By Harold Kirtz
We have now entered a very bizarre phase of the presidential campaign. I firmly believe, as a practical and pragmatic guy, that we have reached the point where any member of the Jewish community who votes for Donald Trump is risking a triumphant return to a stronger strain of anti-Semitism in this country.
I don’t know whether Mr. Trump is personally anti-Semitic. I hope not, for his family’s sake, since his daughter Ivanka has converted to Judaism, and Mr. Trump has Jewish grandchildren.
However, Mr. Trump has allowed anti-Semitism to rise from the backwaters. On Friday, Sept. 16, members of white supremacist groups held a press conference in which they trumpeted their claim that they are emboldened because of Mr. Trump’s campaign.
Several times recently Mr. Trump has retweeted comments by white supremacists.
Mr. Trump’s son and adviser Don Jr. made a despicable reference in a tweet to “gas chambers.” Then he retweeted a picture referencing the movie “The Expendables,” with Mr. Trump as the Sylvester Stallone figure and his supporters as other compatriots. But he made an unusual addition to the picture: propped up next to Mr. Trump is the green frog Pepe, a prevalent and pernicious mascot of anti-Semitic, racist, white supremacist groups.
On the Internet, Pepe shows up over and over again in Nazi dress, drinking from a cup with a swastika, reading “Mein Kampf,” and appearing in many other anti-Semitic scenes.
Mr. Trump has done much more in the area of racist themes. His political start was as leader of the birther movement, trying to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency and engaging in incredibly venal racism.
Since the start of his presidential run, he had refused to address the birther issue when questioned. Last week he finally admitted that the president was born in America. No apology. No explanation. No sincerity in his pronouncement. A refusal to take questions from reporters. Pretty pathetic.
And only done at an event that was promoted as political but was really just a showcase for a Trump Hotel, again showing his real priority: himself.
Attempting to delegitimize an African-American president brings to mind the speech of German Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Mr. Trump has gone after Mexicans, Muslims, judges, women, the African-American community. Who is next?
I get why some people want to vote for him as a protest against the system that often seems incapable of governing. But every Jew should be concerned about what his presidency would mean for the country and for the Jewish people — nothing good, I assure you.
Some may think that he would be better for Israel than Hillary Clinton. Really?
Mrs. Clinton has been a friend to the Jewish community and to Israel. And Mr. Trump, who knows what to believe about him?
A sycophant for Russian President Putin. Not concerned about Putin moving into Ukraine and even the Baltic countries. (Whose relatives are from Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia?) Unconcerned about other countries getting nuclear weapons. Complimenting Saddam Hussein for being a strong leader. Hesitating to reject the support of David Duke. Retweeting white supremacists’ rantings. Claiming, at one point, not to know who David Duke is and what white supremacists are.
As Newsweek reported, Trump made entreaties to Qaddafi and other members of his Libyan government, seeking deals that would bring cash into the Trump Organization from a sovereign wealth fund called the Libyan Investment Authority. He even leased his estate in Westchester County to Qaddafi. He took Qaddafi’s money but, after local protests, forbade him from staying at his property.
Of course, he kept Qaddafi’s money, which is par for the course with him. Trump’s constant search for money for himself motivates him to make bedfellows with anyone, even Israel’s enemies.
Whatever you think of Mrs. Clinton, she would not be an embarrassment to the country. She would not be a funnel for anti-Semitism seeping its way into a broader acceptance in this country. Mr. Trump has already proved that he is.