Trump accused of ‘dipping into a deep well of anti-Semitic tropes’ during speech to Jewish voters
Dec. 09, 2019
The Jewish Democratic Council of America called the president’s remarks “deeply offensive” and his use of stereotypes “unconscionable,” saying that the Saturday night remarks “only reinforce our belief ... that Donald Trump is the biggest threat to American Jews.”
“We strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president — once again — used anti-Semitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel,” the group’s executive director, Halie Soifer, said in a statement. “He even had the audacity to suggest that Jews ‘have no choice’ but to support him. American Jews do have a choice, and they’re not choosing President Trump or the Republican Party, which has been complicit in enacting his hateful agenda.”
The reaction from Jewish organizations outside the four walls of the conservative-leaning Israeli American Council event sharply contrasted with the reaction from Trump’s audience Saturday night. Attendees often cheered the president’s pro-Israel stance and his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, while laughing at the president’s controversial remarks. Some chanted “four more years!”
But by Sunday morning, as Trump’s comments continued trickling out online, a host of Jewish groups condemned him.
After billionaire Trump donors Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, introduced the president at the IAC event, Trump soon “dipp[ed] into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview,” J Street, a liberal Jewish group, wrote on Twitter Sunday.
Trump said, “We have to get them to love Israel more, because we have people that are Jewish people that are great people — they don’t love Israel enough.” While speaking about moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Trump then appeared to invoke Jewish voters’ wealth while using broad stereotypes to describe their character.
“A lot of you are in the real estate business, because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all,” he said. “But you have to vote for me — you have no choice. You’re not gonna vote for Pocahontas, I can tell you that. You’re not gonna vote for the wealth tax. Yeah, let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away!” The president was using an insult aimed at Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); also, none of the Democrats have proposed a 100 percent wealth tax.
He continued: “Some of you don’t like me. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’re going to be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get it. So I don’t have to spend a lot of time on that."
The American Jewish Committee responded by praising Trump’s support for Israel while also condemning his use of stereotypes.
“Dear @POTUS ,” the American Jewish Committee wrote to Trump on Twitter Sunday afternoon, “Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes. Let’s stay off that mine-infested road.”
But some right-wing Jewish groups defended the president, insisting Trump’s reference to the Jewish voters’ wealth was not an anti-Semitic trope.
“To all those who are saying @realDonaldTrump trafficked in anti-semitic tropes in his speech last night by talking about how the Dems will tax them see their wealth evaporate- get over yourselves,” Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, wrote on Twitter. “He literally talks about this at every rally!”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who said he attended the speech, praised it as the “most pro-Israel speeches ever delivered by an American president.”
As The Washington Post reported from the event Saturday, Trump’s support from Jewish voters in the room may have been high, but among Jewish voters more generally his approval rating is at 29 percent nationwide, according to a Gallup poll from earlier this year.
Trump has a history of drawing the ire of Jewish organizations with comments invoking the same tropes that critics condemned this weekend.
In 2015, while speaking to the Republican Jewish Coalition as a presidential candidate, Trump suggested to a roomful of Jewish people that they wanted to “control” politicians through money, long decried as an anti-Semitic trope. He said, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians — that’s fine.” In 2016, his campaign released ads described as anti-Semitic. One, in the form of a tweet, featured Hillary Clinton superimposed over mounds of cash along with the Star of David and the phrase, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Another ominously suggested that several powerful Jewish people — including billionaire George Soros, then-Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd C. Blankfein and then-Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet L. Yellen — were working with shadowy figures to support “global special interests."
And most recently, in August, he invoked the “dual loyalty” trope — by suggesting American Jews who vote for Democrats are not loyal to Israel. His comments came in the wake of a separate dust-up involving Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who herself has been accused of using anti-Semitic stereotypes, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who were barred by Israeli authorities from visiting the country. Trump, who has regularly derided the congresswomen, questioned why Democrats would support the U.S. congresswomen over the State of Israel.
Then he said: “I think Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."
At the time, American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris called the remarks “shockingly divisive.”
“American Jews ― like all Americans — have a range of political views and policy priorities,” Harris said. “His assessment of their knowledge or ‘loyalty,' based on their party preference, is inappropriate, unwelcome and downright dangerous.”
Trump condemned anti-Semitism during his speech Saturday night, but others pointed out that he failed to mention white-supremacist attacks such as the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, and the Poway, Calif., synagogue shooting. In Pittsburgh eleven people were killed by an accused shooter who allegedly espoused anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant beliefs, and in Poway, another shooter allegedly killed one and injured three after appearing to publish a manifesto describing hatred for Jews.
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