People accuse Trump of lots of things. They accuse him of racism, sexism, and destroying America’s checks and balances. These things may be true, but one accusation that makes my eyes roll is when people call him anti-Semitic.
Trump is surrounded by Jewish people. His daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism after marrying Jared Kushner. Both Ivanka and Kushner are presented as two of Trump’s most powerful advisors. Also, Trump’s treasury secretary is Steve Mnuchin, his chief economic advisor is Gary Cohn, and he used to adore going on Howard Stern’s radio show. According to Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than Donald Trump.”
People who hate Jewish people often don’t accept them into their family, they don’t hire them, and they don’t provoke praise from the most powerful person in Israel. I don’t think Netanyahu will be publicly sucking up to Mel Gibson anytime soon.
Even though Trump is so explicitly related to and dependent on Jewish people, many Jewish people still feverishly accuse him and his administration of anti-Semitism.
One notable outburst occurred last month when Trump’s put-upon press secretary, Sean Spicer, said Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons and then referred to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.”
Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, was especially upset about what Spicer said. Goldstein told the independent news organization Democracy Now!:
My entire family wanted to throw up in disbelief. Either Sean Spicer’s comments were a matter of ignorance, incompetence or prejudice—or all three or any combination thereof. That doesn’t make one fit to be press secretary. In fact, that doesn’t make one fit to serve in government whatsoever. Sean Spicer is an embarrassment to the United States of America.
Goldstein is being quite melodramatic. What makes him want to throw up is not that one child dies every ten minutes in Yemen or that five million South Sudanese people are confronting famine, it’s the garbled words of a bumbling Trump minion. It’s indicative of Goldstein’s own ignorance and prejudice that he gets more upset about perceived slights to his own mostly-white demographic than about the atrocities involving people who aren’t white.
Goldstein is not the only person who continues to present the Jews as never-ending victims. Norman Finkelstein published a controversial but meticulously researched book called The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein, whose mom is a Holocaust survivor, was forced to resign from DePaul University for detailing how Jewish people use the Holocaust to enrich themselves and to combat criticism.
As Finkelstein shows, the Jews, with the help of the U.S. government, have received billions of dollars in Holocaust reparations. When it comes to reparations for black people and indigenous people, the U.S. government, the government that purposely killed and exploited them by the millions, has been drastically less amicable.
But it’s not generally acceptable to try to make people aware of how Jewish figures and institutions profit off of the Holocaust. Nor is it normally allowable to thoughtfully tell how Jewish figures and institutions align themselves with policies that lead to the kind of ghastly exploitation that they claim to be against. Like Trump, some Jews tend to think of themselves as unassailable.
I think it is truthful to spotlight how Trump’s path to power has helped actual anti-Semites who now feel like they can do things like threaten Jewish community centers. But Trump is not the only president who has acquired power with the help of bigots.
In An Indigenous People’s History Of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells how Abraham Lincoln reached the presidency by appealing to voters who wanted the government to open lands west of the Mississippi. This led to the murder of even more Indigenous peoples.
Trump’s election has not led to Jews being murdered en masse.
I’m not sure of any president who has won without appealing to voters and ideologies that might not reflect pleasantly on them. Trump isn’t anti-Semitic, he’s just corrupt, which is, in America, very presidential.