By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
A number of Jewish critics of the Trump administration have resorted to increasingly harsh rhetoric in recent weeks, although some have backtracked after questions were raised about their choice of language.
Adam Shatz, a New York-based contributing editor of the London Review of Books, wrote in the March 2 issue of that journal, “Many, perhaps most of us who live in coastal cities have found ourselves having criminal thoughts and fantasies since 9 November. Some involve Trump and [White House Chief Strategist] Steve Bannon.”
In an interview with JNS.org, however, Shatz said, “I am certainly not advocating violence against the administration…we have not yet reached the point where Trump’s actions would transform violence into something morally legitimate, and I hope we never do.”
In another part of his essay, Shatz wrote that “the fact that otherwise pacific people” are now “dreaming of violence” against Trump should help the American public “understand why Palestinians have carried out violent attacks” against Israelis. Shatz subsequently clarified that he believes Palestinian violence against civilians is “illegitimate,” but violence against what he calls “[Israeli] agents of an occupation” is “a form of resistance” and therefore “is not, in my view, a form of terrorism.”
Another Jewish personality making headlines for unusually strong rhetoric about the president is comedian Sarah Silverman. She raised eyebrows with a tweet last month in which she asserted, “Wake up & join the resistance. Once the military is w/us fascists get overthrown. Mad king & his handlers go bye bye.”
In response to a wave of criticism, Silverman two days later adopted a somewhat different tone in a follow-up tweet, posting, “Fear can motivate even peacenik snowflakes 2 violence & last night I felt it had. Trying 2 keep in check bc damnit I love u America.”
Meanwhile, a rabbi who appeared to have made a sweeping accusation against everyone on the political right said that some of the wording in an article he wrote was altered by an editor without his approval.
Rabbi Richard Hirsh, of Cherry Hill, N.J., authored an essay in the March 10 edition of The Forward that included the statement, “The right now deems fact-checking of even the most implausible assertions as biased and a fabrication.” In an interview with JNS.org, Hirsh said, “The use of ‘the right’ was not in my original version and was a change proposed by the editor to which I objected, and I was surprised to see it. The Forward has posted the correction and apologized for the error.”
The online version of Hirsh’s article now includes a note stating that the language in question was included “due to an editing error” and that “the author did not approve that language.”
Another recent article in The Forward also employed unusually strong rhetoric. In the newspaper’s Feb. 17 edition, Jay Michaelson, a nondenominational rabbi and regular Forward columnist, referred to what he called “the Trump administration’s assaults on Muslims, Mexicans, Australians (who saw that coming?), the environment, public education, health care, women and Jews.”
Asked by JNS.org for examples of assaults against Jews that have been perpetrated by the Trump administration, Michaelson clarified that he actually was referring both to the election campaign and the period since the president took office, and that by “assaults,” he meant rhetoric, not physical assaults. He wrote, “Retweeting white supremacists, refusing (for months) to condemn antisemitism, promoting a nativist populist ideology, using Jewish star images to smear Hillary Clinton, running a television ad days before the election that focused on three Jews as symbols of international financial conspiracy—these are assaults on Jews.”
Michaelson added that with regard to “the shocking spike in anti-Semitic violence and threats” in recent months, “Donald Trump’s rhetoric [concerning other minority groups] has emboldened bigots of all kinds, and we are beginning to see the effects.”
The one suspect arrested so far for making some of the anti-Jewish bomb threats, St. Louis resident Juan Thompson, is an anti-Trump journalist who, according to authorities, made the threats in order to pin them on his ex-girlfriend.