I have spent the last few weeks doing my utmost to offer hope, faith and fortitude to my family, my readers, and my followers around the world as we confront a plague that has caused wretchedness and suffering and claimed the lives of untold innocents.
By right, a rabbi should be allowed to do his job giving comfort to the people. That I should now have to divert my focus toward responding to a positively vile, libelous, and antisemitic attack against me and the Jewish community by the notoriously Israel-hating Guardian of the UK is unfortunate but necessary. We Jews have learned that it is particularly in moments of global crisis that antisemites are most likely to attack.
The TV series based on Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America is now airing on HBO. The story is a disturbing one that envisions Charles Lindbergh defeating Franklin Roosevelt in the presidential election on the platform that he will keep America out of war. Antisemitism becomes accepted to the point where Jews see frightening parallels with the persecution of Jews in Germany.
Guardian journalist Charles Bramesco decided to use a review of the series to attack Jews in general, and me in particular, as being a source of American antisemitism. As Jewish communities around the world are decimated by the coronavirus, Bramesco - who openly and expressly accuses President Donald Trump of being a Nazi - libelously accuses Jews of being pansies for the Hitler-like Trump and fascism.
Bramesco describes the Roth character of Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf, played by the John Turturro, as a stereotypical court Jew who defends Lindbergh against allegations of antisemitism, prompted in part by his flirtations with Hitler, and is rewarded with a position in the administration. Even as persecution of Jews escalates, the rabbi continues to be an enabler of the president.
“Bengelsdorf,” Bramesco writes, “typifies a lethal combination of confidence to the point of gullibility and an excessive fondness of power, which breed complicity in wrongdoing.”
Inexplicably, Bramesco then pivots to me and the object of his unfathomable loathing, Donald Trump. Apropos of nothing, he compares me to Bengelsdorf and President Trump to Charles Lindbergh (and perhaps Adolf Hitler?) He also employs a little Yiddish, calling me a worldwide shanda (embarrassment), “cozying up to President Trump in the presumptive belief that he’ll be exempt from the hatred now being seeded.”
So Jews are responsible for the antisemitism that Trump is sowing in the United States. According to The Guardian, we Jews are culprits and not victims of Jew-hatred.
A discerning reader might be tempted to simply dismiss Bramesco’s writings as the inane blathering of the lunatic fringe, and Bramesco himself as a man filled with an all-consuming hate. But given that they appear in a publication claiming legitimacy, they are deeply damaging, libelous and demanding of a response.
Let me start with his comments about the president. Some people love Trump. Some people loathe him. That’s all part of living in a democracy. The same mixed feelings were true of presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton before him. But to compare Donald Trump, father of a Jewish daughter and grandfather to three Jewish grandchildren, to Lindberg/Hitler is disgusting, foul and an affront to the memory of 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis.
That a supposedly respectable publication like The Guardian would compromise its credibility with an unhinged fanatic like Bramesco is shocking and deeply disturbing. Calling Trump a Nazi and comparing him to Hitler trivializes the Holocaust at this 75th anniversary year of the liberation of so many of the camps where millions were turned into piles of ash.
I have had my areas of agreement with President Trump and my areas of disagreement. If there were racists who supported him, I’ve repeatedly condemned them as “disgusting, vile white supremacist nutjobs.” I strongly criticized the President’s campaign pledge to ban Muslim immigrants, which I labeled “a betrayal of both Jewish and American values.”
But on his unprecedented support for Israel and his strong efforts to combat antisemitism, I am unapologetically grateful. The same is true of my profound gratitude to the president for firing American missiles at the genocidal leader of Syria, the bloody Bashar Assad, for Assad’s using poison gas against Muslim men, women and children; a retaliatory measure that Obama failed to do.
For Bramesco to equate a president widely regarded as the most pro-Israel in American history with Hitler, or with a fictitious president who tells Jews to assimilate “or else” and who puts on his cabinet a vicious antisemite (Henry Ford) who manipulates America’s “neutrality” in favor of Nazi Germany, is vile. Bramesco has made a rag of The Guardian.
AS FOR ME, the supposed worldwide embarrassment who cozies up to President Trump in hopes I’ll be spared the antisemitism he allegedly seeks to unleash, I’ll say this to Mr. Bramesco:
1 I’m not embarrassed by the president pulling out of the Iran deal that presented an existential threat to the Jewish State of Israel;
2 I’m not embarrassed by the president moving the US Embassy to its rightful place in Israel’s capital city Jerusalem; and
3 I’m not embarrassed by his recognition of the Golan Heights or the strenuous efforts his administration has made to promote Middle East peace and provide economic hope and opportunity to our Palestinian brothers and sisters who live under kleptocracy of Mahmoud Abbas and the murderous yoke of Hamas.
Sadly, Bramesco typifies the hate circulating in our currently polarized world. Consider his reaction to the President Trump’s Happy Hanukkah tweet of a photo of a menorah with all the candles lit: “1. Only the first candle and the shammes should be lit, you stupid motherf**ker. [He spelled out the word] 2. YOU ARE A LITERAL NAZI FIGUREHEAD HOW DARE YOU.”
Forget the uncontrollable rage and hate. One wonders: how does someone with such a poor command of English and grammar gets a job with The Guardian?
But perhaps it’s no coincidence that Mr. Bramesco’s has a position at The Guardian, a publication with a longstanding pattern of blatant anti-Israel bias.
For example, after Jeremy Corbyn admitted that he laid a wreath to honor the terrorists responsible for the Munich Massacre in 2014, The Guardian published an op-ed defending Corbyn and said, “There is nothing immoral about laying a wreath to remember the victims of an attack that even Margaret Thatcher condemned.”
Also, on more than one occasion, The Guardian has published demonstrably false accusations that Ethiopian women in Israel were given contraceptives without their consent.
Last year, a Guardian editorial disputed that Hamas is a terrorist group, and accused Israel of killing unarmed Palestinians with “impunity,” including children, medics and journalists who “posed no danger to anyone.”
The Guardian ignored the fact that Israel was responding to riots and attempts to infiltrate Israel in order to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians; that Israeli soldiers have strict rules of engagement for firing at violent protesters; and that most of those killed were associated with a terror group.
Bramesco and The Guardian offer no explanation for their ad hominem attack on me and other Jews whose sin in their eyes is simple gratitude for moral actions Trump has taken like holding Iran accountable for their repeated promises to annihilate Israel.
It is particularly sad that in a time when we need to pull together and support and protect humanity from a deadly virus sweeping the world, that The Guardian and Bramesco trade in such extreme hate.
I have spent my life promoting universal Jewish values, advocating for Holocaust memory and education, crusading for genocide awareness and fighting genocidal incitement, facilitating African-American-Jewish relations, supporting LGBTQ rights, and defending Israel. I’ve spent my career as a rabbi opposing dictatorships and authoritarian regimes while promoting the freedoms afforded by democracy and working to see they are available as a birthright to everyone on earth.
The unforgettable words of Joseph Welch to Joseph McCarthy apply equally to Bramesco and the editors at The Guardian.
“At long last sirs, have you no decency?”
The writer, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of the World Values Network and the author of 33 books, including Judaism for Everyone.