Fighting Calls for Impeachment, Trump Intensifies Anti-Semitic Rhetoric. We Cannot Ignore It.

Shamefully, Trump attacked Nadler, Schiff, and Ocasio-Cortez of them as “savages.” How is such rhetoric not racist?

US President Donald Trump leaves after a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (not shown) in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 2, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

President Donald Trump leaves after a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in the East Room of the White House on Oct. 2, 2019.

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

“Prime Directive: Always Blame the Jews for Everything.”

That was one of the especially disturbing headlines in a 17-page “style guide” written by Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.

“As Hitler says, people will become confused and disheartened if they feel there are multiple enemies,” Anglin argued, according to a copy of the document obtained by HuffPost in December 2017. “As such, all enemies should be combined into one enemy, which is the Jews.”

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry on September 24, President Donald Trump and his acolytes seem to have borrowed a page from the Daily Stormer playbook. And here’s the thing: As with the president’s outrageous insistence that foreign governments dish up dirt on Joe Biden and his son, they happen to be banging their anti-Semitic drum in plain sight.

Take Trump’s tweet on September 28:

To be clear: More than 200 House Democrats have signed onto an impeachment inquiry and yet the president chose to target only three of them by name, two of whom are Jewish: Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, chairs of the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. The third target was — surprise! — a woman of color, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Shamefully, he attacked all of them as “savages.”

How is such rhetoric not racist?

On October 2, Trump escalated his brazenly anti-Semitic attack on Schiff. “We don’t call him ‘Shifty Schiff’ for nothing,” the president told reporters in the Oval Office. “He’s a shifty, dishonest guy.”

The stereotype of Jews as “shifty,” the suggestion that they are sneaky and manipulative, has a long and ignominious history. Trump — who “often plays on well-worn caricatures about cleverness, deviousness, and physical weakness” when discussing Jews, to quote Peter Beinart — knows what he is doing when he gives Schiff this particular nickname; it is no accident or coincidence.

Still not convinced? Then consider these two tweets from the president’s thick-witted son, Don Jr., from October 2:

Radical liberal. Handpicked by George Soros. A Soros puppet.

Don Jr.’s tweets provoked a rare response from Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who referred to his invocation of Soros, a left-leaning Jewish billionaire, as an “anti-Semitic trope” and a “dangerous” insinuation.

Dangerous indeed. On October 22, 2018, Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc sent a pipe bomb to the Westchester, New York, home of Soros. Six days later, white nationalist Robert Bowers murdered 11 Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue because he believed that wealthy U.S. Jews were conspiring bring “invaders in that kill our people,” an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory endorsed by the president of the United States. “A lot of people say” that Soros funded the migrant caravan, Trump irresponsibly claimed only three days after the Pittsburgh massacre.

So why isn’t there more outrage over Trump’s blatant and dangerous anti-Semitism, in the specific context of this impeachment inquiry? Why has his nasty, conspiratorial and Jew-baiting response to it not been a bigger story?

One reason is that Trump’s anti-Semitism is nothing new. He was an anti-Semite when he accused U.S. Jews of being dumb and disloyal. He was an anti-Semite when he praised neo-Nazis as “very fine people.” He was an anti-Semite when he referred to comedian Jon Stewart as Jonathan Leibowitz. He was an anti-Semite when he kept — no joke — a book of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed. So we have become inured to his anti-Semitism, just as we have become inured to his anti-Muslim bigotry and his anti-black and anti-Latino racism.

Another reason is the cynical and partisan weaponization of anti-Semitism by the right to attack the left — especially the likes of Reps. llhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – aided and abetted by a lazy liberal media. (Can you imagine the reaction if Omar had called, say, Trump’s Jewish Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin “shifty” or a “savage”?)


Is Donald Trump an Anti-Semite?

But we cannot afford to give Trump a pass on this. “As the impeachment inquiry escalates,” Beinart writes, “Trump’s anti-Semitic rhetoric probably will too.” Remember: The president’s paranoid and cultish online supporters have already begun promulgating mad conspiracy theories to try and protect their hero from being impeached and, as Vox’s Jane Coaston has observed, “an environment where conspiracy theories flourish and find new ground is the perfect environment for anti-Semitism itself to flourish and find new acolytes,” especially because “anti-Semitism itself is a conspiracy theory.”

Hate crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions in the U.S. rose by 37 percent during Trump’s first year in office. As a vote on impeachment approaches, and Trump and Co. fall back again and again on the Daily Stormer’s “prime directive,” things are only going to get uglier. There’s nothing funny or cute about the president’s mocking of “shifty” Schiff or his mainstreaming of crazy conspiracy theories. Both the Pittsburgh shooter and the pipe bomber are stark reminders that anti-Semitic rhetoric — of all types but especially of the Trumpian variety — puts Jewish lives in very real danger.

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