One of the more curious bits of invective hurled at presidential candidate Donald Trump was the claim that he is an anti-Semite. The allegation is particularly odd as Trump worked comfortably for decades in the heavily Jewish New York real estate world, his daughter Ivanka, whom he is very close to, has converted to Judaism and is married to a Jew who was prominent in Donald’s campaign while Trump’s grandson from that marriage is being raised as Jewish. Trump was Grand Marshall of New York City’s 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and has contributed to predominantly Jewish charities.
On November 2nd, a position paper was released that had been prepared by the candidate’s supporters Jason Dov Greenblatt and David Friedman of the campaign’s Israel Advisory Committee which detailed its Middle Eastern policy. It hails the “unbreakable bond” between the U.S. and Israel while calling Israel a Jewish state and a “staunch ally.” It promises to increase financial and political support for Israel, blames the Palestinians for failure to have peace, commits to cut off funding to UN organizations that criticize Israel, rejects any suggestion that Israel is an occupying power, and pledges a major diplomatic and legislative efforts to stop the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement by whatever means necessary. It commits to having the Justice Department investigate on-campus attempts to “intimidate students who support Israel.” It concludes by rejecting a Palestinian state “where terrorism is financially incentivized” and supports Israel’s continued maintenance of “defensible borders” through its settlements. It calls for implementing “tough, new sanctions” against Iran and promises to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, making the United States the only country in the world to do so.
Indeed, if one judges philo-Semitism by the relationship to Israel Trump fares well on all fronts, his campaign having also been perceived very positively in that country. One of the first calls from a foreign head of state that Trump took upon winning the election was from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will likely be the very first head of state to visit with Trump.
Admittedly the state of Israel is not exactly identical to Judaism or to what might drive pro- or anti-Jewish sentiment, but it would be difficult to imagine a more pro-Israel with the intention of being pro-Jewish document than the Trump campaign policy paper. Nevertheless, the attacks regarding anti-Semitism in the Trump campaign continued. The claims are usually generic and circumstantial, often evidence free. They tend not to be ad hominem directed at Trump himself because it is impossible to actually cite any instances where the candidate himself made unambiguously anti-Semitic statements or supported causes hostile to Jews.
One recent piece by Dana Milbank, a cookie cutter Washington Post columnist who has been blasting Trump for over a year is characteristic. Milbank, an Ivy league twit who is himself Jewish and liberal to a fault, claimed on November 7th that “Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone of Trump’s campaign. It’s the melody.” He claimed that Trump has been “playing footsie with American neo-Nazis for months” and based his broader allegation on Trump’s going after banks and the “global power structure” that Hillary Clinton embodied, which Milbank believes is codeword for citing an International Jewish Conspiracy. What set him off in particular was a Trump ad that appeared on November 4th depicting “those who control the levers of power” and who “represent global interests.” The three individuals appearing on the ad were Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve; George Soros, the international financier; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs. All three are Jewish.
Milbank may or may not believe that banks and financial services are fair game when it comes to discussing America’s economic malaise, but he clearly thinks that it is not desirable to do so if it involves his tribe. Trump’s ad in no way mentions Jews or Judaism. It does identify individuals who are key players in the global economy, which would appear to be the point. And one might well observe that discussing banks and bank(st)ers will inevitably lead to people with Jewish names as American Jews are way over represented in the profession.
Janet Yellen is the third Jew in a row to be chairman of the Federal Reserve and her deputy Stanley Fischer is a Rhodesian born Israeli who was formerly head of the Bank of Israel. Soros is a Hungarian born billionaire investor who has supported what some regard as subversive progressive causes for three decades, making him an obvious target of Trump, while Blankfein and the notorious Goldman Sachs needs no further elaboration. One suspects that for Milbank it might be possible to talk critically about some banks, but not if the banking practices under scrutiny are connected with Jews, particularly if such commentary might be construed as suggestive of the political access and control that money buys.
A couple of weeks before Milbank’s venting of his spleen, one Yochi Dreazen made his case against Trump in an article entitled “It’s time to acknowledge reality: Donald Trump talks like an anti-Semite.” He does so largely by citing other people and entities that he links to Trump, including David Duke, The Daily Stormer website and Pepe the Frog. He accuses Trump of using “language and imagery that carry anti-Semitic undertones” and even attacks Trump’s telling the Republican Jewish Coalition that he didn’t need their money and wouldn’t be bought. He also digs up the controversy, as does Milbank, about a mysterious six pointed star appearing on a campaign ad featuring Hillary Clinton and stacks of money. It might be doubted that the creators of ads during a heated political campaign would be inclined to insert secret symbols to inflame their most extreme supporters but even if that is true it is quite a stretch to suggest that Donald Trump either had a hand in it or approved of it.
Dreazen’s wrath is most focused on a speech Trump made in Florida in mid-October, which is reproduced in “key phrases” in his article. Here is what Trump allegedly said:
It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities…
We’ve seen this firsthand in the WikiLeaks documents in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends, and her donors…
This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.
This election will determine whether we’re a free nation, or whether we have only an illusion democracy but in are in fact controlled by a small handful of special global interests rigging the system, and our system is rigged.
Dreazen regards all of the above as a “paranoid and hate filled rant” as well as “a hoary anti-Semitic canard” but I don’t quite get it. I would agree with most of what Trump said and would observe that he is not unique in thinking that way either as most of what he said has long been common currency among both liberal and conservative critics of the status quo in the U.S. I think that very few Americans who might agree with the sentiments expressed would under any circumstances think that it refers to Jews. Rather, some thoughtful observers who have actually thought about the issues at stake might well believe that Trump is talking about the American Deep State, which, as far as I know, has never been described as some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Trump does not mention Jews at all and the only proper name that he cites in his speech was Hillary Clinton, whom he was running against, and she claims to be a Methodist.
Let’s face it, Milbank and Dreazen are pro-Establishment guys who have hated Trump from the beginning because he does not fit into their progressive world view and who delight in being able to make the kind of twisted arguments that enable them to label him an anti-Semite as well as a misogynist, racist, bigot and homophobe. Have I left anything out? They are attacking him not for what he has actually clearly stated or done but over what he might be thinking. For them it is always convenient to be able to recall Munich in 1938 or to conjure up Cossacks at the front door to win an argument, but someone should tell them that calling someone an anti-Semite is fortunately a slur that is losing its effectiveness through overuse and lack of credibility. Joe Sobran put it very well when he observed that anti-Semite used to be an expression applied to people who hate Jews but now it is more often used to describe people that Jews hate.