Donald Trump is the least anti-Semitic person. Ever. That is, according to him.
Of all the lies that dribble out of his mouth, this may be the most dangerous, inexcusable, and incontrovertibly false. Trump has engaged in anti-Semitic behavior, allowed anti-Semitic incidents to slide, and promoted anti-Semites to the highest positions of authority in his government.
In an abysmally received speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, Trump queried: “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t re-negotiate deals? Probably 99 percent of you.” Gasps could be heard as a candidate for president blatantly trafficked in the worst of Jewish stereotypes in an effort to win votes from Jewish Republicans.
Is it any wonder Clinton received an overwhelming majority of Jewish votes cast in the 2016 race?
Trump’s tweets have exposed what had long been writhing under the surface of his campaign—clear anti-Semitic undertones, in addition to the racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and homophobic sentiments on display. Throughout the campaign, Trump re-tweeted hundreds of white nationalists and antisemites. He even went so far as to delay disavowing David Duke, a former KKK leader, who has said “Jewish supremacists who control our country are the real problem.”
In addition to dabbling in his own anti-Semitism, Trump hired the slimy white supremacist Steve Bannon to head his campaign in the closing months of the 2016 presidential election. In his divorce deposition, Bannon’s now ex-wife claimed that he had refused to send his daughters to the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles because of the number of Jews that attended. In fact, it was the way in which Jews raise their daughters to be “whiny brats” with which he took issue.
After this revelation was made public by the press, Trump promoted Bannon to the position of Senior Advisor to the President of the United States.
The legitimacy Trump bestowed upon white nationalists and anti-Semites was so potent that it created an outpouring of anti-semitic activity, including death threats, against Jewish journalists who wrote stories critical of Trump.
This culminated in a spectacle of events two days in a row last week, in which Trump was asked about anti-Semitism.
On Wednesday, Trump responded to a question about anti-Semitism by ranting about his “victory” in the presidential election, in which he lied about the number of electoral college votes he received and then remarked that “as far as Jewish people—so many friends, a daughter, a son-in-law and three beautiful grandchildren—I think you’re going to see a very different America in the next three, four years… You're going to see a lot of love. OK?”
Despite his unintelligible response, one can decipher that Trump touts his daughter, Ivanka, son-in-law and advisor, Jared, and their children as illustrations for his love of the Chosen People. Yet, the mere fact that he is related to Jews does not absolve him of anti-Semitism, his promotion of anti-Semitism, and his willful ignorance of the ever-growing problem.
The following day, Thursday, an ultra-Orthodox reporter, Jake Turx—a clearly Trump-friendly individual—asked the President about anti-Semitism again.
The reporter began his query by scolding his colleagues in the press for what he asserted was a misrepresentation of active antisemitism in the Trump administration. He next reminded Trump of his Jewish grandchildren in an effort to provide Trump with an 'out' and proceeded to throw Trump a low-ball question, an easy A.
“How is the government going to address the recent uptick in anti-Semitic activity?”
Trump balked. He suddenly screamed at the reporter to be quiet and sit down and blabbered on about how he is the least anti-Semitic person (perhaps he will coin the phrase ‘pro-Semitic?') one will ever meet.
Many things were troubling about Trump’s press conference, not the least of which was his response to the reporter’s question on anti-Semitism. Yet, speaking from one Jew’s perspective, I found it horrifying to witness a president crumble under a question that should have a very simple answer: “Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in my administration, and we will work to ensure that it is eradicated everywhere.”
A great number of Americans aren't aware that more hate crimes per year are perpetrated against Jews in the United States than any other minority group. Trump’s win has correlated with a sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents. Waves of bomb threats have targeted Jewish community centers across the country, forcing them to evacuate multiple times both this and last month. Additionally, a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri, was desecrated this week by vandals.
One of the worst offenders is none other than college campuses. Ten percent of all anti-Semitic events in the United States in 2015 occurred on college campuses, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Phrases like “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” as well as swastikas have been spray-painted on Jewish students’ dormitories and gathering places across the country.
So, by all means, let’s protest. Let’s take to the streets and resist any wisp of complacency in the next four years. But, when we are fighting for our Muslim brothers and sisters, our gay and lesbian family members, our undocumented friends, and our disabled countrymen, we must remember to fight against anti-Semitism at every turn alongside our long list of demands.
Zachary Freiman PO ’20 is a prospective Music and Public Policy Analysis double major from Sleepy Hollow, NY. He dreams of one day meeting Oprah Winfrey.