No Holds Barred: Donald Trump and the smear of antisemitism

When accusing a man of being an antisemite, let’s be a bit factual lest we falsely libel friends and label allies as foes.

US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference (photo credit: REUTERS)
US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Let’s cut through all the clutter and get straight to the main issues surrounding US President Donald Trump and allegations of antisemitism.
Firstly, to suggest that President Trump dislikes Jews would have us believe that he despises his own daughter and grandchildren when precisely the opposite seems to be true. Ivanka seems to be the apple of his eye. Indeed, when his daughter was dating Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew from a famously observant family, her father could have easily dissuaded her from converting but instead publicly supported her and threw a kosher wedding. It would also suggest that his strong support for Israel is inauthentic when it’s something he has worn on his sleeve for his entire adult life.
Trump as antisemite is not implausible but absurd and libelous.
OK, so Trump is definitely not an antisemite. One would even suggest that he’s a philosemite. He has surrounded himself with Jews who are his business colleagues, employees and friends. I know Orthodox Jews who have long worked for Trump and say that his respect for the Jewish faith has been exemplary.
But is Trump sending dog whistles to white supremacist supporters who dislike Jews? Was his failure until last week to publicly decry antisemitism a result of fear of alienating racist backers?
To answer that we have to identify two different varieties of modern antisemitism. The first is hatred of Israel and a spoken desire to annihilate the Jewish state. Think of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah who openly call for holocausts of the Jews. On these threats Trump has thus far been far better than Barack Obama, who legitimized Iran and gave it $150 billion, even while Obama surrogates like Susan Rice admitted that some of that money would go toward murdering innocent people. While Trump was campaigning against the Iran deal, president Obama was literally sending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash by plane to the mullahs, even while they openly referred to Israel as a cancer that must be completely obliterated.
So Trump is definitely not sending any hidden signals to the Israel haters. To the contrary, his strong and vocal support for Israel is a vast improvement on the administration that preceded him.
Indeed, Trump has condemned the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that is infesting Western universities and which Obama was reluctant to openly confront.
Let’s move then to the second kind of antisemitism, the much more traditional, good old “I hate Jews” variety that preceded the creation of the State of Israel and is the world’s oldest hatred (and is also the source of hatred for the Jewish state). Is Trump sending signals to its carriers, like white supremacists?
Well, what are those signals? That the Jews control finance and media? In that case, Trump is sending a pretty bad signal by choosing Steve Mnuchin to be Secretary of the Treasury and his son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior adviser. After all, how can you say that Trump is using dog whistles to promote traditional antisemitic tropes if he is the one actually perpetuating alleged Jewish control of finance and the reins of power by appointing Jewish individuals to the highest offices in the land?
So clearly, it’s ridiculous to say that Trump is sending any kind of hidden signal, other than “I really respect Jewish people, consider them colleagues and rely on them for some pretty important stuff.”
Take for example the radical and ridiculous attack on Trump by Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, who said, “Make no mistake: The antisemitism coming out of this administration is the worst we have ever seen from any administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial.”
Antisemitism coming out of this administration is the worst ever? Who, pray tell, is it coming from? The president’s son-in-law who is an Orthodox Jew and comes from a family famous for its support for Jewish causes? Is it coming perhaps from Jason Greenblatt, another senior adviser to the president who is likewise an Orthodox Jew who is completely involved in Jewish life? Is the antisemitism coming from David Friedman, Trump’s choice to be America’s ambassador to Israel, who is also Orthodox and a huge supporter of Jewish causes?
What we’re left with is this: the Trump administration was late to condemn the rising tide of antisemitism in America, and the president’s strong condemnation that came last Tuesday at the National Museum of African-American History should have come earlier. That is a legitimate criticism and it is good that the president has now stepped up. Likewise, it was absurd not to focus on the Jewish nature of the Holocaust in the White House statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day. These are valid concerns which the administration must address. And beyond strong statements, the administration should, as Alan Dershowitz recommended, immediately establish a Justice Department task force to investigate the growing threats against Jewish institutions and the vandalism against Jewish cemeteries. These are serious matters that must be addressed with actions and not just words.
But amid these genuine concerns, people like Goldstein who are throwing hysterics and making the most vile accusations against Trump would do well to ponder that in the previous administration, president Obama never once criticized Iran’s threats of annihilation against the Jewish people. Even while he brought Iran out of decades-old diplomatic isolation and gave the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism $150b. in unfrozen assets, Obama never once demanded that as a precondition to any deal Iran must stop threatening six million Jews in Israel with extermination. Furthermore, while Obama was abstaining from defending Israel at the United Nations Security Council against a blatantly antisemitic and anti-Israel resolution in the last weeks of his presidency, President- elect Trump was publicly condemning those same resolutions and defending the Jewish state. And President Trump has been extremely forceful in warning Iran on their ballistic missile violations, missiles which the Iranians proudly proclaim are aimed at Israel.
So when accusing a man of being an antisemite, let’s be a bit factual lest we falsely libel friends and label allies as foes.
The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.