During the campaign of 2016, many on the left predicted that Trump would be the next Adolf Hitler — if not the full-blown genocidal maniac who started world wars and engaged in genocide, at least a version of Hitler-lite.
It was a shocking claim, but one that gained increasing currency as the campaign intensified.
As example was a column published in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, where I am a columnist, attacking me, in March of 2016, by Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner. After engaging in the usual ad hominem attacks against me for calling out those who call Trump Hitler, Kirshner wrote, “Where I quibble with those like Rabbi Boteach is, when exactly is the moment of worry which officially allows us to sound the alarm bells? Must one first kill 6 Million Jewish souls to be categorized as ‘Hitler?’”
From there the cacophony of Trump-as-dictator, Trump-as-genocidal maniac, and Trump as an American form of Hitler only increased.
HBO aired their series The Plot Against America, based on the Philip Roth novel of the same title, which envisions the antisemite Charles Lindberg becoming a Nazi-version of an American president during World War II. Many interpreted its timing as a message that that was exactly what would happen with Donald Trump.
Recently, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg got into a lot of trouble with the Jewish left for stating that Jews owed a debt of gratitude toward Donald Trump. Such is the state of our divisions that even when a respected and liberally-minded Rabbi simply invokes Jewish values and says we should have some “hakarat hatov,” thankfulness, for all Trump has done for Israel, he is savagely attacked.
Greenberg never said Jews should vote for Trump and did not even reveal whom he himself would be vote for. Rather, he simply said that Jews should feel gratitude for a president who has stopped the demonization of Israel in international forums and forged peace between Israel and an increasing number of Arab gulf states.
I assume this didn’t play well with the “Trump is Hitler” crowd, who have been so vocal for the past four years. While saying thank you to a man who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognized the Golan Heights, changed the tenor toward Israel at the UN, and, most importantly, took us out of the Iran Deal, is too much, demonizing him as a monster is still too little.
My purpose here is not to tell anyone how to vote. Less so is it to endorse any candidate. As a Rabbi, I never have. Those Jews or others who believe that Biden is their best candidate — then, of course, vote your conscience.
Rather, my intention is to defend those who simply say that even if they wish to vote against Trump, they can still be grateful for all he has done for Israel and the Jewish people, and to push against those who abase themselves by comparing Trump to Hitler or make any other Nazi comparisons.
Such words are beyond disgusting, vile, shameful, and it’s gone on for four years. So it’s time to assess whether the earlier implications have even remotely materialized.
Since 2016 we’ve heard that Trump would become a dictator and stifle all dissent. That he would dismantle American democracy as we know it. That he would limit press freedoms and quash expression of his opposition.
Really? No President in American history has been more hated by the mainstream news organs that hate Trump. The New York Times last week devoted not just the customary editorial rejecting Trump and endorsing Biden, but an entire section of editorials pillorying Trump and embracing Biden. There is no precedent for them doing this against any other candidate.
Do you know what Trump can do about it? Nothing. Zero. He has no power over the media.
The comedy on Showtime, Our Cartoon President, pillories Trump every week as an overweight imbecile halfwit. Trump’s kids and family are mercilessly mocked.
What can Trump do about it? More than refuse to watch it, nothing. Oh yes, he can also call it “fake news.” But that’s about it.
And the media does not fear him in the slightest either, thereby proving that he is neither dictator nor tyrant. CNN, MSNBC, and countless other news organizations strongly challenge Trump from right inside the White House.
To the contrary, his media enemies have been emboldened by his presidency and they vilify him with gusto, which is their right, but which also undermines their whole claim that he is dismantling democracy or free speech.
The same is true of Trump’s political enemies, who march around the country in their millions, condemning him in the strongest terms, with the President utterly powerless to do a single thing about it. And why? Because the freedoms of America have not withered in the slightest during the Trump presidency.
Yes, America is divided. Yes, many Americans sadly hate each other. But yes, America remains absolutely and totally free. It would be better if we had more love for each other. And Obama contributed plenty — as did Trump — to the divisions in American society.
Obama forced the Iran deal and other unilateral actions down the throat of the American body politic — with little Congressional support — knowing that it could tear the nation apart. But he did it anyway.
Both Presidents could have, and should have done more, to unite the country. But let’s not pretend that the fault lines in America began with Donald Trump.
I shouldn’t even have to say this, but the disgusting and vile comparison of Trump to Hitler belittles the Holocaust and all genocide. But beyond that, it is another act of ingratitude, even by those who have a legitimate right to dislike the president for many of his policies which they reject.
For Trump, not Obama, is the president who twice fired American missiles at the genocidaire Bashar Assad of Syria for gassing Arab children.
Trump is condemned for being too close to Putin. I wish he’d condemn the tyrant in stronger terms. But let’s not forget that it was Obama who turned over the problem of Assad’s poison gas to Russia and Putin, accepting the tyrant’s guarantee that he would disarm Assad of his nerve agents, which would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.
And then there is the Iran deal, where President Obama refused to ever confront Iran over their promise to become Hitler and annihilate Israel’s six million Jews, not to mention bring death to America, the big Satan which supports the little Jewish Satan. So who rewarded Iran for their repeated promises to bring about a second Holocaust by giving them $150 billion in unfrozen assets, with much of it literally flown in cargo planes as cash? Obama or Trump? And who, when they entered the Oval Office, imposed new sanctions on Iran for their threats to exterminate Israel, bringing their economy to ruin? Obama or Trump?
Then there is the comparison, made by AOC and others, that Trump built concentration camps on the Southern border. He’s therefore Hitler. Another disgusting, stomach-turning comparison.
We can condemn the separation of children from parents at detention centers on the border — a practice which should never happened and was quickly stopped — while never being so offensive as to compare it to the Holocaust, where 10,000 Jews were put into gas chambers every day for three years.
To compare American border agents to the Gestapo is an abomination. To compare US ICE agents to the SS is an affront to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were gassed to death at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, and so many other centers of death. And to compare America to Nazi Germany is an affront to logic, values, and decency. It should offend every American.
What the “Trump as Hitler” attacks really expose are the biases and prejudices — not to mention the amorality — of his opponents. For they are even prepared to trivialize Hitler’s unprecedented and unspeakable crimes all in an effort to demonize Donald Trump.
And that just shows you where we have all come to, politically. We have precious few values left. We hate each other so much that we only use the most extreme examples by which to pillory one another.
Which is why we should go back to basics.
Jews who are voting for Biden can still, as Rabbi Greenberg said, show thankfulness and gratitude for all that Trump has done for Israel and the Jewish people, while still choosing to eject him from office.
Jews who are voting for Trump can still acknowledge Biden’s decades of friendship with Israel and the Jewish community.
And Jews who are voting for Biden can still make it clear to him that he better maintain his independence and not be co-opted by the anti-Semitic polices of the Democratic far left, headed by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
And Jews on the left and the right can all agree that for four years it’s been inspiring to see a President with a Jewish daughter, whom he loves very much, and son-in-law, in the White House who observe the Sabbath, light the Chanukah candles, read the Purim Megillah, and push their father to stand with, and protect, a people, and their nation-state, who just sent seventy years ago were murdered in their millions by a man and a party to whom no human ought ever be compared to, save the Iranian Mullahs who glory in their designs to copy the Nazis and imitate Hitler.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.