The Philo-Semitic President

First published in the American Spectator.

The Orthodox Jewish community is still reeling from the slapdown President Trump gave reporter Jake Turx in his press conference several weeks ago. Turx is the first senior White House press correspondent to work for an Orthodox journal, Ami (My People) Magazine. There are fewer than 100 reporters permitted to attend the daily briefings, and Turx even got to ask the President a question.

But no one gave Turx a microphone, and the President couldn’t hear him clearly. He thought he was being asked to defend against charges of anti-Semitism… again. This ridiculous calumny has dogged him since he began his campaign. Trump was piqued and he dismissed the question. Turx was frustrated by the experience, and so were Orthodox Jews. As TAS columnist Jay Homnick jested, “Trump let My People go and Turx let My People down.”

In truth, the man who really let my people down is Steve Goldstein of the Anne Frank Center, who is the paradigm for those in the Jewish community who have done their best to fan the flames. Director of an organization pledging “mutual respect,” Goldstein repeatedly calls the Trump Administration anti-Semitic, using flimsy claims that collapse upon rudimentary fact-checking, both in his Facebook posts and his confrontation with Kayleigh McEnany on CNN.

He and others of his ilk were strangely silent when the previous President called Judea “Palestinian land,” declaring invaders from the Arabian Peninsula to be the indigenous population of the only homeland of the Jews. They expressed no outrage when Berkeley students chanted “we support the intifada,” or when those at Columbia recently declared that “resistance is justified, when people are occupied.” Arab “resistance” is, of course, murdering civilians, a tactic that no one condones unless the victims are Jews. Yet these Jewish liberals were silent in the face of obvious hate.

From the beginning, Trump has surrounded himself with Jews who observe classical Jewish practices. David Friedman and Jason Dov Greenblatt are not merely hired hands, but close friends of the President. Trump traveled to Queens to visit Friedman when he was sitting shiva — in a snowstorm. He does more than “tolerate” his Orthodox grandchildren; Jared Kushner is one of his most trusted advisors. Turx himself said the President has done “unprecedented” outreach to the Orthodox Jewish community.

So if supporters of the anti-Israel “J Street,” such as Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, are opposing Friedman for Ambassador as a “zealous partisan” and claiming his boss is an anti-Semite, one must question: do they honestly believe Trump doesn’t like Jews, or are they offended that Trump’s inner circle includes so many who take Jewish tradition far more seriously than they do?

Anti-Semitism is far too serious a matter to be used as a partisan political weapon, and academic justification of barbarity is vastly more dangerous than memes created by “alt-right” Trump supporters. To those a wee bit more objective, this administration is shaping up to be the most philo-Semitic since George Washington wrote his letter to the Jews of Newport.

Team Trump tried to stop the anti-Israel UNSC resolution of last December, and convinced the UK to block the statement of the French “peace conference.” He appointed Friedman as Ambassador to Israel and Nikki Haley to lead the mission to the UN. Her first post-Security Council press conference was both a memorable smackdown of UN duplicity and double standards and a pledge to confront them:

The Security Council is supposed to discuss how to maintain international peace and security. But at our meeting on the Middle East, the discussion was not about Hezbollah’s illegal buildup of rockets in Lebanon, it was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists, it was not about how we defeat ISIS, it was not about how we hold [Syrian dictator] Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

No, instead the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated, month after month, for decades. I am here to say that the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore.

We have not seen anything similar since Daniel Patrick Moynihan declared the UN resolution likening Zionism to racism to be “an infamous act” and an “obscenity.” That was in 1975, under President Gerald Ford.

The UN’s hyperfocus upon Israel has far less to do with conventional international politics than irrational anti-Semitism, and Donald Trump seems to know this well. If Trump is what an anti-Semite looks like, I’ll take “anti-Semites” like him over “friends” like Obama any day of the week — and twice on Shabbos.

UPDATE: Since publication of this piece on American Spectator, several additional things have happened:

Education Secretary DeVos strongly praised Agudath Israel for its “leadership and commitment” working to ensure that “every child, regardless of where they live or their family’s income, should have an equal opportunity to a quality education.” As reported by the Washington Post, AI tweeted that this meeting was “truly historic.”

The Trump Administration proposed a budget with massive cuts” to State Department funding, threatening aid to nations around the world, but specifically preserving aid to Israel.

Haley once again condemned a UN statement for anti-Semitic bias (without saying so) using language unheard of since Moynihan:

The United States is outraged by the report of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising. That it was drafted by Richard Falk, a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories, including about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is equally unsurprising. The United Nations Secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether. The United States stands with our ally Israel and will continue to oppose biased and anti-Israel actions across the UN system and around the world.

And during a recent US-Israel meeting, the Jewish touch wasn’t merely providing Kosher food — the diplomatic service had to facilitate Mincha so that one of the participants could say Kaddish. That person was Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s envoy to Israel.

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4 Responses

  1. Steve Brizel says:

    The acts perpetrated against JCCs and cemeteries and even in neighborhoods that were pro-Trump are disturbing. Yet, one should never confuse Jewish values  or promote the idea that Jewish values exclusively can be identified with what is called the “progressive agenda” or the “conservative agenda” . We should be able to reject that which  can be found far left and far right extremes of either agenda, and determine which, if any political ideology or governing political party, poses more of a threat or poses  the lesser of two evils to our communities and our bedrock Yesodei Emunah of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. That being said, one waits for the Democrats in general to welcome people of faith in general , to deplore the closing of the minds in academia and the media  and not be overly identified with groups that are clearly hostile to free exercise of religion and who would use Congress, administrative agencies and the courts to demonstrate such hostility in a clear and open manner. Like it or not, one looks in vein  for a HHH, Sccop Jackson, etc in the Democratic Party of today.

  2. Reb Yid says:

    So let me get this straight:

    This “most philo-Semitic President since George Washington” has:

    –On International Holocaust Day issued a statement that amazingly did not mention Jews in it.  And then, when he and his spokespeople are later asked about the omission, lash out, double down and are quite happy with keeping the statement the way that it is;

    –Managed to do the impossible–twice.

    1)  He got all four mainstream rabbinical associations, ranging from Reform to Reconstructionist to Conservative to Orthodox (RCA) to publicly condemn his Executive Order on immigrants.  Even the Agudah expressed some reservations.  I can’t think of the last time all of these organizations agreed on anything, let alone something of a Presidential nature.

    2)  He got all 100 Senators to sign a letter, putting the pressure on federal agencies led by Trump to take more decisive action on the hundreds of threats to JCCs, day schools and other Jewish institutions.  While local Jewish institutions cannot heap enough praise on local authorities in dealing assertively with these threats, there is complete exasperation at the lack of anything similar by the AG, the Justice Department or indeed by Trump himself.

    It took forever for Trump to say anything about this issue at all.  Finally, after his daughter tweeted a JCC hashtag and even his buddies at the Wiesenthal were asking the feds to do more, he was forced to say something.  He has still said far too little and done even less.  He has the power to have his AG and Justice Department do a lot more, but apparently he has them busy intimidating immigrants.  It also does not help that Trump has suggested the possibility that Jews or Democrats might be behind these threats “to make me look bad”.

    I would just love to have read your take on this had a Democratic President done all of this, in less than two months in office.  If this is one’s definition of being “philo-Semitic”, I would hate to think of one’s definition of being someone who has little regard for Jews.

    • Yaakov Menken says:

      Well, let’s see. The Holocaust Statement was written by one of Trump’s advisors — a Jew, who lost relatives in the Holocaust. He chose the message. And when liberal Jewish groups made a fuss, Trump, despite being a tremendous narcissist who goes to great lengths to burnish and protect his reputation, refused to point fingers at his Jewish aide. Some anti-Semite.

      The carefully worded statement of the OU and RCA was obviously sufficiently subtle to completely escape the thinking of Reb Yid. The statement said we cannot discriminate based on religion. Anyone who thinks this is a “Muslim ban” has sacrificed his brain on the altar of liberal PC thought and enmity towards Trump. The countries with the highest Muslim populations are Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nigeria. None of these is listed in the ban. This is because it is not a Muslim ban, unless you are a judge living in Washington or Hawaii. It is a ban upon countries identified as harboring terrorism. By the Obama administration. Of course, the fact that what these countries harbor is frankly identified as Muslim terrorism offends liberals, as unpleasant facts always do, but that doesn’t make it a Muslim ban.

      And, of course, all 7 countries are places where the average child is educated to hate Jews, and to believe that the majority of the anti-Semitic tropes identified by the ADL are probably true. According to “Reb Yid,” banning anti-Semites is… now get this… proof Trump is an anti-Semite! We seriously could not make this stuff up.

      As for the third issue, the rampant increase in acts of anti-Semitism during the latter years of the Obama administration, encouraged by a President who called Jews living in Judea the illegal occupants of “Palestinian” land, was ignored by the media. All of a sudden, when Trump became candidate, they began to blame all of anti-Semitism on Trump, contrary to the obvious signs of its vastly more public manifestations on the other side of the aisle (Palestinian flags flying at the DNC, Israeli flags burned outside, etc.).

      We don’t need to speculate what would happen if a Democratic President did this, because we watched it happen. Not only did BHO, his AG and Justice Department say and do nothing at all, but the media remained silent and liberal Jews continued to adore him. Now we are supposed to believe that the increase in anti-Semitism which took place in 2015 and 2016 is actually a new thing.

      At this time, only one person has been arrested for bomb threats against JCC’s and cemetery vandalism. He is a black Muslim who voted for Hillary and supported Sanders. And thankfully, we have a President who cares, despite being dogged by false accusations by Jews incapable of dealing with anti-Semitism in an objective fashion.

  3. mycroft says:

    It is still too early to tell which way the Trump administration will act on Jewish issues. An example, I would hold off either attacking or defending Trump on his Holocaust statement until next year. We will see next year which way he issues the statement. On Israel the jury is still out, in the past it is the Secretaries of Defense and State who have much more influence on Israel than Ambassadors. BTW an Ambassador coming from a frum background does not guarantee a smooth relationship with Israel-see eg Danny Kurtzer.


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