The Forward recently published an article by Jay Michaelson entitled “Donald Trump Is a Candidate for White Supremacists — Not the Jews”. Michaelson writes, “The high-profile Jews supporting Donald Trump make me sick. This is not about Democratic and Republican politics … it’s about white supremacy.” Michaelson says:
Let’s take “white supremacy” out of the realm of insult. It is an ideology, after all, not simply a slur, and it is believed by tens of millions of Americans. It is the proposition that the real (“great”) America is white America, and while the “melting pot” can absorb some blacks, Asians and Latinos, the essential core of what America is remains the Christian, European iteration that prevailed for 200 years. It is English-speaking, Merry-Christmas-wishing, and ruled by “real” American men, not by women or people with the middle name Hussein.
He concludes by saying, “We Jews are not so white that the logic of white supremacy passes over us like the Angel of Death on Pesach. We, too, are Other. And if it is now acceptable to shower contempt on those who are different, we will not remain untouched.”
Michaelson is correct to say Jews should be alert not just to Trump’s hateful rhetoric, but also to the white supremacist element that supports and draws succor from Trump’s words.
Of course, there are several other things about the Republican ticket that should worry us, not all of which concern the bigotry that is the focus of Michaelson’s article.
First, of course, there is the bigotry.
The Star of David tweet controversy
In early July, Trump’s posted on Twitter an image many people – and most Jews – recognized as playing on the classic anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and money. Politifact has a good recap of the tweet and its aftermath. Trump may deserve the benefit of the doubt for not understanding the underlying slander, but even after it was disclosed that the tweet had been previously posted on a fringe anti-Semitic website, he did not apologize (does he ever apologize?). The GOP nominee is not an anti-Semite but this incident, combined with his initial refusal to repudiate the support of David Duke suggests a desire to court the support of bigots through dog-whistle politics. This is reminiscent of Trump’s support of the “birther” movement which claimed Obama wasn’t born in America, and continued even after he started running for President last summer. As Rabbi David Wolpe wrote for Time Magazine, “One need not be a hater to give license to those who do hate.”
Trump’s refusal to condemn anti-Semitic attacks on reporter
In April, GQ published a profile of Melania Trump by Julia Ioffe. The third Mrs. Trump took offense, and her husband’s supporters came to her defense. This included horrendous anti-Semitic attacks and death threats sent to Ioffe, leading her to call the police. When asked on CNN if he had a message to the people attacking Ioffe, Trump spent a minute calling the article “inaccurate” and “nasty” then defending his wife as a “high quality woman” and “top model”. When Wolf Blitzer tried to get an answer about the attacks on Ioffe, Trump claimed he didn’t know about them and said “I don’t have a message to the fans [sic]” who were doing this. Then he spent another minute attacking the press, even saying “there is nothing more dishonest than the media.” The irony would be almost laughable if Trump’s first reaction to vicious antisemitic attacks on a Jewish reporter weren’t so dismissive.
Then there’s Trump’s choice for Vice President, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana
The Indiana synagogues that Mike Pence forgot
That’s the headline of an article in the Forward about Temple Beth-El and Temple Beth Boruk, two congregations located in the district Pence served in Congress from 2001-2013. In 2009, Pence told AIPAC, “Though I know of no synagogues in my district, let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.” The Forward reports that Temple Beth-El has been on the same corner in Muncie for 94 years and that Temple Beth Boruk has served Reform Jews in Richmond since 1963. Yet Pence, in 2009, knew of “no synagogues” in his district. Pence’s comment to AIPAC is reminiscent of things we hear from some members of the Christian right who profess support for Israel but don’t seem to know much about actual Jews.
“I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order”
That’s how Pence introduced himself to the American people after Trump chose him as a running mate. Can you imagine if a Democratic candidate introduced himself in this manner, not even including “American” in his self-description? The video would run on a loop at Fox News. But that’s only part of the problem with Pence’s mini-autobiography. The first thing he lists is his religion. It’s not that Jews shouldn’t vote for Christians – that’s as silly as not letting people into the country because they’re Muslim – but it’s the first thing he lists. This is a clear attempt to appeal to evangelicals who are reluctant to embrace Trump, but as a religious minority, Jews should be concerned about a candidate who puts his faith above political philosophy, party and country. Jews who defend Israel are sometimes accused of putting the interests of the Jewish state about those of the United States. In 1960 some people wouldn’t take JFK at his word that his loyalty to the Catholic Church was not as important as his loyalty to country. We should take Pence at his word – first and foremost he is faithful to the Christian Bible and the Christian church. That should worry us.
Finally, at the risk of being accused of dual loyalty, there’s Israel.
Trump’s GOP abandons the goal of a two-state solution
At their convention last week the Republican Party approved a platform that, for the first time, does not have language supporting the goal of a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. As Rabbi Rick Jacobs wrote in the NY Daily News, “This omission by the RNC is a dangerous turning point. The two-state solution is a prerequisite for the security that Israel desperately needs. So say over 200 former Israeli security officials with a combined 6,500 years of experience. If anything, efforts should be made to hasten its arrival instead of plotting its demise.” Marshall Breger, who was President Reagan’s liaison the Jewish community, agrees. Writing at The Hill, Breger says that rejecting the idea of a two-state solution is “dangerous and irresponsible” and would “place Trump to the right of Bibi Netanyahu, whose government accepts the principle of a two-state solution.” Breger ominously predicts:
If Trump really means to walk away from the principle of two states for two peoples, the consequences will be severe. It will likely lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the entrenchment of Hamas. The Jordanians themselves have told us that it will lead to the collapse of the Hashemite monarchy. And the Saudis will almost certainly give up on the Arab Peace Initiative. Most important, the demise of the two-state solution will place at long-term risk Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state.
A Trump presidency would be bad for Jews, dangerous for Israel, and potentially disastrous for America. The information here addresses only some of the reasons why. It would be great to hear what you think in the comments.
Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey via Flickr
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