(September 29, 2020 / JNS) The Internet is alight with the accusation made by reporter Greg Miller in The Washington Post that U.S. President Donald Trump declared that Jews “stick together” and are “only in it for themselves.” Indeed, such statements represent a classically anti-Semitic ideology, so if I thought the president actually said them (at least about Jews, rather than a group of political opponents), I would be seriously troubled.
The problem with this claim, along with the larger narrative accusing Trump of racism and anti-Semitism, is that it is contradicted by his known statements and actions since before his taking office.
Remember last year’s brouhaha over the president saying that Jews who vote Democrat are insufficiently loyal to Jewish and Israeli interests? While it may not have been his place to say that, those sentiments were diametrically opposed to the dual-loyalty trope that accuses Jews of being disloyal to their countries of citizenship. Either Trump believes Jews are too loyal to Jewish interests or insufficiently so. Both cannot be true, and it’s not difficult to discern which is correct.
Perhaps the most obvious “tell” in Miller’s piece is the ludicrous claim—made in the name of a “former senior White House official”—that if the president weren’t bigoted, he “wouldn’t need to say it,” that he could “let [his] actions speak.” This insults our intelligence. It is obvious both that people bristle when slandered, and that if his actions were permitted to speak for themselves, the matter would be long since settled.
Trump and his organization forced integration upon Palm Beach country clubs and cultivated black advancement; as president, he allocated unprecedented, consistent funding to enlarge Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); and celebrated the lowest black unemployment in history prior to the pandemic.
That he removed “white privilege” from federal sensitivity training does not contradict this history. Among other things, “white privilege” posits that Arabs, being “of color,” suffered persecution, but Jews who came to America fleeing bigotry in Arab countries, being Jews and therefore “white” (despite European history), are privileged. It is both fact-free and morally execrable; the problem here lies with Miller, not Trump.
With regard to Jews, indeed, we should let Trump’s actions speak. He recognized historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem and inspired other countries to follow suit. He took an unprecedented, aggressive posture to combat anti-Semitism on college campuses and overseas, appointing Kenneth Marcus as assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, and Elan Carr as special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism at the U.S. State Department.
Alan Dershowitz described Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism as the single most important thing done on behalf of Jewish students in his six decades in academia. The administration is acutely aware of the hateful bigotry displayed against Jews in Brooklyn, N.Y., on campus and now even in Congress. This is why the visibly Orthodox community—by far the most frequent victims of anti-Semitic violence—preferred the president and Republicans over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats to fight anti-Semitism by a 60-1 margin in a recent survey.
Trump appointed a cadre of committed Jews—David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, Jared Kushner, Avi Berkowitz and Ari Einhorn—to negotiate between Israel and Arab states. They delivered a Mideast peace plan that fully recognizes the legitimacy of Jewish life in Judea and Samaria, and more recently, brokered normalization agreements between Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain, with more countries on the horizon.
The Americans also brokered normalization of economic relations between the formerly warring nations of Serbia and Kosovo, with the inexplicable proviso that both parties improve relations with Israel.
These historic achievements benefit Israel and all Jews. The UAE announced that hotels in its capital city of Abu Dhabi will be expected to provide a kosher option for guests, making it likely the only city in the world outside the Jewish state with such a regulation. The UAE could theoretically have contracted with the Orthodox Union, based in New York, at any time, but did so on the heels of the Abraham Accords.
Similarly, Kosovo, following its peace agreement with Serbia, announced that it will be the first Muslim-majority nation to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. The embrace of peace with Israel in the Muslim world is coming hand in hand with a commitment to reduce bias against all Jews.
To those who permit his deeds to speak for themselves, and to those equipped with real knowledge of historic anti-Semitism and its nature, the assertion that Trump is biased against Jews is ludicrous, plainly stupid and profoundly dangerous.
The problem is precisely that his deeds are not permitted to speak for themselves, and his statements are deliberately misconstrued for partisan purposes. This was true most recently when the president concluded his recent High Holiday greeting call by saying, among other things, that “we love your country.”
Immediately, leftist Jewish leaders who fly the Israeli flag alongside that of the United States in their synagogues, sing “Hatikvah” (with its reference to “our land”) along with “The Star-Spangled Banner” at events, promote Israel bonds that American Jews buy to the tune of more than $1 billion each year, encourage tourism and aliyah—and, of course, intervene not only in Israel’s religious affairs, but its basic security posture, defense against terrorism and pursuit of peace with hostile neighbors—all because they, too, are Jews tied to Israel, rushed to condemn the president for recognizing that Israel, as it says in its Declaration of Independence, is the Jewish state and is tied to all Jews.
It is worth remembering that the same leftist Jewish leaders refused to participate in the president’s High Holiday call from the outset—never mind that this is in glaring opposition to Jewish interests and was initially based upon the false accusation that he called white supremacists “fine people” after the violence in Charlottesville, Va. They have and continue to reject his gestures of friendship.
We can—and must—do better. Trump has shown tremendous concern for Israel and the Jewish community, and we should express honest and nonpartisan appreciation when leaders in both parties express love for both Israel and Jews.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.
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