Is Trump to Blame for the Rise of Antisemitism in the US?

Friday, November 02, 2018 |  Tsvi Sadan

Before anything else I should say this: Trump is not my president. I don't feel obligated to defend or defame him. Until now, I've said next to nothing about Trump. Now is the proper time to do so. As a Jew first, I am offended by Trump's comments following the Pittsburgh massacre. 

“If they had some kind of a protection inside the temple," said POTUS, "maybe it would have been a much different situation." To me, this sounds as if Trump partially blames the Pittsburgh Jewish community for the "successful" attack by Robert Bowers. He should have apologized for this unfortunate comment. But does it make Trump an antisemite spreading hate for Jews in particular, and minorities in general? I doubt it.

Among those blaming Trump for the Pittsburgh massacre are Washington Post contributors Dana Milbank and Joe Heim and Samantha Schmidt, whose recent columns claim outright that Trump is an antisemite who, as Milbank wrote, branded "his campaign with the 'America First' slogan of the anti-Semitic pre-war movement." So, Trump's rhetoric incited Bowers to kill Jews. It's that simple. Or is it?

Milbank, and others like him, like to cite the 2017 ADL (Anti-Defamation League) "Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents" that found a 57% increase in antisemitic incidents since 2017, or since Trump took office. This survey is the ultimate proof, if one needed any in the first place, that Trump is an antisemite who increasingly makes America uninhabitable for Jews. As Milbank phrased it, "there is no longer safety under the vine and fig tree."

The problem is that this is not exactly what the audit in question revealed. The ADL's statistics are most likely accurate, but there are caveats. The audit divides antisemitic incidents to three categories: harassment, vandalism and violent assault. However, it fails to account for the identity of the perpetrators, so one doesn't really know whether harassment, for example, speaks of Jews harassed by anti-Israel progressives, or by militant alt-right activists. Further, the audit specifies that under "harassment" it included 342 incidents of bomb threats, an increase of 101% compared to the 170 incidents recorded in 2016. But, of the 342 bomb threats (not evaluated in and of themselves), 163 or so were made by a "troubled Jewish teenager located in Israel," which means there was really only a 5% increase in bomb threats made by either the left or right in America, and we still don't know which made more.

The audit highlights the dramatic 94% increase in antisemitic incidents taking place in K-12 schools, which makes one wonder what the meaning of antisemitic activity among young children and teenagers is. As above, the report does not specify the identity of the children/teenagers, which allows for data abuse by agenda-driven people.

The report also failed to account for the dramatic increase in anti-Israel activities by progressives who have been, indirectly, fomenting distrust of Jews on campuses across American since the time of the Obama administration. This may or may not have contributed greatly to the rise in antisemitic incidents since 2017. Sadly, the ADL audit has conveniently dissociated anti-Israel slur from antisemitism, despite many reports demonstrating that the two are closely linked.

Lastly, though anti-Trump voices wave the ADL audit to prove that the president is an antisemite, the report itself says quite candidly that "thankfully, the number of assaults with perceived anti-Semitic animus decreased to 19 in 2017; a decrease of 47% compared to the 36 assaults in 2016."

To conclude, then, unless one simply assumes that there are no antisemitic Democrats, the ADL audit doesn't teach us anything about the ideologies driving people to attack Jews. So, is Trump an antisemite? While some can extract such a conclusion from the various tweets and statements by POTUS, unless Trump is a full-blown Machiavellist, his policy toward Israel says otherwise, that he is a genuine friend of the Jewish people. 

PHOTO: The Palestinians believe that Trump is about as pro-Jewish as an American president can be. Why do American liberals believe the opposite? (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

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