Americas Jews divided over source of growing antisemitism in the US

The Democratic Party has blamed Trump for the rise of antisemitism, but in an op-ed, Kenneth Levin has said that they are deflecting from their own culpability.

Protesters and supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump clash in front of Benedict College as the president spoke at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at the college in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. October 25, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/SAM WOLFE)
Protesters and supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump clash in front of Benedict College as the president spoke at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum at the college in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S. October 25, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SAM WOLFE)
A dispute between Jewish Americans over where the main threat of antisemitism is coming from in the US is rolling on ahead of the US presidential election in November, with both Democrat- and Republican-backers accusing the opposing side of covering for antisemitic incitement.
In early October, the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) released a campaign ad comparing US President Donald Trump's administration to the rise of fascism in Nazi Germany, comparing images of antisemitic graffiti in 1930s Germany and modern America. Halie Soifer, JDCA executive director, said in response to its release: “We must vote like our future as a people depends on it – because it does.”
The ad drew criticism from a number of groups including the American Jewish Committee and the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC); Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC's associate dean said the comparison was "beneath contempt," and added "the invoking of Nazi imagery not only slanders the victims of the Nazis [and] the candidate, but [also] the tens of millions of Americans who support him."
However, the criticism was not unanimous. Prominent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt and former Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman expressed sympathy with the advert, voicing concern for the future of Jewish Americans under Trump.
Now author and historian Kenneth Levin has gone further in condemning the advert. In an opinion piece for the Jewish News Syndicate headlined "Jews Betraying Jews," Levin accused the Democratic Party of stoking antisemitism in America and deflecting the blame on to President Trump.
"The Jewish Democratic Council of America, in its Trump as Nazi ad, covers up the truth about who is battling antisemitism and who is abetting it. In doing so, it serves a political end, but undermines the security of American Jews," he wrote, adding: "It is hardly unprecedented in American history for some Jews to try and move Jewish political opinion by invoking, at times scurrilously, perceived or imagined threats. Still, the issue of antisemitism in America and the well-being of the Jewish community is too serious a matter to be trivialized or misrepresented for narrow political ends of any sort."
Levin pointed to the Democratic Party's continued acceptance of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) within the ranks of the party, despite both representatives having come in for sharp criticism over their use of antisemitic tropes, and the pair's refusal to join a party-sponsored trip to Israel in summer 2019. Instead, they chose to attempt to make the trip under the auspices of Miftah, an organization known for its Holocaust denial and stark antisemitism.
Israel responded by blocking the trip, but rather than criticizing their colleagues for their decision to ally with antisemites over the State of Israel, the Democratic leadership instead attacked Israel for preventing their entry.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has since endorsed both Omar and Tlaib for reelection.
Levin further pointed to the party's embrace of Black Lives Matter, whose leaders have employed anti-Jewish rhetoric, and to the party's failure to distance themselves from the group when synagogues and Jewish property were vandalized, for example in Fairfax, Los Angeles.
Similarly, Levin said, the party has shown willingness to give a platform to figures such as Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, as well as Pastor Frederick Haynes, all of whom have lives to Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, which teaches that the Jews control the world. Farrakhan has been quoted as saying "the satanic Jews that control everything, and mostly everybody, if they are your enemy, you must, must be somebody," and as calling Jews "termites" and "bloodsuckers."
And, he explained, the party has largely ignored rising antisemitism within American society, most notably on university campuses, preferring instead to "blame the Trump administration for the rising tide of antisemitism and to misdirect Jewish concern, particularly seeking to link the president to white supremacist antisemitism."
Rather than being entirely attributable to Trump, antisemitism comes from a wide range of motivations, Levin said.
"Antisemitism in America comes from four main sources: white supremacism, black supremacism, Islamism and elements of leftist progressivism," he wrote.
"In recent years, the first has claimed the most Jewish lives, in Pittsburgh and in Poway. But Jews have been killed for being Jews in New Jersey and New York, and many more have been injured by assailants driven by one or more of the latter three ideologies. Moreover, by most measures, white supremacism has the least following in America of the four. Certainly, it has penetrated less into the mainstream than the other three."
Meanwhile, the matter continues to split Jews.
A September poll by the Garin Hart Yang research group found that 67% of Jewish voters plan to vote for Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden in November, against 30% who will turn out for President Trump. The results suggest support for Trump is growing in the American Jewish community; in the 2016 election, Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won 71% of the Jewish vote to Trump's 24%.
Yet the majority of Israelis prefer Trump over Biden – a poll by the Direct Falls Research Institute conducted on October 6 found that 63% of Israelis would prefer the reelection of President Trump, compared to 19% who would rather Biden won out. The majority of respondents said they thought a Trump presidency would be better for Israel.