Opinion

The dark history of some Jews enabling anti-Semitic attacks

Donald Trump has many Jewish supporters. They can't save his campaign from blatant anti-Semitism.

Given the composition of Donald Trump's fan base, the Republican National Convention promises to be awfully awkward. On the one hand, Trump's right-wing nationalist message has roused white supremacist groups previously confined to the margins of polite society. On the other hand, some of Trump's loudest advocates and closest advisers are Jewish.

The latter category includes his son-in-law, New York Observer publisher Jared Kushner, who now finds himself in an uncomfortable position. After Jewish Observer employee Dana Schwartz publicly accused Kushner of "giving [Trump's] most hateful supporters tacit approval," the publisher defended his father-in-law with a tepid variation on the old "he doesn't have a racist bone in his body" defense.

"My father-in-law is not an anti-Semite," Kushner wrote in an op-ed at the Observer. "It's that simple, really. Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic and he's not a racist."

This may well be true. But it's still an acrobatic feat of point-missing.

The central issue here is that Trump's candidacy has inspired a flood of anti-Semitic and white supremacist invective; and even if the campaign hasn't deliberately stoked such fascist enthusiasm, it hasn't done much to tamp it down either. The fact that Trump has Jewish allies who who will vouch for his tolerance is neither here nor there.

Indeed, the he-has-Jewish-friends defense is undercut by the fact that some of Trump's prominent Jewish supporters (excluding Kushner) have written pro-Trump essays that are themselves plainly anti-Semitic. First, in a May op-ed for Breitbart, conservative activist David Horowitz accused #NeverTrump conservative Bill Kristol of being a "renegade Jew" whose refusal to endorse Trump amounted to a betrayal of Israel. The following month, radio host and begrudging Trump supporter Dennis Prager wrote in the National Review that Bernie Sanders is a "a non-Jewish Jew and a non-American American."

Horowitz and Prager did not target Kristol and Sanders because of their Judaism per se, but because they are evidently the wrong kind of Jews. Good Jews are politically conservative and unflaggingly loyal to Israel. Bad Jews tend to be culturally cosmopolitan, socially liberal, religiously agnostic, and not especially Zionist.

People who go after Bad Jews get a bit of cover from accusations of anti-Semitism because they're attacking one form of Judaism while romanticizing another. But the attack is rooted in shopworn Jew-bashing stereotypes that give the game away. When Prager accuses Sanders of being "alienated from his Jewish and American origins," he might as well be calling him a "rootless cosmopolitan," the term favored by Soviet anti-Semites.

Prager and Horowitz aren't the first Jewish conservatives to invoke anti-Semitic caricatures against fellow members of the tribe. Benjamin Netanyahu has accused his left-wing opponents of being puppets to a shadowy international cabal of financiers (sound familiar?). And Orthodox rabbi Daniel Lapin has buddied up with Glenn Beck in multiple venues, even as Beck simultaneously attacked George Soros in flagrantly anti-Semitic terms.

Even the slur "kike" may have gotten its start as a way for one group of Jews to distinguish themselves from another. Some etymologists believe culturally assimilated German-American Jews first coined the term, which they used to describe the Eastern European Jews who had more recently arrived in the United States. Only when gentile bigots adopted the term did it come to stand for all Jews.

These days, the sin of the Bad Jew is usually not a failure to assimilate. If anything, the Bad Jew has evidently assimilated too much, abandoning the traditionalism and strident Zionism of the Good Jew in the process. On this point, the Glenn Becks and Dennis Pragers of the world seem to agree.

But anti-Semitism is greedy, and it never makes allowances for Good Jews in the long term. Concessions and quiet appeasement only make anti-Semitism stronger. That's why "kike" means pretty much the same thing no matter who's saying it.

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