Trump's rhetoric

Trump’s remarks smacked of classic stereotypes of Jews.

US President Donald Trump speaks at the Israeli-American Council 2019 Summit. (photo credit: ISRAEL-AMERICAN COUNCIL)
US President Donald Trump speaks at the Israeli-American Council 2019 Summit.
US President Donald Trump’s address to the Israeli American Council in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday night contained all the right elements to please Israel supporters.
Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 people, Trump recalled how he had ignored criticism from world leaders and moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, how he ignored condemnations and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and how he pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Israel – he said to thunderous applause – will never have as good a friend in the White House.
Had he stuck to the script of his speech, it would have been remembered for his pro-Israel record and for the fact that he did not mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said nothing about the Israeli leader who is now trying to convince Israelis that they need him to continue reaping strategic benefits from Trump.
The problem was that Trump’s remarks also smacked of classic stereotypes of Jews.
In its definition of antisemitism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance says contemporary examples include making “stereotypical allegations about the power of Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”
In his speech, Trump played on such stereotypes.
After declaring his administration’s unbreakable alliance with Israel, Trump told the audience, mostly American Israelis, that he knew they would not back his Democratic opponent Sen. Elizabeth Warren – who has proposed an annual tax on households with a net worth of between $50 million and $1 billion – because she would take their wealth away.
“You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax,” he said, echoing the old canard of Jews only caring about their business interests. “Let’s take 100% of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don’t like me – and some of you don’t, some of you I don’t like at all actually – and you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.”
Trump also displayed his insensitivity to other minorities by once again referring to Warren as “Pocahontas” – a term that denigrates Native Americans.
Trump “vigorously” condemned the BDS campaign against Israel and lashed out, legitimately, at Rep. Ilhan Omar’s tweet in February against AIPAC that “It’s all about the Benjamins baby” – a line about $100 bills drawn from a Puff Daddy song.
“One lawmaker said that Israel ‘hypnotized the world’ and said that support for Israel ‘is all about the Benjamins,’” Trump said. “My administration strongly opposes this despicable rhetoric. As long as I’m your president, it makes no difference. It’s not happening.”
But then Trump went on to employ language that emphasized similar views of Jews. Priding himself on his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he spoke about finding an ideal location for it, telling his audience that they should know what this means because “a lot of you are in the real estate business... I know you very well, you’re brutal Realtors!”
Not for the first time, Trump also bashed American Jews who were not supportive enough of the Jewish state, turning on its head the age-old accusation that Jews have dual loyalty.
“You have people – Jewish people – and they are great people and they don’t love Israel enough,” he said.
It was reminiscent of a remark he made earlier this year, accusing Jews who vote Democrat of being “disloyal” – later clarifying that he meant disloyal to Israel and not the US.
The bulk of Trump’s speech warmed the audience’s hearts and rightly so. He has stood by Israel over the last three years in a starkly different way than the previous administration. His statements about Jews, though, are worrisome, and do nothing to calm or change the feeling within Jewish communities that there is a rise in antisemitism today across the globe.
While Trump may indeed love Israel and Jews, we urge the president to refrain in the future from rhetoric that feeds the stereotypes off which Jewish hate is built.