Today’s arrest in Israel of a Jewish teenager suspected of making dozens of bomb threats to Jewish centers means neither of the only two people yet accused of perpetrating the recent antisemitism is a white supremacist, Trump-loving Jew-hater. Combined with the March 3 arrest of the African-American, socialist, Trump-hating Juan Thompson in some of the hoaxes, all the evidence now points the other way. The president’s detractors who have been sounding the hollow “Trump Fosters Antisemitism” drumbeat should just hang up their sticks.
In late February, news and social media were abuzz with a poorly sourced report claiming the president had suggested some of the incidents were “false flags” (though without evidence he used that term), in which people sympathetic to Jews are anonymously play-acting antisemitism to make Trump’s supporters look bad. Reports in the Washington Post, the Daily Beast, Slate, Salon, and elsewhere were aghast that the president would shift blame from the obvious culprits – anti-Semites emboldened by the way he had conducted himself in the campaign and in office.
Now we’ve found significant evidence that the “it’s the reverse” claim – which the president may not have even made – reflected the truth all along. But, the very idea that Trump has inculcated antisemitism is thinner than a matzoh:
- Steve Bannon’s supposed antisemitism is based on disputed comments of his ex-wife, a supposed quote a far-left journalist kept secret for five weeks, and offensive content on a web site he ran that pales in comparison to that of Amazon.com – whose founder, Jeff Bezos, never gets similar treatment.
- Trump’s “failure to denounce” antisemitism was an unfair insult, since the default position should have been that of course he’s against antisemitism. Even after he condemned it, the accusations intensified in some quarters by anti-Trump activists looking to take cheap shots.
- Similarly, Trump is not responsible for nasty people like David Duke, Richard Spencer, and the legions of internet trolls choosing to support him. The proper response to the bile that comes from such bigots is almost always silence.
- Trump’s evocation of “America First” in his Inaugural Address relied on a logical slogan for his policies – one that has been used by several Democrats. Nobody would know it had also been used by Charles Lindbergh and other anti-Semites if anti-Trump journalists and activists hadn’t told them.
- Trump almost certainly did not approve the campaign ad immediately before the election that supposedly contained coded messages suggesting a vote for Hillary would empower the Jews. The notion that the Trump campaign would spend resources on a last-minute pitch to “dog whistle” the supposed voter bloc of Hillary-leaning anti-Semites is ludicrous.
- Similarly, the White House’s Holocaust statement that universalized the event without mentioning Jews was written by a Jewish staffer, not Trump; and the administration’s refusal to apologize for it sprang from Trump’s general aversion to apologies, not some passion for downplaying Jewish suffering.
Look, as a gay Jewish opponent of this president I would be the first to squeal if the president did something actually anti-Semitic – or anti-gay. But those accusations have consistently proven hollow, and today’s news should put the entire polemic to rest.
Sometimes what seems to be a wave, we are discovering, is more of a ripple. With 2017 technology, a single disturbed person can make dozens or even hundreds of very scary bomb threats. Though the teen just arrested was not behind the unsolved vandalism at the Jewish cemetery in St. Louis (where four Benkofs are buried, by the way), today’s news underscores the need for caution before assigning motives to attacks on Jews.
A great example is the widely reported swastika graffiti with inscriptions like “Make America White Again” and pictures of Trump with a Hitler mustache. While those acts of vandalism could have been perpetrated by Jew-hating fans of the president, it is just as reasonable to speculate the culprits were sarcastically expressing the very message liberal opponents of the president have been making for more than a year: that Trump is a Nazi.
President Trump doesn’t respect our democracy, our freedoms, or the very notion of truth. His recklessness and ego are a constant danger. So why do his opponents harp on a trope whose evidence evaporates by the minute? Well, for decades liberals have been so enamored with “Republicans hate the following groups” that they cling to it like Velcro, even when the emerging truth is far more complicated.
While Trump has expressed umbrage at the anti-Semitism charges, every moment his opponents fight against harmful things he isn’t doing, they aren’t fight against harmful things he IS doing.