Friday, May 17, 2024

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Trump’s History of Antisemitism: How Republicans Exploit Israel Protests to Hide Their Own Bigotry

GOP accused of weaponizing Israel protests to deflect from party's disturbing ties to white nationalists promoting anti-Jewish hatred.

nick fuentes donald trump
Donald Trump and Nick Fuentes, Photo on left: Gage Skidmore

As pro-Palestinian protests have erupted on college campuses across America following the deadly Hamas attack on Israeli civilians on October 7th, Republicans have been quick to seize on the unrest to deflect from Trump’s criminality and troubling history of antisemitic rhetoric. They have painted the demonstrations as evidence of rampant antisemitism on the left that the Biden administration is failing to confront.

Leading this charge are House Republicans, who swiftly introduced legislation to grant the federal government broad authority to crack down on campus protests deemed antisemitic or even critical of Israel itself. Tom Emmer (R-MN), the Republican whip, has accused “pro-terrorist antisemites” of taking over universities. This Republican gambit is a transparent attempt to recast the GOP as the party stamping out the ancient evil of hatred against Jewish people in America.

In reality, it is the Republican Party that has become a haven for the kind of white nationalist politics that directly endangers Jewish Americans and mainstream society itself. While posturing as allies, Republicans are wielding overblown fears about campus protests as a smokescreen to obscure their leader’s long record of cozying up to outright antisemites and neo-Nazis. Recently, Trump downplayed the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville as “a little peanut” compared to the supposed “tremendous hate” of campus critics of Israel, which have included prominent Jewish professors critical of Israel.

A Biden campaign spokesperson, James Singer, drew a stark contrast between the two candidates on the issue of antisemitism. In a statement, Singer attacked Trump, saying “Trump has praised neo-Nazis, dined with neo-Nazis, echoed the rhetoric of neo-Nazis, and reportedly praised the accomplishments of Adolf Hitler.” By contrast, Singer stated that Biden firmly “stands against antisemitism.”

Troubling History of Antisemitism

Trump’s record is one of repeatedly promoting insidious anti-Jewish tropes and conspiracies that have persisted for centuries. As a candidate in 2015, he played into classic stereotypes about Jews and money, telling a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering of donors “I’m a negotiator like you folks” and asking “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”

During that same campaign, Trump’s social media operation promoted shockingly antisemitic imagery, tweeting a picture of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David alongside this message: “Most corrupt candidate ever!” Posting such vile propaganda should have been disqualifying, but Trump casually dismissed it as innocuous office software shapes.

Trump antisemite twitter

The offensive image first surfaced on 8chan, an internet message board that serves as a digital haven for the racist alt-right movement filled with neo-Nazis, antisemites, and white supremacists, according to a report from Mic. The news outlet revealed that the image depicting Jewish stereotypes appeared on the message board as early as June 22nd, over a week before Trump’s campaign tweeted it out.

As president, Trump continued to indulge in offensive behavior and rhetoric. He has called Jews who vote for Democrats “disloyal” to Israel, invoking the insidious “dual loyalty” trope accusing Jewish citizens of being more devoted to their religion than their country. 

Attacks on George Soros

Trump has spent years demonizing billionaire donor George Soros with false conspiracy theories started by Neo-Nazis, railing against the “globalist” and the purported malign influence of his money. As the New York Times pointed out, Trump and his Republican allies have channeled “the trope that Jews secretly control the world’s financial and political systems — an idea espoused in ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ a fraudulent document used by Stalin and the Nazis as a rationale for targeting Jews.”

The New York Times recently conducted a comprehensive review of campaign emails, press releases, tweets, and congressional newsletters from Trump and other Republicans spanning the past decade. They found that in just the past year alone, Trump’s campaign bombarded supporters with at least 790 emails peddling conspiracy theories about Soros and “globalists.”

GOP antisemitic
Source: New York Times

Congressional Republicans have proven equally eager to mainstream such bigoted dog whistles. While instances were relatively rare in 2013 (only 6), by 2023 the Times identified over 300 separate communications from 79 GOP lawmakers deploying the coded language of “Soros” and “globalists” in troubling antisemitic contexts.

While Republicans dismissively claim such rhetoric about Soros and “globalists” contains no antisemitic intent, the white nationalist and neo-Nazi fringes immediately understand the dog whistle. 

In July 2023, the Trump campaign sent an email to supporters, which included an image that evoked the antisemitic tropes of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda. The image depicted billionaire George Soros, who is Jewish, as a menacing puppet master, manipulating President Biden like a marionette on strings. The imagery is disturbingly similar to the vile Nazi-era cartoons that depicted Jews as hook-nosed figures maliciously pulling the strings of world leaders and events.

Trump campaign email antisemitic imagry
A 1940s antisemitic Hungarian cartoon and a 2023 Trump campaign email both depict Jewish figures as sinister puppetmasters controlling world leaders (Image credits: Orszagos Szechenyi Konyvtar, Budapest; Donald J. Trump campaign email)

Trump Welcomed Holocaust Denier Nick Fuentes

Perhaps most disgustingly, Trump even had dinner last year with Nick Fuentes, a prominent white nationalist leader, avowed Holocaust denier, and proponent of neo-Nazi race ideology who has directly advocated for a new genocide of Jewish people. Though Trump claimed ignorance of Fuentes’ views, his refusal to disavow and condemn such poisonous company speaks volumes.

Nick Fuentes has rapidly risen to prominence in recent years among the far-right fringes, forging disturbing connections with sitting Republican lawmakers like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA.) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). Fuentes has achieved this notoriety largely through his leadership role in the America First Political Action Conference, an annual white supremacist rally.

The willingness of Greene, Gosar and Trump to associate themselves with such a vile figure should sound alarms about the normalization of anti-Jewish hatred and neo-Nazism within the GOP’s ranks.

Trump’s affinity for such loathsome company is part of a broader pattern. He called in to an event at the ReAwaken America tour led by his former adviser Michael Flynn, a Christian nationalist roadshow featuring speakers promoting vile antisemitic “Jewish mafia” conspiracy theories. 

Great Replacement Theory

When it comes to mainstreaming conspiracy theories about Jewish people being outsiders undermining a pure society from within, Trump shows no contrition. Over the past year, he has echoed the Great Replacement Theory that immigrants are being deliberately imported to “replace” the white racial majority in America by a Jewish-led cabal of world elites. On the campaign trail, Trump has bluntly declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” and warned that “they poison mental institutions and prisons all over the world.”

Despite his history of espousing antisemitic rhetoric and embracing antisemites, he has the audacity to denounce Biden for purportedly allowing “pro-Hamas, pro-genocide mobs” of student protesters, with his campaign misleadingly editing footage to accuse Biden of endorsing campus antisemitism.  

The Republican eagerness to decry pro-Palestinian protests as justification for heavy-handed government crackdowns reveals the tactics at play here. This is a cynical attempt to distract from long-simmering and open antisemitism in the GOP’s own ranks. It aims to exploit understandable fears about resurgent hatred to deflect from the party’s menacing ties to white nationalism.

No amount of revisionism can erase the fact that the Republican Party under Trump’s leadership has become a vehicle for normalizing anti-Jewish hatred and violence. Around 70% of American Jews consistently support Democrats for a reason—the Republican agenda of white nationalism and racist conspiracy theories poses a direct threat to their security and democratic rights.