On Saturday night, President Donald Trump served up a buffet of anti-Semitic tropes during his speech before the Israeli American Council advocacy group in Florida. He played on the dangerous anti-Semitic theme of Jews having dual loyalty to the United States and another country, when he said, “They don’t love Israel enough.”
He then invoked the slur that Jews are hyper-focused on money, telling the crowd that to protect their money they will vote for him – falsely claiming that 2020 Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposed “wealth tax” will take “100% of your wealth away.” He added, “You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax… you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes.”
And he went one step further, saying that Jewish people in the real estate business he knows “very well, you’re brutal killers. You’re not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me.”
The condemnation of Trump’s words was swift. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg tweeted, “It’s not even coded antisemitism. It’s not a dog whistle. He’s saying this. Out loud. To a room full of Jews.”
Journalist Emily Tamkin tweeted that Trump’s view that, “Jews won’t vote for the candidate who wants a wealth tax because Jews are all about wealth” is “an old trope often used to justify violent discrimination.”
And Aaron Keyak, a former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, called Trump’s words “dangerous,” adding, “Trump’s insistence on using anti-Semitic tropes when addressing Jewish audiences is dangerous and should concern every member of the Jewish community – even Jewish Republicans.”
But where are the Republicans denouncing Trump’s use of these anti-Semitic tropes? There’s zero doubt that if Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the two Muslim women in Congress, had uttered anything even close to those comments, the Republican Party would’ve been up in arms.
In fact, earlier this year, when Omar invoked an anti-Semitic trope – saying American politicians support for Israel was fueled by money from the pro-Israel lobby – she was met with a chorus of criticism by Republican, along with many Democrats. Omar later apologized for the comment.
The GOP’s silence thus far is even more concerning given the documented spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes we’ve seen over the past year. As the FBI recently reported, in 2018, Jews were the overwhelming target of religious-based hate crimes. This includes the horrific attack in October 2018 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jews were killed by a man who blamed Jews for helping transport members of migrant caravans, who he dubbed “invaders” into the United States.
It’s true that Trump has trafficked in similar anti-Semitic stereotypes in the past – but failing to call them out each and every time is how these dangerous tropes became mainstream. For example, during the 2016 campaign Trump was met with criticism when he told a group of Jewish Republicans that, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
And more recently, in August, Trump sparked outrage when he said Jews who vote for Democrats shows “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Numerous Jewish leaders slammed Trump for invoking the anti-Semitic trope that Jews have “dual loyalty.” As Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stated at the time, “Charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews.”
But despite the backlash in both instances, there was Trump playing on the exact same themes this weekend. While we can’t know why Trump continues to traffic in this rhetoric, it’s fair to say that he simply doesn’t care if Jews object to his use of these dangerous stereotypes.
Of course, Jews are not the only minority faith that Trump has targeted with his dangerous rhetoric. Trump made stoking hate of Muslims, my community, a visible part of his 2016 campaign – from stating irresponsibly that “Islam hates us” to calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering the United States. And even as President, Trump continued inflaming tensions by sharing in November 2017 anti-Muslim videos made by a UK-based hate group with his millions of Twitter followers.
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The words of American Presidents can inspire the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s why in the case of Trump, his inflammatory and irresponsible words about Jews – as well as Muslims and other minorities – must be challenged every time, making clear that we as a society will not allow them to become the new normal.
And leading that charge should be members of Trump’s own political party since they have the greatest potential to sway his base. Yet as of the writing of this article, there has been no full-throated condemnation by the Republican National Committee, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or other prominent Republicans in Congress. And the longer the GOP remains silent, the more they are enabling Trump’s bigotry.