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Since last December, the rise of Donald Trump has led to a dramatic increase in right wing anti-Semitism within the United States. Before that point, anti-Semitism was much more prominent in left wing circles and was virtually unheard of on the right. This is not the case anymore.
Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News
When I was a BA student at the University of Maryland at College Park during the spring 2009 semester just after Obama became President, I mainly dealt with anti-Semitism coming from the fringe radical left and not the right wing of the political spectrum. After all, it was the radical leftists who brought renowned anti-Semites such as Mauri Salakhan, who denies Israel’s right to exist, and Allisan Weirs, who called Judaism “a ruthless and supremacist faith,” to campus. To the contrary, the right wingers were generally pro-Israel and pro-Jewish. However, with the ascent of Donald Trump, there has been a rapid increase in right wing anti-Semitism in the United States, which until recently generally was so fringe that we tended to treat it as non-existent. Unfortunately, due to Trump’s rhetoric and his nomination to be the Republican candidate, this type of anti-Semitism has become much more mainstream.
This recent surge in right wing anti-Semitism all began last December, when Trump told an audience in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. Is there anyone in this room who negotiates deals? Probably more than in any other room that I have spoken in.” Following this statement in February 2016, David Duke of the KKK officially endorsed Trump and in May 2016, Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, another well-known anti-Semite, had the following to state about Trump: “I like what I am looking at. Trump is the only member who stood in front of the Jewish community and stated I don’t want your money.”
After CNN asked Trump if he would disavow David Duke of the KKK’s endorsement, Trump replied: “I don’t know anything about David Duke. I don’t know anything that you are talking about with white supremacists. So I don’t know.” When he was pressed again on the issue, he dodged the question. A day later, Trump blamed a bad earpiece for his refusal to disavow David Duke and noted that he had condemned him in the past. After the ADL condemned him for this, Trump responded: “Anti-Semitism has no place in our society, which needs to be united, not divided.” However, the damage was already done as the right wing anti-Semites continued to be empowered by his campaign. This has been demonstrated by the Trump campaign retweeting Mussolini quotes, creating a corrupt Hillary Clinton tweet with a Star of David showing how the candidate is tainted by Jewish money, and more recently, another anti-Clinton white supremacist tweet that was identical to David Duke’s except for the fact that the Star of David was removed. Furthermore, Trump associate Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who has been considered by Trump for the position of Defense Secretary even though he is not eligible for the position, retweeted the following from a Trump supporter after the DNC email scandal: “CNN implicated. The USSR is to blame. Not anymore Jews, not anymore.”
Trump’s supporters also attack Jewish journalists who oppose Trump in an anti-Semitic manner. After Melania Trump criticized a piece written by Politico’s Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe, the Neo-Nazi Stromer Daily website called upon its readers to let Ioffe know what they think of her “kike trickery.” She then received a series of anti-Semitic messages including a doctored photo of her wearing a yellow Star of David, a cartoon of a Jew getting his brains blown out, and threats that she would be “sent back to the ovens.” Trump refused to disavow the anti-Semitism directed at Ioffe. As Melania Trump told Haaretz: “I don’t control my fans. She provoked them.” Trump’s anti-Semitic fans responded that they take Trump’s silence as an “endorsement.”
Ioffe was not the only Jewish journalist to face anti-Semitic harassment from Trump supporters. Journalist Dana Schwartz received an image of herself in a gas chamber together with a picture of a smiling Trump. However, since she works for the New York Observer, a publication associated with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Schwartz complained about it to him while asking how he could support a man who promotes anti-Semitic propaganda and whose followers attack the Jews with anti-Semitic imagery? He replied that Trump accepted him as well as his wife who converted to Judaism alongside the Jewish grandchildren. He then spoke about his own family’s Holocaust story and stated that the accusations against Trump are overblown. Afterwards, he condemned the attack against Schwartz and even conceded that the anti-Semitic tweet targeting Clinton was a mistake that was posted in haste. However, after that, Trump undermined his son-in-law in a press conference and stated that it was not a mistake; he implied that the tweet that was removed should have stayed up.
In a major speech where Trump laid out his foreign policy agenda, he used the phrase “America first.” The ADL then proceeded to condemn the Trump campaign for using such a slogan, stressing that it was utilized by the anti-Semitic America First Committee that argued against the US entering into World War II: “The undercurrents of anti-Semitism and bigotry that characterized the America First Movement including the assumption that Jews who opposed the movement had their own agenda and were not acting in America’s best interests is fortunately not a major concern today. However, for many Americans, the term America First will always be associated with and tainted by this history. In a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.” Despite the ADL condemning the term, it appeared prominently throughout the Republican Convention. According to the Guardian, Trump considers it a “brand-new modern term.”
In addition, throughout the Republican National Convention, anti-Semitism played a prominent role. White Supremacist William Johnson was considered for the position of being a Trump delegate and Trump only regretted having him as a candidate after he faced public criticism over this issue that resulted in him resigning. After former Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle spoke of inroads that Republicans have made with the Jewish community due to their pro-Israel stance, the Republican National Convention livestream that was opened up for the public instantly became flooded with anti-Semitic messages according to the Forward: “Press H for Hitler,” “Ban Jews,” and “Kikes.” After Trump staffers noticed the comments, to their credit, they shut down the livefeed. However, this is a troubling indication regarding some of the people that are supporting Donald Trump.
To Trump’s credit, Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for George W. Bush, claimed that a candidate is not necessarily responsible for the views of all of his supporters. He told the Huffington Post: “The fact that the Black Panthers came out for Barack Obama doesn’t make Barack Obama a Black Panther sympathizer. You cannot ascribe to a candidate the views of the worst radical fringes that support them. These arguments about how Donald Trump shouldn’t be supported because fringe radical groups have said good things about them I reject entirely.”
However, others have noted that candidates traditionally disavow bigots. For example, in 1984, Ronald Reagan disavowed support from the KKK using very strong language: “Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse. The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country and are destructive for the values for which America has always stood.” Until Trump denounces the KKK with the same consistency that Ronald Reagan did and condemns his followers for employing anti-Semitic rhetoric, the Trump campaign cannot entirely distance itself from the rise of right wing anti-Semitism in the United States despite Trump’s Jewish relatives and pro-Israel statements.