen.
When the stock market took a deep dive this week, Trump quickly blamed it on Democrats and their plans to investigate his scandal-ridden administration
He knows that leading those investigations will be several Jewish Democratic lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who Politico called “Trump’s new Enemy No. 1”; Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff; and Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey. Jews will also be leading other House committees. In the Senate, the Democratic leader is Chuck Schumer, another favorite target of Trump’s wrath.
Without a compliant Congress to do his bidding, Trump will be pointing his tiny fingers of blame in all directions. Introspection is not in his nature. Look for another jump in antisemitism as Jewish lawmakers wield new power.
The ADL has reported a 57% increase in antisemitic incidents since Trump took office. Many feel his incendiary rhetoric, racism, xenophobia and fear mongering played a role in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and other hate crimes.
Trump’s bromance with Netanyahu will not save the Jews from being blamed for the problems the administration can expect from the Democratic-led House of Representatives or a possible economic downturn.
If anything, the Israeli leader’s fealty to a president highly unpopular among American Jews – nearly 80% voted Democratic in last week’s midterm elections, which were widely seen, including by Trump, as a referendum on this president’s performance – as contributing to the widening rift between the American Diaspora and the current Israeli leadership.
That Democratic margin may have been boosted by blatantly antisemitic ads by Republican candidates – many showing Jews clutching money – in Pennsylvania, California, Washington state, Minnesota, Connecticut and Alaska, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The Jewish vote was bad news for Netanyahu but less so for Trump, who sees his Israel policies not as a magnet for Jewish votes but for Jewish money and evangelical support.
When Trump’s base, riled up by his incitement, gets unhappy that he isn’t doing enough for them, might they go after the Jews?
Trump has spent years fertilizing the fields of anger and hatred and fear. Image what he and his base will be doing if former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders get into the 2020 race. Trump looks to Netanyahu to defend him from the Jews, but this election showed it won’t work
Trump won’t look to the mainstream media, which he dubbed the “enemy of the American people,” to carry his message. It will be his base in the alt-right media. Outlets like Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon, Laura Ingraham, Infowars, Fox & Friends, Breitbart, the Daily Stormer and others. And don’t forget those “many fine people” among neo-Nazis, KKK, white supremacists and other veterans of Charlottesville.
Why isn’t the Jewish establishment more upset? They seem to prefer to speak about antisemitism on campuses than about a president who openly and enthusiastically courts white supremacists, neo-Nazis and violent xenophobes. Why don’t they take the white nationalism and anti-Semitism of this president more seriously? Are they afraid Trump will ramp up his tweets and attack them? Is it the Neville Chamberlain approach – make him happy so he doesn’t get even worse than he is?
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