Two conclusions can be reached from the in-depth and superbly documented report about Donald J.
Trump’s ties with the Jews by Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief.
The first is that Trump is no antisemite. Despite claims by people like Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz that antisemitism in the Republic Party “goes straight to the feet of Donald Trump;” despite Trump’s controversial statements; and despite the support he receives from people like antisemite and white power supremacist David Duke, the presidential hopeful is a philosemite who has had intimate relations with Jews throughout his life. If anything, he sees Jews as a group of smart, successful and generally powerful deal-makers – traits which he himself seeks to emulate.
The second conclusion is that Trump can potentially do more to distance himself from people like Duke and some members of the alt-Right who voice antisemitic and racist sentiments.
In his comprehensive report on “Trump and the Jews,” Wilner documented what he referred to as Trump’s “affirmative prejudice” for Jewish people.
Trump has donated generously to Jewish philanthropic institutions such as the Jewish National Fund and United Jewish Appeal; he has throughout his business career surrounded himself with Jewish lawyers, executives and accountants; and there is no reason to question Jared Kushner, Trump’s Jewish son-in-law and campaign adviser, when he said recently in defense of his father-in-law that Trump is “an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife.”
Nevertheless, Trump’s handling of several controversies related to Jews during his campaign has made him vulnerable to claims like the one leveled at him by Wasserman Schultz.
For instance, after Trump’s social media director retweeted a graphic image of a six-pointed star over a pile of money that had made the rounds on a neo-Nazi Internet bulletin board, he told a crowd of supporters gathered near Cincinnati that he would have preferred to have left the six-pointed star on the tweet’s image instead of removing it, as his social media team had done after the controversy broke.
Trump went on to accuse the media of “racially profiling” his campaign for highlighting the star and conflating it with the Star of David.
After former KKK grand wizard David Duke said that voting against Trump would be a “treason to your heritage,” Trump delayed disavowing the support, claiming he did not know who Duke was. And even while Trump has since distanced himself from Duke, he failed to condemn antisemitic vitriol on social media directed by his supporters against Jewish journalists who have written critically of Trump, such as New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman and GQ writer Julia Ioffe.
After Trump’s wife, Melania, criticized the April 27 profile in GQ as “another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting,” Ioffe was inundated with antisemitic images and messages, including a doctored photo of her wearing a Holocaust-era Jewish star, a cartoon of an identifiably Jewish caricature being shot in the head and threats that she would be sent “back to the oven.”
Trump’s popularity stems from his refusal to kowtow to the consensus or be intimidated by conventional thinking.
His outspokenness and refusal to retract controversial statements are all part of what makes him so appealing for many Americans who believe political correctness has gone too far. Americans like Trump’s brutal honesty and sincerity.
However, as a US presidential nominee, we believe that Trump has a moral responsibility to use that same irreverence and outspokenness to discourage expressions of hate. As the article makes clear, there is no need to question Trump’s own feelings and sentiments towards Jews.
There are however legitimate concerns about some of his followers.
History has taught that antisemitism is a potent hatred that is surprisingly easy to trigger. Hatred of Jews, which has never run deep in American society, nevertheless has its adherents. Trump might yet become the next US president. His public statements have the power to influence.
Trump should use this newfound power for good by coming out unequivocally against all manifestations of antisemitism.