Some American Jews blame President Trump for the slaughter of Jews in Pittsburgh. They say his words gave an anti-Semite “permission” to enter the synagogue in Squirrel Hill and gun down innocent Jews. They say Trump created a climate of hate and riled up racists with vile rhetoric. He is not wanted in Pittsburgh, they scream, especially not in a Jewish neighborhood.
It’s more than just Pittsburgh. Trump has sparked a wave of anti-Semitic incidents, they claim. Trump hates immigrants, they say, and he is slamming the door on refugees, just like the United States did to Jews in the 1930s fleeing Nazi Germany. Trump is a fascist, they declare, a definite enemy to the Jews. The anger they have is fierce. Trump is not just any political leader they disagree with. He is the epitome of evil; he is Hitler.
Or is he? He doesn’t appear to hate Jews. In fact, Trump has close personal relationships with more Jews than any other President ever had. His daughter converted to Judaism and he has a Jewish son-in-law and Jewish grandchildren. He is comfortable with Jewish symbols, for example being openly happy to put on gift tallit. Though many extreme Right Fascists and Anti-Semites support Trump, many others, including the Pittsburgh shooter, oppose Trump because they feel he is too close to Jews and too supportive of the Jewish State of Israel.
In the aftermath of Pittsburgh, Trump had no problem directly condemning anti-Semitism. The statement he issued was as strong as any Jew could wish.
The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated, and it cannot be allowed to continue. It must be confronted and condemned everywhere it rears its ugly head. We must stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters to defeat anti-Semitism and vanquish the forces of hate.
In contrast, Columbia University issued a statement about the Pittsburgh slaughter that failed to mention Jews were the victims and failed to explicitly condemn anti-Semitism.
How many of those who condemned Trump’s comments on the shooting ever criticized the Columbia University statement?
Trump did not sound friendly to anti-Semites. He called for the death penalty for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and also declared he would seek the destruction of those who seek to destroy the Jewish people.
Trump went to the Tree of Life Synagogue with Melania, walked with the Rabbi, and put stones on memorials for the slain.
Trump talked to a widow who had lost her husband in the massacre. He went to the hospital and met with injured first responders. Trump held no political rallies in Pittsburgh. As hard as it is for some to accept, he showed respect for the Jewish dead. His subdued demeanor at the memorials stood in contrast to the strident political chants of demonstrators shouting objections to his visit.
Trump is the most pro-Israel President ever and one might think that would insulate him from charges of anti-Semitism, but it doesn’t. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and was the first President to pray at the Western Wall while in office. None of that seems to count, but someone who hated Jews would not have done any of it.
Anti-Semitism is a virus of hate that existed long before Trump and it will likely exist long after him. It is a peculiar loathing that sees Jews as engaged in a vast conspiracy that connects all evil in the world. In the modern world, rabid Jew hatred now emanates from three separate sources, from extreme Islamist, far Left, as well as far Right factions. Trump did not invent or promote hatred for Jews and he is not to blame for its existence.
Let us admit Trump is not Presidential. His oratory lacks gravitas. He misstates things and is full of braggadocio. He mangles phrases and contradicts himself. He is combative and insulting. Beyond his rhetoric, many of his policies may be objectionable. Some do not agree with his populism, his disdain for international organizations, and some object to his stand against illegal immigration.
But none of that comes close to justifying the charges of anti-Semitism routinely hurled against Trump. A charge of anti-Semitism ought to be supported by some anti-Jewish actions or evidence of distaste for Jews, but no one has pointed to a thing Trump has done specifically against the Jews. As awful as one might think Trump is in many ways, one fact is clear: he is not Hitler.