Trump, speaking to the Israeli American Council: “You’re not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax!” pic.twitter.com/IXoaVUw6MU
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 8, 2019
The video above is my interview for The Real News Network on Trump’s speech. Below that, you’ll find a few snippets of Trump’s horrific speech to the Israel-American Council in Florida yesterday. The highlight reel of some of his worst comments:
” A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pocahontas, I’ll tell you that. You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax.Let’s take 100% of your wealth away. No, no. Even if you don’t like me – and some of you don’t, some of you I don’t like at all actually – and you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes if get it.”
None of it was surprising: of course, he addressed a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group funded by Sheldon Adelson, who’s contributed $200-million to his and other GOP campaigns over recent years; of course, he spouted some of the foulest, atrocious anti-Semitic tropes ever spoken publicly by an American president; of course, he advocated the views of the Judeo-fascist Israeli government. None of this shocked. It barely made a few headlines. We’ve heard this hate from him so often we’re almost inured to it.
What struck me in particular about the speech was how different watching it was from reading it on the page. The transcript offers naked, condescending anti-Semitism. But the video shows something different: Trump as a performer, not a politician. He’s doing an act the same way a Jewish comedian would in the Catskills. He’s tossing out one-liners and insults like Don Rickles or Rodney Dangerfield. That doesn’t lessen the horror at the words he’s saying. But it confirms that this is a president like none the country has ever seen; and one hopes never sees again.
Trump is an act and his election was the ultimate grift with the American people as the mark. Just as the Russians did in their social media campaign to elect Trump, the latter took advantage of critical weaknesses in the U.S. electoral system. They both were astute, just like a good grifter is in sizing up his victim.
As an aside, it’s worth recalling that the mastermind behind the creation of the IAC was Adam Milstein, an ex-felon who also funds perhaps the most abusive pro-Israel outfit out there, Canary Mission.
Trump’s blatant, foul anti-Semitic outburst before the IAC deserves immediate condemnation. What do we hear from @ADL and @jgreenblatt? Crickets… https://t.co/T9dL5tn5Pu
— Tikun Olam (@richards1052) December 8, 2019
Jewish Leaders Offer Barely a Whimper
While neither the ADL nor AJC published statements about Trump’s speech, they did publish tweets nearly a full day after he delivered it. Further, I tweeted (see above) to both Greenblatt and the ADL challenging them to speak out at 2:30am on December 8th. The ADL tweeted its first response at 12 noon on the same day, nearly ten hours after my tweet. The AJC tweet came at 12:15pm, only fifteen minutes later (coincidence? I think not).
Both tweets were pathetic milquetoast statements:
While important @POTUS called out BDS and #antiSemitism, it’s essentially undone by his own trafficking of #antiSemitic tropes: questioning American Jews’ loyalty to Israel and asserting that Jewish voters only care about their wealth. https://t.co/m14rh45C5b
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) December 8, 2019
Dear @POTUS – Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes. Let’s stay off that mine-infested road.
— American Jewish Committee (@AJCGlobal) December 8, 2019
The most powerful leader in the world spewed vile anti-Semitic garbage and both feel the need to begin their comment with praise of Trump’s support for Israel and his supposed statements against anti-Semitism. Really? This is the best they can do?
This reminds me of the famous I.L. Peretz story Buntsche Shweig (“Buntsche the Silent”), an ironic attack on Jewish passivity in the face of anti-Semitic violence of an earlier era:
“Bontche lived quietly and died quietly. He passed through our world like a shadow. His mother died when he was 3. His stepmother hated him and barely fed him. He had no schooling. He lived like a little dun colored grain of sand on the seashore among millions of his kind. No one showed him any tenderness. No one protected him from harm. He had no kith and kin. He lived and died alone.
He had a drunkard for a father. He had no teachers, no friends, but he kept silent and did not complain.
And then he died.”
It is true that two Jewish groups have expressed their dismay: J Street and the National Jewish Democratic Council. But they are allied with the Democratic Party and their dismay is to be expected.
Why the attenuated response? Plain and simple: money. These groups depend on a narrow slice of American Jewry: the largely older white, male, wealthy class. These are the Adelsons, Lauders, Singers, and Marcuses. They hold hostage every major national Jewish organization by dint of the millions they donate. All this makes a mockery of the claims of these organizations to represent the greater interests of American Jewry. They represent the interests of the Jewish 1%. Not the interests of all the rest of us.
It’s worth remembering what happens to Buntsche when he gets to heaven: angels welcome him; they tell the story of his suffering. God is so moved he tells Buntsche that he can have anything he wishes. What does he choose?
“I would like to have every day for breakfast, a hot roll with fresh butter.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, David Harris and Howard Kohr prefer to enjoy their hot buttered roll, rather than wade into the cesspool of anti-Jewish hate spewed by this noxious president.
Trump tells Jewish group they’ll vote for him to protect their wealth – I was at the speech and live-streamed it. To sum this up as the headline is highly misleading. It was one of the most pro-Israel speeches ever delivered by an American President. https://t.co/Mk66W2aPpT
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) December 8, 2019
There is one Jewish leader who broke ranks and offered fulsome praise for Trump: “Rabbi” Shmuley Boteach. But he too has financial motives in that Adelson offers him most of the funding for his pro-Israel ranting under the banner of the World Values Network. Strategically placed praise for Adelson’s pet project will surely earn Boteach at least an extra hot buttered roll from Adelson’s table.
Like Jewish Leaders, Most GOP Leaders Maintain Radio Silence on Trump
Just as institutional Jewish leaders are maintaining radio silence regarding Trump’s “indelicacies,” so too the majority of the national Republican Party is. Aside from the president’s warriors strategically placed on the key House impeachment committees (Jordan, Nunes, Gaetz, etc.), very few GOP leaders have spoken out in Trump’s defense. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy is barely heard on the subject. Update: No sooner did I write this than McCarthy proved me wrong with today’s bizarre claim that it is “unprecedented” to try to impeach a president in his first-term (it isn’t). In the Senate, Trump’s most vocal defender seems to be Lindsay Graham. Ron Johnson has spoken up, but mostly because he himself is purportedly implicated with meeting Ukrainians on Trump’s behalf. Mitch McConnell used to speak up but has been relatively silent lately.
There are regular media stories suggesting that privately Republicans are aghast at the president. But no one dares speak up.
In the Republicans’ case, the reason for silence is different than with Jewish leaders. Instead of money, they’re tied to Trump like a child is tied to his mother’s apron. There is no coherent Republican opposition to which doubters among the faithful in Congress can turn. The few who have bucked the president (Jeff Flake, Justin Amash) have been ridden out of the Party on a rail. Mitt Romney clearly opposes Trump, but he barely raises his voice above a whisper. The few Republicans trying to run against Trump in the Republican primaries have been effectively muzzled by state Party apparatus, which have cancelled their primaries rather than offer them a chance to compete with the incumbent.
Returning to Trump’s anti-Semitism: don’t be shocked. After all, it parallels the Judeo-supremacism of the Israeli far-right government. Bibi Netanyahu has allied himself with the most vitriolic anti-Semitic leaders in Europe. They hate Jews, but love Israel. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms. It perhaps used to be. But no longer, in this world turned upside down. It further reinforces the deepening divide between American Jewry and Israel. A divide these pro-Israel fatcats are desperately attempting to straddle. But in the long-term the divorce is inevitable. The only thing that could possibly bring the couple back together is an Israeli leadership willing to reach a just peace agreement with the Palestinians. That’s as likely as the earth crashing into the sun sometime later this month.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.