Antisemitism is an insidious hatred. Very rarely will an antisemite openly admit to hating Jews. Even David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK and a notorious antisemite, swears up and down that he is not one.
Instead, antisemitism thrives in the shadows, embedded in age-old conspiracy theories and hidden behind euphemisms. And like many leaders before him, Donald Trump’s propaganda and dog whistles have fueled antisemitic conspiracy.
It’s important to remember that impact outweighs intent. At this point, whether Donald Trump believes that he hates Jews or not is irrelevant. His position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is also irrelevant. As the president of the United States, his first obligation is to protect his constituents — including American Jews. Instead, his rhetoric has fueled antisemitic sentiment among the American population, and ultimately, this hurts Jews.
One of the Trump campaign’s most recognizable slogans leading up to the 2016 presidential election was “America First.” Since the outset of the Trump administration, “America First” policy has encouraged isolationist positions; for example, the Trump administration has withdrawn from international treaties and agreements.
But “America First” did not originate with Trump.
In fact, the slogan was the rallying call of the America First Committee, a group notorious for its support of fascism, isolationist policy, and antisemitism in the years leading up to World War II. The America First Committee believed that Jews, both in the United States and abroad — for their own sinister purposes — were attempting to drive the United States into another interminable war with Nazi Germany.
Not only was the America First Committee sympathetic to Nazi policy, but they also had close ties to infamous Nazis, such as German diplomat Ulrich Freiherr von Gienanth.
Charles Lindbergh, the famous American aviator, was a staunch supporter of the America First Committee and a known Nazi sympathizer.
Trump has made a multitude of comments invoking antisemitic stereotypes and tropes. For example, according to a September 23 report by the Washington Post, for which over 20 former and current Trump administration officials were interviewed, Trump has made comments alleging that Jews “stick together,” “are only in it for themselves,” and place loyalty to each other above all else. This invokes centuries-old antisemitic tropes about supposed Jewish dual loyalties (I recommend reading my posts A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES and ANTISEMITIC STEREOTYPES).
He has also told an audience of American Jews that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “their leader” (also invoking tropes of dual loyalties) and considers American Jews who are Democrats (that is, over 2/3s of American Jews) “disloyal.”
When Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who is Jewish, agreed to cooperate with the Mueller probe, Trump was quoted as saying that “Jews always flip.”
Unfortunately, there are many, many more examples of such comments.
TOKENIZATION OF JEWISH FAMILY
Having Jewish family does not absolve anyone of perpetrating antisemitism or antisemitic tropes, just as having an LGBTQ family member doesn’t absolve anyone of homophobia or transphobia. Unfortunately, both Trump and his supporters often point to (read: tokenize) his Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren to prove that he couldn’t possibly be an antisemite.
For example, at the 2020 vice-presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence brought up Trump’s family as “proof” that the Trump administration values diversity. Not only did such a statement tokenize Trump’s Jewish family members to make a political point, but it also (falsely) suggests that Jews are a monolith; that is, that if Trump likes one Jew that must mean that he likes Jews in general. But Jews, like any other group of people, are not a monolith, and such suggestions are not only harmful, but are also a central driving force behind antisemitic tropes.
BERNIE SANDERS PUPPETEER AD
In recent weeks, the Trump campaign put out an ad that was painfully reminiscent of Nazi caricatures and propaganda. In the ad, Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, is positioned as a puppeteer controlling the movements of Trump’s presidential rival Joe Biden. In addition to the Nazi dog whistles, the ad invokes antisemitic tropes about Jews running or controlling world governments for their own sinister purposes. I recommend you read my post A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES for more.
ANTI-HILLARY ADS WITH ANTISEMITIC IMAGERY
In the lead up to the 2016 election, Donald Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton alongside what looks like a Star of David and $100 bills in the background. The image states, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
Though Clinton is not Jewish, this image has blatant antisemitic undertones, invoking centuries-old tropes about supposed Jewish corruption, sinister purposes, control of the government, and hunger for power and money.
At the same time, Trump was actively retweeting from white nationalist Twitter accounts, including the now-suspended @WhiteGenocideTM, which cited its location as “Jewmerica” and often posted antisemitic content.
Much of Donald Trump’s rhetoric has serious undertones of age-old antisemitic conspiracy. For example, the Trump campaign and administration have often complained about “globalists,” a term that has been used as an anti-Jewish slur by antisemites since at least 1943, when antisemites and Nazi sympathizers alleged that Jews had purposefully driven the United States into war with Nazi Germany as a part of a global Jewish conspiracy.
Additionally, Trump’s cries of “fake news” also have serious antisemitic undertones. Jews have long been falsely accused of controlling the media and using it for their own sinister purposes. The concept of “fake news” dates back centuries and has clear antisemitic origins. For example, Martin Luther, the founder of Protestant Christianity (not to be confused with Martin Luther King Jr!) wrote a book in 1545 called “On The Jews And Their Lies,” accusing Jews of spreading falsehoods for their own benefit.
The above are just two of many examples.
For more information, I recommend you read my posts A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES and ANTISEMITIC STEREOTYPES.
GEORGE SOROS CONSPIRACIES
Like many on the right, Trump has been pushing the (false) conspiracy theory that George Soros — who is Jewish — is the driving force behind the Black Lives Matter movement and is “funding” antifa. Some have gone as far as to claim that George Floyd’s death was “faked” due to Soros’ sinister motives.
But these conspiracies are not new, nor did they start with BLM or the death of George Floyd. Soros has been the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories for decades, most alleging that he is a sort of puppet master controlling the global economy and world politics — in short, centuries-old antisemitic conspiracies. See my post A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO ANTISEMITIC TROPES for more.
HARBORING WHITE SUPREMACISTS
Historically, white supremacy has had two driving factors: racism and antisemitism (which is also largely considered a form of racism, as it is a racialized and ethnic-based hatred).
Trump and his administration, unfortunately, have animated, harbored, and been apologists for white supremacists. From the white supremacist and neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017, where a woman was murdered and Trump claimed there were “very fine people on both sides,” to his refusal to disavow white supremacists at the first 2020 presidential debate, white supremacists have undoubtedly been emboldened by the Trump administration.
White supremacy endangers the lives of Jews (and many other marginalized peoples). Jews are one of the most targeted groups by neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Whether Trump believes that he is in antisemite or not is irrelevant when he continually puts Jewish lives at stake.