Let’s cut through all the clutter and get straight to the main issues surrounding Donald Trump and allegations of anti-Semitism.
First, to suggest that President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump criticizes Justice for restoring McCabe's benefits Biden: Those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas should be prosecuted Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — Hackers are making big money MORE dislikes Jews would have us believe that he despises his own daughter and grandchildren, when precisely the opposite seems to be true. Ivanka seems to be the apple of his eye. Indeed, when his daughter was dating Jared Kushner, an orthodox Jew from a famously observant family, her father could have easily dissuaded her from converting; instead, he publicly supported her and threw a kosher wedding.
Trump as anti-Semite is not implausible, but it is absurd and libelous. It would also suggest that his strong support for Israel is inauthentic, when it’s something he has worn on his sleeve for his entire adult life.
OK, so Trump is definitely not an anti-Semite. One would even suggest that he’s a philo-Semite. He has surrounded himself with Jews — they are his business colleagues, employees and friends. I know orthodox Jews who have long worked for Trump and say that his respect for the Jewish faith has been exemplary.
But, is Trump sending dog whistles to white supremacist supporters who dislike Jews? Is his failure, until yesterday, to publicly decry anti-Semitism a result of a fear of alienating racist backers?
To answer that, we have to identify two different varieties of modern anti-Semitism.
The first is hatred of Israel and a spoken desire to annihilate the Jewish state. Think of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. On these threats, Trump has thus far been far better than Barack Obama, who legitimized Iran with the nuclear deal.
While Trump was campaigning against the Iran deal, then-President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' .5T spending bill: 'Do a better job' MORE was literally sending hundreds of millions of dollars by plane in cash to the mullahs, even while they openly referred to Israel as a cancer that must be completely obliterated.
So Trump is definitely not sending any hidden signals to the Israel haters. To the contrary, his strong and vocal support for Israel is far better than the administration that preceded him.
Let’s move then to the second kind of anti-Semitism, the much more traditional “I hate Jews” variety that preceded the creation of the state of Israel and is the world’s oldest hatred (and is also the source of hatred for the Jewish state). Is Trump sending signals to its carriers, like white supremacists?
Well, what are those signals? That the Jews control finance and media? In that case, Trump is sending a pretty bad signal by choosing people like Steve Mnuchin to be secretary of the Treasury and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to be senior adviser to the president. After all, how can you say that Trump is using dog whistles to promote traditional anti-Semitic tropes if he is the one actually perpetuating alleged Jewish control of finance and the reins of power by appointing Jewish individuals to the highest offices in the land?
So clearly, it’s ridiculous to say that Trump is sending any kind of hidden signal other than “I really respect Jewish people, consider them colleagues, and rely on them for some pretty important stuff.”
Take, for example, the radical and ridiculous attack on Trump by Steven Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, who said, "Make no mistake: The anti-Semitism coming out of this administration is the worst we have ever seen from any administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial."
Anti-Semitism coming out of this administration is the worst ever? Who, pray tell, is it coming from? The president’s son-in-law, who is an orthodox Jew and comes from a family famous for its support for Jewish causes? Is it coming perhaps from Jason Greenblatt, another senior adviser to the president who is likewise an orthodox Jew who is completely involved in Jewish life? It the anti-Semitism coming from David Friedman, Trump’s choice to be America’s ambassador to Israel, who also is orthodox and a huge supporter of Jewish causes?
What we’re left with is this: the Trump administration was late to condemn the growing tide of anti-Semitism in America and the president’s strong condemnation that came yesterday at the National Museum of African-American History should have come earlier. That is a legitimate criticism and it is good that the president has now stepped up.
Likewise, it was absurd not to focus on the Jewish nature of the Holocaust in the White House statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day. These are valid concerns the administration must correct. And beyond strong statements, the administration should immediately establish a Justice Department task force to investigate the growing threats against Jewish institutions and the vandalism against Jewish cemeteries. These are serious matters that must be addressed with actions, not just words.
But amid these genuine concerns, people like Goldstein who are throwing hysterics and making the most vile accusations against Trump would do well to ponder that in the previous administration, Obama never once criticized Iran's threats of annihilation against the Jewish people. Even while he brought Iran out of decades-old diplomatic isolation and gave the world’s foremost state-sponsor of terror $150 billion in unfrozen assets, Obama never once demanded that as a precondition to any deal Iran must stop threatening 6 million Jews in Israel with extermination.
Furthermore, while Obama was abstaining from defending Israel at the United Nations Security Council against a blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel resolution in the last weeks of his presidency, Trump, then president-elect, was publicly condemning those same resolutions and defending the Jewish state. And President Trump has been extremely forceful in warning Iran on its ballistic missile violations, missiles the Iranians proudly proclaim are aimed at Israel.
So when accusing a man of being an anti-Semite, let’s be a bit factual, lest we falsely libel friends and label allies as foes.
Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, an international author of over 30 books, a TV host, activist and speaker. He was rabbi to Michael Jackson, Cory Booker and other public figures and has been recognized as one of the nation's most influential rabbis by Newsweek and The Washington Post. Reach him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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