Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he is not an antisemite. Yet there is a malicious campaign afoot to paint him as one.
Tablet Magazine, for example, has launched a “Trump Watch” series, complete with German Gothic script that is apparently meant to remind readers of antisemitic tabloids in Nazi Germany. Its mission: to show the “daily low-lights of Donald Trump’s attempt to use the dark forces of bigotry to become President.”
The inaugural post cites Louis Farrakhan’s praise for Trump for refusing money from Jews (as he has from virtually everyone, thus far).
The post goes further, and quotes Lloyd Grove’s absurd article at the Daily Beast, in which Breitbart is accused of inciting Twitter trolls to scare Federalist writer Bethany Shondark Mandel, who has never once been attacked by this website. Breitbart News has called on the Daily Beast to retract the article. (No one from Tablet contacted Breitbart News before regurgitating the article’s false innuendo, and wrongly associating Breitbart with bigotry.)
The next edition of Trump Watch links Trump with the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement — though it admits he has nothing to do with it. Actual quote: “Factually, of course, they’ve little in common. But facts don’t matter here because facts don’t always make sense.”
The following Trump Watch hits him for comments about the KKK, whom he had already disavowed. And the next takes up a letter signed by foreign policy experts opposed to Trump’s candidacy, and suggests “maybe something darker is taking place … Republicans with fundamentally authoritarian instincts are beginning to shoot glances at one another and to see their opportunity.”
None of the above is convincing, or even attempts to be. It is aimed at toxifying Trump among potential supporters in the Jewish community and beyond.
Never mind his daughter Ivanka’s Orthodox Jewish conversion, or Trump’s endorsement for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The man, and his supporters, must be demonized.
Take, for instance, Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel (ECI), which did outstanding work in trying to stop the Iran deal. You might think Kristol and ECI would acknowledge Trump’s efforts to fight the deal, including his address to a large rally on Capitol Hill last fall.
Instead, ECI has waded into primary politics with a new ad this week claiming that Trump is dangerous for Israel because of his “disturbing affection for anti-American dictators.”
And earlier this week, Nefesh b’Nefesh, a non-profit organization that helps Jews who want to make aliyah (move to Israel), tweeted to Jewish Republicans who oppose Trump that “we’re here if you need us.” The tweet (for which the organization later apologized) was responding to an op-ed in the left-leaning Forward that claimed Jewish Republicans are worried about Trump because of his “nativist working class political movement,” adding that “the Jewish experience with overweening, oversensitive wannabe dictator-chieftains is not a good one.”
The article purported to speak for Jewish Republicans. But there are certainly some who support Trump as well.
Israeli Uber driver: “How did our friend do in #GOPDebate?” Me: “Who?” Driver: “Trump!” Me: “Why assume–” Driver: “You’re Jewish, like me!”
— Joel Pollak (@joelpollak) March 4, 2016
There is much to criticize in Trump’s foreign policy, including on Israel. Trump arrived at a Republican Jewish Coalition candidate forum in December poorly prepared to answer policy questions on Israel, and was criticized for making Jewish jokes in a clumsy attempt to bond with the audience.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), his two main rivals, have slammed him repeatedly for saying he would be “neutral” in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Yes, they have misconstrued his remarks, suggesting that he would be neutral towards Israel in general, when he specifically blamed Palestinians for the impasse. But that’s just politics.
There’s also an argument to be made, as Ben Shapiro does, that Trump could speak out more forcefully against antisemitism.
All of that is legitimate criticism. The attempt to turn Donald Trump into Hitler is not. It is a game of guilt-by-association, the same nonsense that was unleashed against Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008, when Democrats immediately tried to link her to Nazis.
Then-Rep. Robert Weller (D-FL) said:
John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate that endorsed Pat Buchanan for president in 2000 is a direct affront to all Jewish Americans. Pat Buchanan is a Nazi sympathizer with a uniquely atrocious record on Israel, even going as far as to denounce bringing former Nazi soldiers to justice and praising Adolf Hitler for his “great courage.”
The smear campaign against Trump comes out of the same playbook. It is not simple fear of populist nationalism. It is being carried out by those who know, or are capable of deducing, that Trump is neither an antisemite nor trying to appeal to antisemites. It is a vendetta by political opponents who are determined to stop Trump and have chosen to use this noxious slander as their weapon.
As with false accusations of racism, it tends to desensitize people to the real thing.