Trump’s Menacing Rosh Hashanah Message to American Jews
Category: Op/EdVia: hallux • 2 months ago • 52 comments
By: Yair Rosenberg - The Atlantic
Like most politicians, former President Donald Trump marked the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, by passing along holiday greetings to American Jews. Unlike most politicians, Trump used the opportunity to threaten them.
On Sunday evening, just as Rosh Hashanah was coming to a close, Trump posted a meme on his social-media platform, Truth Social, excoriating “liberal Jews” who had “voted to destroy America.” (Majorities of American Jews have voted for Democrats since before World War II.) “Let’s hope you learned from your mistake,” the caption continued, “and make better choices going forward!”
Trump’s Rosh Hashanah broadside was far from the first time that he had shared objectionable sentiments about Jewish people. But it was particularly ugly in the way it deliberately singled out a specific constituency during that constituency’s holiest season. As the conservative writer Philip Klein wrote in National Review , “Color me skeptical that Trump’s defenders would be so understanding if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer were to post a Merry Christmas message … blaming Christian conservatives for destroying America because they didn’t vote for Democrats.”
But while Trump’s message may be offensive, it is also instructive, because it reflects the way that many people think about Jews. Some anti-Semites treat Jewish people as a menacing monolith that suborns society to its sinister ends. But others divide the community into “good Jews,” who warrant respect and provisional protection, and “bad Jews,” who can be subjected to all manner of abuse. In this construction, the righteous Jews are those who affirm the bigot and support his worldview, while the unworthy ones are those who stubbornly refuse to get with the program. Like other minorities, the Jewish minority is expected to conform to the preferences of a dominant majority culture—whether that is political or religious—and those who dissent become fair game for denunciation and discrimination.
Sometimes, as in Trump’s case, this distinction between good Jews and bad ones is made along partisan lines. In other instances, bigots draw the line geographically between the Jews in Israel and those outside it, with one community venerated and the other denigrated. This is why former Republican Congressman Steve King pointed to his support for Israel when criticized over his sympathy for the white nationalists who assail Jews in North America. For the same reason, Ken Livingstone, the socialist former mayor of London and inveterate critic of the Jewish state, infamously insisted that “a real anti-Semite doesn’t just hate the Jews in Israel.” For a certain type of bigot, the fact that they deprecate only the right kind of Jews means they cannot be a bigot.
This Semitic sorting never ends well, because justifications for abusing Jews have a way of metastasizing. Permission structures for anti-Semitism are rarely restricted to their original target. Once a society starts accepting attacks on entire swaths of Jews—for being too liberal, too religious , too secular, too pro-Israel, too anti-Israel, too whatever—that acceptance will grow. And when Jewish existence becomes conditional on staying in the good graces of a non-Jewish actor or movement, it becomes an impoverished existence—provisional and precarious, forever looking over its shoulder.
This is why true friends of the Jewish people don’t pick which half of the world’s Jews are the good ones and which half are the bad ones, like some sort of anti-Semitic Santa Claus. They do not paint millions of Jewish people with Manichaean moral strokes, but rather grant them the dignity of their diversity and judge individuals as individuals, not as avatars for their group. Those who, like Trump and King, make lists of bad Jews or suggest that Jews aren’t proper Jews if they don’t adopt a certain ideology are not allies of the Jews. They’re the people laying the groundwork for persecution.
Bitchy comments about George Soros are mundane, steer clear of making them.
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