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Trump And Anti-Semitism Go Hand In (Tiny) Hand

06/03/2017 14:54

In an administration in which racism has gone mainstream, it should be no surprise that Jewish minorities would be no exception. The last week of February saw 21 bomb threats to Jewish schools and community centres, alongside vandalism across the country, including the desecrations of Jewish cemeteries in St Louis, Philadelphia and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Whilst even one threat would be alarming, this unprecedented tsunami of anti-Semitism should be raising serious concern within a government elected to protect its citizens.

However, the tidal-wave of incompetence and scandal within the first month of this administration has led to an underwhelming recognition of this problem. Trump's response to a Jewish reporter stated "here's the story, folks. I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen". Despite not even being the least anti-Semitic person in that conversation, the exchange articulated a wider problem; by making himself the centre of the story, Trump is deliberately diminishing the growing threat towards the Jewish community.

A willingness, both from his critics and supporters, to use and excuse his support of the Israeli government similarly provides a smokescreen for a bubbling anti-Semitism beneath the surface. Whilst this is not the space to discuss the complexities between support of Israel and Jewish identity (especially in discussing a man who probably can't spell complexity), it is sadly still necessary to distinguish the difference. Trump supports, and is mutually embraced by, the Israeli government; most Jewish people are not members of the Israeli government. Some will support the Israeli government, some will support the state even if they disagree with its politics, some neither.

This diversity means that support for the actions of a government for which the vast, vast majority of world Jewry cannot vote does not recuse a man who has facilitated the flourishing of anti-Semitism within his own borders. What should be unanimous within the community is concern for Trump's 'too little, too late' acknowledgement of anti-Semitism more close to home; both across the country, and literally within his own White House. This was his initial response;

"Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable"

One key-word is notable in its absence - can you spot it? Here's a clue; it was also missing from official statements for Holocaust Memorial Day - after being purposefully removed from earlier drafts of the speech. Despite an impression of Trump's general incompetence, this is no case of forgetfulness; but a purposeful and decisive dismissal of the plight of the Jewish community. This delayed skeleton of a condemnation was widely criticised, most notably from the lyrical masterpiece from the Anne Frank Center who called it "a pathetic asterisk of condescension" in which omission is no accident.

Trump referred to the incidents in discussion with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, adding on three occasions that, whilst anti-Semitic violence would be "rephrensible", "sometimes it's the reverse, to make people - or to make others - look bad". The 'false flag' argument suggests that 'sometimes' these attacks might not be what they seem - that they may be coming from within the community itself to discredit Trump and his administration.

Not only is the act of making anti-Semitic attacks about himself an act of unbelievable narcissism, within it lurks a sinister accusation of Jewish control and manipulation of the media that will be uncomfortably familiar. Again, the illusions implied within these statements are no accident; their sentiment echoes tweets from last month by David Duke, the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK (whose Twitter I won't give credence to by linking, but the tweets are still available for anyone interested). Before his reincarnation as a proud Trump supporter, Duke was most notable for his defiant Holocaust denial; an emerging pattern.

Duke is not Trump's only unsavoury bedfellow. Whilst of course not his only supporters, his campaign thrived upon a loose coalition of white nationalists. Rebranded as the "alt-right", they manifest within Egg Twitter accounts and anonymous comment sections on websites like Breitbart News, whose editor-in-chief is now 'chief strategist'. Emboldened by a campaign in which his Jewish sister did not stop Donald Trump Jnr stating that the media "would be warming up the gas chambers", or from her father tweeting memes that imposed a Star of David on top of a pile of money; the neo-Nazis are having their moment.

The voices shouting "Heil Trump" in clips that went viral after his victory may be as shocked as anyone to see their rhetoric filter into the mainstream. From explicit actions like the Muslim ban, to more subtle renaming of the centre for "Countering Violent Extremism" to 'Countering Islamic Extremism'; the Trump administration is sending a clear message as to what it considers a threat. Terrorism for Trump is a one-way street, and seemingly does not involve the white supremacists who make up the vast bulk of those who actually commit acts of domestic terrorism.

This demonstrates that, whilst to different extents, Jewish communities have every reason to be as threatened as any other racial or religious group marginalised by the Trump administration. If receiving the vast swathe of support of self-proclaimed neo-Nazis is not concerning enough, their representatives occupy prominent positions within the White House, and are enacting policy accordingly. Delaying, reducing or refusing to denounce these groups creates an environment in which this rhetoric can flourish, to devastating consequences. Whilst Trump's claims to be "the least anti-Semitic person ever" are laughable, what is less amusing is his inability to understand that this issue goes beyond his own ego, and is a legitimate threat to the safety of millions of Jewish citizens.

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