Roger L. Simon

What's Behind the Accusations that Trump is Anti-Semitic?

President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 15, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As the screenwriter of two feature films about the Holocaust, one of which was nominated for several Academy Awards,  and also the author of a series of prize-winning mystery novels about a Jewish detective, I think I can safely say that I have spent a good deal of my life paying close attention to matters of anti-Semitism.

I write this only partly to toot my own horn but also to give some weight to the considerable perplexity with which I view the growing meme that Donald Trump is somehow anti-Semitic.  Not only are more members of his immediate family — daughter, son-in-law and daughter-in-law and therefore various grandchildren — Jewish than any previous president, his cabinet and advisers are chock-full of my coreligionists.  Trump — he of the “New York values” and the countless hours on the Howard Stern radio show — has lived a life surrounded by and working with Jews with no problem that I have ever heard about.

The accusations never made sense to me.  When I first read his statement on Holocaust Day, I didn’t even notice that it didn’t mention the Jews.  Like a lot of people,  I already assumed that was what was meant.  Wasn’t the Holocaust about the Jews, largely?  (Yes, of course, there were others, but virtually every Holocaust book or movie is about the Jews with only a few exceptions. Some  barely mention the Jews by name because it’s a given. It’s almost an example of metonymy.)   I didn’t even think to ask about it until some gotcha artists in the media who attack Trump for just about everything endlessly called attention to it.  Maybe it was a deliberate omission on his administration’s part, but I sincerely doubt it.  It certainly was nothing like making the prime minister of Israel cool his heels with his staff in the lower part of the White House, which our former president did while he went upstairs to eat dinner alone with his family.  That was a truly calculated act.

And then there was the question by the Hasidic reporter at the press conference.  Trump — who we know has a thin skin — jumped on the young man because Donald evidently thought he was once again about to be accused unfairly of anti-Semitism.  I might have done the same myself. The young reporter, to his credit, clearly understood this and forgave Trump in in a post-conference interview, although the same gotcha artists in the press did not, most likely deliberately.  (Speaking of which, the deliberate misunderstanding of Trump seems almost to be a disease with much of media. Sometimes it veers to the comical. If the SNL writers were genuinely sophisticated, they would show that.  But they daren’t.)

And then there was the — unsolved at this writing — series of threatening phone calls made to Jewish Community Centers over the weekend coupled with the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery. Hillary Clinton — she of the “Suha kiss” — jumped on Trump for being tardy in his condemnation.  But when he did make one, just a few hours later, it was direct and forthright.

So what are we to make of all this?   First, attention must be paid.  Recent events in Europe tell us this is serious.  Many French Jews have departed their native land for Israel over the last few years for a reason. Life was getting too dangerous for them in Paris, Toulouse, Marseilles and elsewhere.  The Jews of Malmo, Sweden, have nearly vanished after repeated assaults by local jihadists. And there’s more, as we know. But is that about to happen here?  Frankly, I think it’s unlikely.  We have nowhere near the radical Islamic populations that have almost always in recent years been the source of the violence against Jews in Europe.  Still, we have to be vigilant against bigotry and violence directed at any group. That the FBI is investigating last weekend’s threats is important. We all await the results.

But where does Trump fit in this?  The attacks on the president for anti-Semitism are obviously part of the general media Trump Bash and also fund-raising fodder for the usual suspects of left-wing “human rights groups” and leftover Jewish socialists who express horror about practically everything that doesn’t seem to have been written from the grave by Eugene V. Debs.

But there is something more involved, I think.

The president’s stance toward the state of Israel has been exceptionally positive, more positive in some ways than any predecessor.  That positivity, that reaffirmation and indeed strengthening of the U.S.-Israel alliance was as plain as the smile on Benjamin Netanyahu’s face when the two leaders met.  Moreover, Trump’s cabinet is filled with committed Zionists, most obviously his nominee for ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman.  Of all U.S. diplomats ever posted to that state, Friedman may be the most deeply sympathetic to Israel.  You could see that in his confirmation hearing, even though, for obvious diplomatic reasons, he dialed down some of his more emphatic comments.

Sad to say (and I am not trolling here — I am truly sad) much of the Democratic Party and a fair portion of our media feel toward Israel somewhere between annoyance and outright disdain. The reasons for this are complex and enough for several books, but suffice to say we live in a world where the favorite to head the DNC is a man who, for years until at least 2000, according to this thoroughly researched article, supported and apologized for America’s most notorious anti-Semite, Louis Farrakhan. This man, Congressman Keith Ellison,  claims not to have realized Farrakhan was such an anti-Semite.  That makes Ellison either an ignoramus or an outright liar.  I’ll go with the latter.

Is there a twisted confluence between accusing Donald Trump of non-existent anti-Semitism  and ignoring Keith Ellison’s years  of actually enabling the same?  It’s depressing to write, but I cannot resist this blood-curdling truth. And I am not the first to say that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. It’s an old story now.  But this view has clearly infected the Democratic Party and a good swatch of our media, in conscious and unconscious forms. The Trump-bashing has umpteen sources, but this is one of them.  And it’s metastasizing.

Jeff Balabon, the author of the Tablet article I just cited, was apparently thinking this same way when he concluded:

Who knows? Maybe reasonable people can differ about these things. But here’s another thing to consider: The people who vouched for Obama to the American Jewish community are now vouching for Rep. Ellison, while condemning Donald Trump and his advisers for the sins of stoking hatred and anti-Semitism that Obama demonstrably committed, and the Democratic Party is now hoping to induce our community to forget.

It’s a vicious game, isn’t it?

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn’t Already. Follow him on Twitter @rogerlsimon.