NEW YORK (JTA) – Presumptive Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is facing growing accusations that his campaign is countenancing anti-Semitism – if not encouraging it outright.
Trump’s foreign policy slogan, “America First,” echoes the World War II-era noninterventionist movement championed by a notorious anti-Semite. During the height of the primary campaign, Trump delayed disavowing the support of white supremacist David Duke. And the candidate has failed to condemn the recent anti-Semitic vitriol directed by supporters against journalists who have written critically of Trump, including New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman and GQ writer Julia Ioffe.
In his defence, Trump and his supporters cite the fact that his daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren are Jewish (Ivanka Trump underwent an Orthodox conversion before she married Jared Kushner in 2009), that Trump was the grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and that he has many Jewish friends.
“He’s not Hitler,” Melania Trump said of her husband in an interview last month after being told the comedian Louis C.K. compared the candidate to the Nazi leader.
Many, however, remain unconvinced of the defence.
Let’s take a closer look at the anti-Semitism controversies surrounding Donald Trump. Is he enabling anti-Semitism? You be the judge.
Slurring Jon Stewart, Trump accentuates the comedian’s original Jewish name.
On April 24, 2013, Trump seems to go out of his way to highlight the “Daily Show” host’s Jewish background, tweeting: “I promise you that I’m much smarter than Jonathan Leibowitz — I mean Jon Stewart @TheDailyShow. Who, by the way, is totally overrated.”
Trump tells Republican Jews: ‘I don’t want your money’
In a speech in Washington to the Republican Jewish Coalition last December, Trump appears to traffic in stereotypes about Jews. “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” he told the Jewish audience. He also says, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
Trump muddles the message on David Duke.
After David Duke, the white supremacist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, says he supports Trump, CNN’s Jake Tapper asks Trump on Feb. 28 if he would disavow Duke’s support. Though Trump in the past had condemned Duke – and two days earlier at a news conference said, “David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?” – this time Trump demurs.
“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he tells Tapper. “So, I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.”
Pressed on whether he unequivocally disavows the support of the Klan, Trump dodges the question. A day later Trump blames a “bad earpiece” for failing to disavow Duke during the exchange with CNN and notes that he had disavowed Duke previously.
After the Anti-Defamation League releases a statement saying, “The onus is now on Donald Trump to make unequivocally clear he rejects those sentiments and that there is no room for Duke and anti-Semitism in his campaign and in society,” Trump responds with a statement saying, “Anti-Semitism has no place our society, which needs to be united, not divided.”
Journalist Julia Ioffe is inundated by anti-Semitic vitriol
After Melania Trump criticizes Ioffe’s April 27 profile of her in GQ as “another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting,” the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer urges followers to “go ahead and send her [Ioffe] a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery.” Ioffe, who is Jewish, then is inundated with a deluge of anti-Semitic online wrath, including a doctored photo of her wearing a Holocaust-era Jewish star, a cartoon of a Jew getting his brains blown out and threats that she would be sent “back to the oven.”
The online anti-Semitism directed at Ioffe is similar to online attacks directed at other Jewish commentators who denounced Donald Trump, such as Forward columnist Bethany Mandel.
When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, a Jew and former reporter for The Jerusalem Post, asks Trump if he has a “message” for supporters who were flooding Ioffe with “anti-Semitic death threats,” Trump says, “I know nothing about it. You’ll have to talk to them about that.” He then went on to echo his wife’s criticism of Ioffe’s article. Pressed, Trump says, “I don’t have a message to the fans,” and added, “There is nothing more dishonest than the media.”
Trump champions ‘America First’
In a major speech designed to unveil his prospective foreign policy agenda, Trump declares, “‘America First’ will be the overriding theme of my administration.” The theme carries echoes of the America First Committee, which lobbied hard against America’s entry into World War II and whose most prominent spokesman was aviator Charles Lindbergh, an avowed anti-Semite.
A Jewish New York Times editor becomes a target of Trump-supporting anti-Semites
After tweeting a link to an essay about emerging fascism in the United States, New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman is attacked by anti-Semitic online trolls identifying themselves as Trump supporters.
“Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew,” Weisman writes in a Times essay about the responses to his tweet. “I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ replaced without irony with ‘Machen Amerika Great.’ Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial.”
Trump’s white supremacist delegate
William Johnson, leader of the white supremacist American Freedom Party, is among the list of delegates the Trump campaign submitted in California ahead of the state’s May 9 deadline. After news organizations begin reporting about the controversial delegate, the Trump campaign blames Johnson’s inclusion on its list as a “database error.” Johnson then says he is resigning as a delegate and will not attend the convention.
Following Trump’s refusal to condemn the anti-Semitic vitriol against Ioffe, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin tells the Huffington Post, “We interpret that as an endorsement.”
Trump adviser and lawyer Jason Greenblatt, who is an Orthodox Jew, says, “I do not think Mr. Trump can be responsible for people who are anti-Semitic who support him.”
Ari Fleischer, a former spokesman for President George W. Bush and current board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, shares Greenblatt’s view.
“The fact that the Black Panthers came out for Barack Obama doesn’t make Barack Obama a Black Panther sympathizer,” Fleischer tells the Huffington Post. “You cannot ascribe to a candidate the views of the worst radical fringes that may support them. … These arguments about how Donald Trump shouldn’t be supported because fringe radical groups have said good things about him – I reject entirely.”
But others note that candidates historically disavow bigots who act in their name – without taking responsibility for their views. In February, the conservative American Spectator urges Trump to take a page from president Ronald Reagan, who forcefully repudiated an endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan. In a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1984, Reagan wrote, “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 of the values for which America has always stood.”
Shortly after the Ioffe episode, Sheldon Adelson, the hawkishly pro-Israel, super-rich Jewish casino magnate, announces he will back Trump for president.