The Jewish Democratic Council of America recently released a television ad comparing Trump and his administration to the Nazi regime. The ad was criticized by some Jewish organizations, such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the American Jewish Committee, with critics repeating the long-held Jewish insistence that facile comparisons to Nazi Germany demean the suffering of victims of the Holocaust and trivialize the unprecedented nature of the industrialized mass murder that claimed their lives. Yet others, who should know better, such as historian Deborah Lipstadt, and former Anti-Defamation League head and Holocaust survivor Abe Foxman, defended the advertisement. Lipstadt suggested that it was fine because it was comparing the present administration not to the Nazi regime’s extermination campaign, but to its anti-Semitic policies and practices early in its ascension to power.
The most troubling aspect of the ad, to any fair-minded observer, has nothing to do with which particular Nazi policies it invoked, but with the lie at the heart of its analogy and the dangers of that lie. The producers of the ad seek to cast it as an effort to protect American Jews in the face of troubling developments in U.S. society. But the ad fails to address the particulars of such developments and seeks to divert attention away from their primary source. It’s not designed to protect Jews from increasing abuse, but rather to protect the Democratic Party from criticism for its role in fostering that abuse.
Anti-Semitism in America comes from four main sources: white supremacism, black supremacism, Islamism and elements of leftist progressivism. In recent years, the first has claimed the most Jewish lives, in Pittsburgh and in Poway. But Jews have been killed for being Jews in New Jersey and New York, and many more have been injured by assailants driven by one or more of the latter three ideologies. Moreover, by most measures, white supremacism has the least following in America of the four. Certainly, it has penetrated less into the mainstream than the other three. Those three, and their anti-Semitism, have extensive support on the nation’s college and university campuses; have their Jew-hatred either ignored or downplayed in the mainstream media and in social media, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook; and have even penetrated into the halls of Congress. And in every venue, their normalization of Jew-hatred has been abetted by the Democratic Party.
In response to anti-Jewish tropes and memes from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the party could not bring itself to pass a straightforward condemnation of her anti-Semitism, but instead acceded to Democrat caucus pressure and issued a bland generic critique of all bigotries. Omar and fellow Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), likewise given to anti-Jewish rhetoric, refused to join a party-sponsored trip to Israel in the summer of 2019 for new members of Congress, but instead insisted on having their travels sponsored by a Palestinian organization, Miftah, notorious for its Holocaust denial, its accusations that Jews use the blood of Christians to prepare Passover matzah and its promotion of anti-Jewish terror. The party leadership’s response was not to criticize the two, but instead to attack Israel for preventing their entry. In this year’s Democratic primaries, despite the presence in their respective races of party candidates less hostile to Jews, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed both Omar and Tlaib for re-election.
The party has embraced the Black Lives Matter movement, has ignored the anti-Jewish rhetoric of BLM leaders, and was silent as BLM mobs attacked and defaced synagogues and targeted Jewish-owned properties in, for example, the Fairfax section of Los Angeles.
At the Democrat convention in August, places of honor were accorded to acolytes of Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and Jew-bashers Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, as well as Farrakhan promoter Pastor Frederick Haynes, who was featured at the convention’s “Our Values” Black Caucus event. Imam Noman Hussain, notorious for inciting hatred of non-believers, particularly Jews, was given a place of honor at the convention’s “Interfaith Welcome Service.”
In the face of some censure of Sarsour’s role at the convention—and some noting of its inconsistency with the Biden campaign’s efforts to project an image of moderation—the campaign issued a statement criticizing Sarsour. That criticism unleashed a backlash by many in the party, and the Biden camp subsequently issued an unpublicized apology.
The Democrat Party has also been essentially silent about growing hostility towards Jews being promoted in Democrat bastions in the wider society. The major American institutions abetting anti-Semitism are America’s colleges and universities, dominated by Democrats, and the party has made no effort to curb this disgrace. Jew-hatred is rapidly expanding from higher education into public and private schools, often aided by Democrat state and local governments, and this, too, proceeds unchecked by the party.
In addition, of course, is the hostility to Israel coming from major elements of the party, including from elements of its congressional delegation.
On all of this, the Jewish Democratic Council of America is silent, neither expressing concern nor seeking to arouse the vigilance of the Jewish community. Instead, it seeks to blame the Trump administration for the rising tide of anti-Semitism and to misdirect Jewish concern, particularly seeking to link the president to white supremacist anti-Semitism.
Ignored are the many times he has explicitly condemned white supremacists. Ignored is the fact that both the Pittsburgh and Poway killers expressed their hatred of Trump.
Even more substantively, it is Trump, not Democrat leaders, who has taken steps to address anti-Semitism in this country and around the world, and particularly to counter the epidemic anti-Semitism in American academia. Through his December 2019 Executive Order on combating anti-Semitism, his administration has moved to call universities to account for their tolerance of anti-Jewish sentiment on campus and to threaten counter-measures, as in its proceedings against New York University. Even before the Executive Order, Trump’s Department of Education was challenging campus anti-Israel bias, as in its order regarding the Middle East Studies program at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Jewish Democratic Council of America, in its Trump as Nazi ad, covers up the truth about who is battling anti-Semitism and who is abetting it. In doing so, it serves a political end, but undermines the security of American Jews.
It is hardly unprecedented in American history for some Jews to try and move Jewish political opinion by invoking, at times scurrilously, perceived or imagined threats. Still, the issue of anti-Semitism in America and the well-being of the Jewish community is too serious a matter to be trivialized or misrepresented for narrow political ends of any sort.
Kenneth Levin is a psychiatrist and historian, and author of “The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege.”
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