One of the most enduring and irrational lies about President Donald Trump is that his election and policies, such as his proposed temporary ban on immigration from six Muslim majority countries, has encouraged an outbreak of bigotry and religious discrimination that was responsible for the recent outbreak of bomb threats against well over 100 Jewish community centers, schools and museums across the country, and acts of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis and Philadelphia areas.
Trump was harshly criticized by liberal American Jewish groups which have largely opposed his political agenda for being too slow to publicly acknowledge the wave of anti-Semitic incidents and forcefully condemn them. Trump has answered that criticism with the help of Vice President Mike Pence, who has demonstrated his deep personal concern about the problem and spoken out against it in the name of the Trump administration.
To the surprise of many of Trump’s liberal critics, the two people who have been identified so far as being responsible for many of the anti-Semitic incidents were not Trump supporters. One of them was Juan Thompson, a black former journalist for the anti-Israel liberal online publication called The Intercept. He was arrested in St. Louis in early March by the FBI for seeking revenge against a white former friend by trying to frame her for at least eight of the anti-Semitic bomb threats, including one against the New York office of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Thompson was fired from The Intercept last year for fabricating quotes in his articles and creating fake email accounts to impersonate other people, including his editor.
The person responsible for many of the other telephoned bomb threats is a mentally disturbed 19-year-old Jew with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. He was born in Israel and lives with his parents near Ashkelon. His father was also arrested.
According to his lawyer, the young man has been suffering from a brain tumor since he was 14, which could affect his behavior. He has been making anti-Semitic threats against Jewish institutions around the world for two years in an attempt to gain publicity.
Ironically, his telephoned bomb threats were largely ignored by the media until Trump was elected and liberals began to falsely accuse him of encouraging anti-Semitic attacks. That resulted in heightened media coverage of the bomb threats, which prompted the young man to make more threatening phone calls.
NO APOLOGIES FROM TRUMP’S LIBERAL CRITICS
Even though it appears that the recent surge of anti-Semitic incidents was not carried out by Trump supporters, most of Trump’s liberal critics have not retracted or apologized for their public accusations that he was ultimately responsible for them. In fact, they redoubled their accusations when Trump accurately predicted in February that, “it won’t be my people,” who had committed these acts. “It will be the people on the other side.”
At a meeting with a group of state attorney generals, Trump called the anti-Semitic threats “reprehensible” and then added that people should “be careful” about accusing his supporters of these acts. “It could be the reverse,” he said, and suggested that some of the threats could have been made “to make others look bad.”
Liberal critics responded by accusing Trump of trying to evade responsibility for the consequences of his rhetoric.
The Democratic National Committee accused Trump of showing “a clear pattern” of anti-Semitism. Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, who had formerly worked as Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation in the Obama White House, demanded that Trump explain himself.
A slew of left wing media outlets and pundits accused Trump of trying to blame the victims of anti-Semitism instead of more forcefully speaking out and acting to protect them.
Trump turned out to be correct. His supporters were not responsible for the threats. The mentally disturbed young man in Israel did not appear to have had any political motivation. Thompson, on the other hand, was a political partisan, but his affiliations were with the anti-Israel extreme left rather than the pro-Trump right.
TRUMP’S LIBERAL CRITICS IGNORING THE “INCONVENIENT TRUTH”
But Democrats and liberal Jews who despise Trump and refuse to accept him as a legitimate president have tuned out the “inconvenient truth” that he is not responsible for the recent outbreak of anti-Semitism. Those who were responsible actually took advantage of the fearmongering that Trump’s critics had created in the media. The anti-Semitic accusations against Trump have encouraged the attacks they were allegedly meant to combat. The young man in Israel and left wing journalist Thompson used the artificial media hysteria to achieve their own goals, which had nothing to do with Trump or their feelings about Jews.
Israeli police say that the troubled young man had been making bomb threats against targets in different countries in the hope of obtaining significant media coverage. After making each threat, he would closely monitor the media in that country to gauge its response. If it didn’t generate the headlines he sought, he would try again somewhere else. But if his telephone threat was widely reported, he would threaten other targets in the same area in the hope of producing more media buzz.
He did not limit himself to targeting Jewish institutions. He also threatened shopping malls and airlines, and used an Internet anonymity program to disguise the origin of his phone calls from law enforcement. His earlier threats against Jewish institutions in Australia, New Zealand and the United States produced little media coverage, so he didn’t pursue them. But once Trump’s critics began accusing him of fomenting anti-Semitism, the phone threats began generating headlines across the country and questions at White House news conferences. This prompted the troubled young man to redouble his efforts to reap publicity.
TRUMP HELPED TO END TO THE BOMB THREATS
Israeli police had been aware of evidence that someone in Israel was making threatening phone calls to other countries, but since the threats were bogus, they did not consider the case to be a high priority. They also lacked the technical skills necessary to track down the elusive caller.
That situation changed a few weeks ago, after Trump ordered the FBI to find the source of the bomb threats. It sent a dozen of its cybercrime experts to Israel, and were able to help Israeli police crack to find and arrest the culprit.
Some of the other media promoted acts of anti-Semitic vandalism turned out to be false alarms. A few headstones that toppled at a Jewish cemetery in Brooklyn turned out to be due to disrepair, rather than the acts of hooligans. A swastika spray-painted on a man’s home in Upstate New York was put there by the homeowner himself.
An ADL report which looked into a wave of “online hate” messages following Trump’s election found that only 1,600 Twitter accounts were responsible for two-thirds of the objectionable messages. The fact that many of those Twitter accounts were registered in Russia suggests that this “wave” of hatred could have been manufactured as part of the larger Russian hacking effort into the U.S. political system which is now being investigated.
THE LIBERAL HYSTERIA FED THE ANTI-SEMITISM
Many liberals still want to believe that Trump’s victory has unleashed the bigots in this country to act on their hatred and prejudices. Like Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponents like to lump the bulk of his supporters into a “basket of deplorables” to help them rationalize their inexplicable and deeply embarrassing defeat in November.
One of the most exaggerated claims that Trump is responsible for a renaissance of American bigotry is the assertion by ADL director Greenblatt that since Trump took office, U.S. anti-Semitism has reached the highest level since the 1930s. The statement flies in the face of the historical facts.
Up to the entry of the U.S. into World War II with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the pro-Nazi German-American Bund and the isolationist America First Committee were popular political movements, and tens of millions of radio listeners tuned in to the viciously anti-Semitic weekly broadcasts of Father Charles Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest. Well into the 1950s, Jewish students were limited by a strict quota system from entering the best American colleges. They were barred from “restricted” hotels and professional associations, and were routinely subjected to anti-Semitic slurs and taunts in public and private.
ANTI-SEMITISM IS STILL JUST UNDER THE SURFACE
We dare not ignore the fact that anti-Semitism is still alive and well, just under the surface, in much of American society. Trump did not invent the bigotry driving those who vandalize Jewish cemeteries and draw swastikas on shul walls. None of this is new.
Jews have long been the leading victims of religious hate crimes in America. This has been proven by FBI hate-crime statistics, which consistently show that Jews are targeted for attack far more than members of any of other faith. Since the 9/11 attacks, American Muslim leaders have cultivated the myth that they are the faith community which has been most under siege in this country, but it is not true.
But there has been significant progress compared to the situation in this country 60 years ago. Anti-Semitism is no longer socially acceptable in polite American society, except in liberal circles, in the guise of anti-Zionism. American Jews now enjoy legal protections against overt religious-based discrimination and our religious rights are protected in the workplace.
THE BIGGEST THREAT IS FROM THE LEFT
The primary challenges to our religious practices in this country today, such as bris milah and shechitah, are also coming from extremists on left, while many religious non-Jews on the right are among the most vocal supporters of Israel and religious liberties for all.
It is undeniably true that anti-Semitic hatred is much more pervasive and acceptable in society today amid the extreme political left than the extreme right. A particularly nasty example of that was evident in 2015, when the Obama White House joined with the anti-Israel Jewish left to launch a publicity campaign that vilified critics of the deeply flawed Iran nuclear deal for harboring “dual or divided loyalties,” a classic anti-Semitic accusation.
By tying unsupported accusations of anti-Semitism into their broader anti-Trump political narrative, secular liberal American Jewish leaders have given isolated anti-Semitic acts a level of media attention that they would never have earned on their own. They have created a feedback effect which inspires copy cats and perpetrators by giving them the notoriety they seek.
By “crying wolf” and falsely blaming Trump, they have made the fight against anti-Semitism more difficult. Next time, and history teaches us that there will be a next time, such calls for help from the Jewish community are likely to be met with much more skepticism.
Turning anti-Semitism into just another partisan political issue is just as dangerous to the American Jewish community as equating support for Israel to the promotion of the two-state solution, or making support for the Iran nuclear deal a litmus test for the patriotism of American Jews.
By joining with Trump’s critics, Jewish liberals have bought into the false narratives of the anti-Semitic and anti-religious left. These are the same people who, in the Middle East, falsely portray the Palestinians as the victims and Israel as the oppressors. With regard to domestic policy, they dismiss the moral standards and principles of our religious faith as obsolete and in violation of their secular concept of human rights.
They do not have the best interests of Israel or the Jewish people at heart. Today, a strange alliance of Islamists and liberal elites is driving the trend that, ironically, the Obama State Department correctly labeled as a “rising tide of anti-Semitism” around the world.
LIBERAL JEWISH GROUPS CROSSED THE LINE OPPOSING TRUMP
Liberal Jews were blindsided by Trump’s victory and were naturally drawn to the organized efforts of the left to “resist” his presidency. The flurry of anti-Semitic incidents which were played up by the mainstream media provided the leaders of secular Jewish groups like the ADL with an excuse to cross a crucial line in American politics and enter into open partisan warfare against the Trump administration.
The key point many of them missed was that the left-wing progressives promoting the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement and who seek the destruction of Israel are the same people who were first to accuse Trump of Jew hatred.
At the same time, the facts vindicating Trump from charges of anti-Semitism have been downplayed by the same mainstream media which was all too eager to headline the original false accusations.
It would have served their political purpose if the mastermind behind the nationwide wave of bomb threats against Jewish institutions had been a white supremacist or an alt-right Republican Trump supporter. Instead, the truth that the threats had nothing to do with Trump is an embarrassment to the Democrat politicians, the mainstream media and liberal Jewish groups which pushed this false narrative.
TRUMP ANTI-SEMITISM CHARGES A LIBERAL SMEAR
It is now clear that the attempt by most liberals, including many Jews, to blame the anti-Semitic acts on Trump was a partisan smear. They won’t apologize because that would undermine the rationale for their unpatriotic “resistance” to a lawfully elected American president. Instead, they are falling back on the argument that even if Trump didn’t inspire a wave of anti-Semitic acts, he is still reprehensible and might still incite his supporters to do something just as bad.
This is their justification for continuing to throw sand into the gears of the federal government, oppose all of Trump’s proposals regardless of their merits, demonize anyone with a kind word to say about him, and continue to search for any possible excuse to force him prematurely from office.
MEDIA IGNORING ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE LEFT
The mainstream media has also turned a blind eye to the blatant anti-Semitism of some of Trump’s most outspoken liberal opponents, which is camouflaged under a thin veneer of hypocritical anti-Zionism. Unfortunately, this modern variation of anti-Semitism has become socially acceptable and politically chic across Europe, and is pervasive among Islamists in the Middle East and around the world.
It is now running rampant on college campuses across the United States. Many assimilated young Jewish students have been brainwashed by the liberal hypocrisy of the BDS movement whose goal is to undermine the economy of Israel and isolate its supporters. The anti-Israel rhetoric on some campuses has become so aggressive and intolerant that many pro-Israel students are afraid to publicly express their opinions.
It is instructive to take a hard look at Linda Sarsour, one of the most celebrated leaders of the anti-Trump “resistance.” She identifies herself as a Palestinian-American and was one of the chief organizers of the widely-publicized women’s march against Trump on inauguration weekend. She was also a leader of the less successful “women’s strike” in March.
Sarsour is an outspoken supporter of the BDS movement, but is nonetheless viewed as a heroine by many Jewish liberals. The hatred they share with her for Trump is so great that they have chosen to ignore her published comment that Jewish women would not be accepted into her protest movement unless they publicly disavowed Zionism.
The liberal Jews who are so willing to follow Sarsour’s lead in support of the Palestinian cause over Israel would do well to consider what their life would be like if they had to live in Gaza under the rule of Hamas terrorists, or in the West Bank, subject to the anti-Jewish decrees of the corrupt Palestinian Authority.
THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP’S ALLEGED “DEPLORABLES”
During the 2016 election campaign, one of the recurring themes of the campaign against Donald Trump was to accuse him of encouraging and associating himself with all kinds of bigots, whom Hillary Clinton memorably labeled as “deplorables.” That slander was deeply resented by the vast majority of Trump supporters to whom it did not apply.
It eventually was revealed that many of the incidents of violence or bigotry at Trump campaign events which were played up by the mainstream media were instigated or staged by hired agitators in the pay of liberal groups working with the Democrats or the Clinton campaign.
One of the most offensive of those accusations was that the Trump campaign was associated with notorious anti-Semites and white supremacists such as David Duke, and that his campaign rhetoric contained thinly disguised code words or “dog whistles” meant to encourage the bigots in this country to believe that Trump shares their prejudices.
BOGUS CAMPAIGN CHARGES OF TRUMP ANTI-SEMITISM
During the campaign, Trump’s critics closely scrutinized his ads and messages on social media for anything that could be interpreted as anti-Semitic to bolster their efforts to portray him as a bigot. In July, the Clinton campaign jumped on a Twitter message sent out by the Trump campaign in which Mrs. Clinton’s face appeared in front of a background of $100 bills and next to a six-pointed star which contained the message, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.”
It was soon discovered that the Clinton image had first appeared ten days earlier on an Internet message board notorious for its expression of anti-Semitic and white supremacist views. However, the director of Trump’s social media campaign, Daniel Scavino, who published the Twitter message, said that he had picked up the image from another website to which it had been copied, and was unaware of its objectionable origins. The Trump campaign also insisted that Scavino did not identify the generic six-pointed star as a Mogen Dovid and instead saw it as a representation of a sheriff’s badge. As the controversy grew, the Trump campaign replaced the star next to Clinton’s picture with a solid circle containing the message, and then took the whole message down, but the damage had been done.
ADL director Greenblatt was quick to accuse the Trump campaign of using “an image with obvious anti-Semitic overtones.”
The Jewish outreach director for the Clinton campaign issued a statement saying, “Donald Trump’s use of a blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it’s a part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern.”
The Trump campaign rejected demands for an apology. Eventually the controversy subsided, but it was not forgotten by Trump’s political enemies in the Jewish community.
TRUMP DEFENDED BY HIS JEWISH FRIENDS
The same accusation that Trump was appealing to anti-Semitic voter sentiments was directed at a campaign TV ad which claimed that Mrs. Clinton was under the influence of the special interests and global power structure “who control the levers of power in Washington.” The ad mentioned liberal billionaire George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellin, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, but it did not identify them as Jewish. It did say, “trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”
Since the election, Soros has been financing many of the liberal groups leading the “resistance” movement against Trump. Some might question whether Soros should be considered to be a Jew because of his actions and statements. He once said in an interview that the time he spent as a young man working for the Nazis to confiscate Jewish property in occupied Hungary “was the happiest year of my life.” He has also publicly said that the current rise of anti-Semitism in Europe is the result of the policies of Israel and the United States, and he is a major funder of Palestinian rights groups and other anti-Israel organizations.
The ADL and Democrat Senator Al Franken were quick to accuse the Trump campaign of using anti-Semitic ideas in its TV ad by singling out three Jewish power brokers in the financial community and associating them with a huge amount of money.
One of Trump’s closest Jewish friends, David Friedman, who is now his ambassador to Israel, was quick to defend the ad. He insisted that the fact that Soros, Yellin and Goldfein are Jewish was just a coincidence which the ad ignored, and their names were mentioned only because of their liberal policies and influence on Mrs. Clinton.
So far, the only liberal Trump critic who has looked at the available evidence and decided that the president deserves a public apology is Peter Beinart, the frequently anti-Israel writer for the Atlantic. Beinart still believes “that Trump and his supporters think and do bigoted things,” but he is willing to admit that prominent Jewish Democrats, such as former Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, have been too quick to accuse the president of giving “license and permission to anti-Semites” and thus “opened the floodgates” for anti-Semitic attacks.
FOR LIBERALS, A CONFUSING LACK OF EVIDENCE
If one dismisses the bomb threats from the two culprits identified so far, Beinart admits that the evidence of a rising wave of anti-Semitism in this country since the election is very thin. He also notes a February poll by the Pew Research Center which finds that members of two of Trump’s core voter groups, Republicans and evangelical Christians, are more favorable towards Jews than Democrats are.
Similarly, Beinart notes that there is no hard evidence to support liberal accusations that some of Trump’s closest advisors, such as former Breitbart news chief Steve Bannon, are anti-Semites. On the other hand, several of Trump’s closest advisors, including his daughter and son-in-law, are religious Jews and avid supporters of Israel.
Beinart suggests that liberal American Jews find this collection of facts about Trump to be “strange.” Most have accepted the liberal narrative that Trump’s hyper-nationalist agenda of putting America first puts Jews in jeopardy, and that his conservative policies are at odds with their liberal values. But Trump has done nothing to indicate that he is targeting Jews, and much to indicate that he intends to be Israel’s best friend ever in the White House.
Nevertheless, Beinart remains cautiously skeptical about Trump’s good intentions toward Jews. He says, “there’s nothing wrong with being vigilant about anti-Semitism so long as it doesn’t blind you to reality.” He also recognizes that Trump does not appear interested in encouraging anti-Semites, which is a lot more positive than what most of the president’s other liberal critics have been saying.
Last week, the Yated editor wrote, “For weeks, Jewish groups were claiming that Trump’s election unleashed a wave of anti-Semitism. The argument was fictitious, because nothing Trump did or said would indicate that he is anti-Semitic, and in fact, until now, he has been the friendliest president towards Jews and religious Jews. But as threatening calls were pouring in to Jewish community centers, though nothing ever materialized, the narrative that anti-Semitism is at an all-time high was created.
“Our people have suffered from real anti-Semitism. We’ve been banned from industries and professions, burned, pillaged and chased from place to place. Pesach was a time of fear across the exile, as pogroms would ensue over the lie that Jews kill Christian children for holiday rituals at the Pesach seder. We know what real anti-Semitism is and should appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this country. We should not take advantage of those freedoms by engaging in the types of behavior that cause people to attempt to block us from moving into their neighborhoods and think ill of all Jews.”
A very happy and safe yom tov to all.