This has been a bad day for Donald Trump. Not a bad day perhaps on a national scale. But today he lost even those 20% of Jews who voted him in the last election. His problems began with today’s press conference in which a Jewish reporter asked him (after having been asked virtually the same question yesterday) what he could say to American Jews to assure them he was taking recent anti-Semitic threats seriously.
His answer yesterday included a bizarre rambling monologue which offered yet another reference to his ‘landslide’ victory and 306 electoral votes. After that, he launched into another sidebar which highlighted his Jewish son-in-law and daughter who converted to Judaism, and his three “beautiful” Jewish grandchildren. All this was supposed to inoculate him against the charge of being anti-Semitic. Instead, it made him look like a condescending fool.
But today’s performance was far more damaging. Instead of addressing the question directly or seriously, Trump interpreted it as a charge that he himself was anti-Semitic. In fact, the questioner, an ultra Orthodox reporter, Jake Turx, had pointedly rejected the claim that Trump was anti-Semitic. Further, Turx had interviewed Trump just after his election victory and attributed it to “the Creator.”
The president, oblivious to the fact that he’d met the reporter before and that he was essentially a pro-Trump media shill, called Turx’s question insulting and claimed that its premise was based on “lies” (the reporter had accurately mentioned 50 anti-Semitic threats against Jewish communal institutions in the past month or so).
In fact, most American Jews know that there is real anti-Semitism abroad in the land. And that most of the really dangerous anti-Semites are white supremacists, many of whom support Trump. There were past fatal attacks on a Los Angeles Jewish community center and the U.S. Holocaust Museum, among others. Trump’s response will not just sour relations with the Jewish community, it will be catastrophic to all but his most ardent Jewish communal supporters (like Mort Klein of the ZOA).
FBI Arrests White Supremacist Would-Be Synagogue Attacker
Tonight, the FBI announced that it had targeted a South Carolina white supremacist who sought to mount a shooting spree against a Myrtle Beach, SC synagogue. An undercover agent had sold him a pistol and arrested him today when surveillance revealed that he was carrying the gun with him along with ammunition.
This is the truly catastrophic news for Trump as far as Jews are concerned. Only eight hours after angrily denouncing a Jewish reporter for asking a question about what his administration would do to combat anti-Semitism, and essentially claiming that anti-Semitic threats were lies, a real anti-Semite is arrested in the midst of planning a real terror attack. These are not alternative facts. These are real threats and real Jewish lives are on the line.
It’s darkly ironic that the Trump administration plans to remove white supremacists from the list of U.S. extremists included in the Counter-Extremism Task Force which Pres. Obama founded. That will leave only combatting Islamist extremism as the mission of the program. Someone perhaps in the GOP might want to suggest that removing white supremacists is a bit premature.
Mainstream Jewish organizations like the American Jewish Committee and ADL have denounced Trump’s response to the anti-Semitism question. But conspicuously absent from their statements has been any reference to Islamophobia, and anti-Muslim attacks mounted by white supremacists in many states. A Texas mosque was destroyed in an arson attack and a California mosque received death threats. Not to mention the Quebec City massacre that left six Muslims dead at a local mosque.
The irony of this bit of amnesia is that these are some of the same organizations which recently trumpeted a solidarity campaign between Jews and Muslims to combat hate and racism. Though the coalition has been heralded throughout the media as a breakthrough in Muslim-Jewish relations (my evaluation is much more skeptical), there hasn’t been a word from these initiatives about the recent round of attacks against Muslims.
Trump Abandons Two-States
Yesterday offered a whole different set of weird regarding Trump and U.S. policy on Israel-Palestine. The president toppled 50 years of bipartisan consensus in the space of a 30-minute press conference. He renounced a two-state solution, said he could live with a one-state solution, and asked Israelis to “wait a little bit” before building new settlements.
He had no clue what a one-state solution meant and certainly wasn’t endorsing the unitary secular democratic state advocated by the Jewish and Arab left for that past half century. If anything, he was supporting the radical settler iteration, favoring annexation of Palestinian territory and the expulsion of millions of Palestinians.
The mainstream media, including a rather clueless NY Times, tried to put lipstick on this treif pig by gussying it up with locutions like “outside-in;” a concocted theory calling upon Sunni Arab dictatorships to buy off Palestinian acquiescence in a giveaway deal.
Furthermore, Trump’s Israel ambassador pick, David Friedman, is himself a Jewish settler supremacist who has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Beit El settlement and called J Street’s liberal Zionist supporters ‘kapos.’ Is it any surprise that Trump attracts both white supremacist and settler supremacist support? As an aside, I reported this week that one of the pillars of that community, Rabbi Moshe Patron, was just accused of committing lewd sex acts publicly in front of a woman’s home there.