Prominent anti-Semites are applauding President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to condemn a rising level of anti-Semitism in the United States, including bomb threats to at least 11 more Jewish community centers on Monday, bringing the total to 69 incidents targeting 54 JCCs in 27 states since January.
According to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, all of the threats turned out to be hoaxes, but the FBI said it is investigating the incidents along with Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” said JCCA’s David Posner in a statement.
During two high-profile press conferences last week, Trump was asked directly about the rise in anti-Semitism, including the bomb threats to Jewish centers, and in each instance he deflected and instead attacked the reporters asking the questions. On the first occasion on Wednesday, Trump responded by bragging about the number of Electoral College votes he received then pointed out that his son-in-law Jared Kushner is Jewish, as is his daughter Ivanka who converted to marry Kushner.
On Thursday he was asked by another reporter, Jake Turx, an Orthodox Jew from a Brooklyn-based Jewish weekly newspaper, about the “uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.”
Trump interrupted Turx, saying it was “not a fair question” and told him to “sit down.” He proceeded: “So here’s the story, folks. Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism the least racist person.”
As Turx attempted to clarify that he was not suggesting the president himself was anti-Semitic, Trump again cut him off, saying, “Quiet, quiet, quiet.”
“It was a very disheartening moment for us, to watch him being berated,” Turx’s editor, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, told The New York Times, which characterized the exchange as “a tongue-lashing from the president.”
The response to Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the issue was swift from both Jewish groups and anti-Semites.
“On two separate occasions over the past two days, President Trump has refused to say what he is going to do about rising anti-Semitism or to even condemn it,” said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt last week. “It is mind-boggling why President Trump prefers to shout down a reporter or brush this off as a political distraction. This is not a partisan issue. It’s a potentially lethal problem and it’s growing.”
The American Jewish Committee in a statement also addressed Trump’s behavior and misplaced outrage.
“Respectfully, Mr. President, please use your bully pulpit not to bully reporters asking questions potentially affecting millions of fellow Americans, but rather to help solve a problem that, for many, is real and menacing,” said AJC CEO David Harris.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, several high-profile anti-Semites praised Trump’s attitude toward the issue of anti-Semitism and those questioning him about it.
Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, said Thursday’s press conference “was one of the greatest things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. From start to finish, it was simply beautiful. He blasted the media, the Jews, Mexicans, Obama all of his/our enemies.”
One of Anglin’s writers, Eric Striker, applauded the president in an article titled, “Trump Dismisses ‘Anti-Semitism’ Wolf-Crier, Identifies Fake Hate Crimes as Fake,” and proceeded to denigrate Turx and Jews in general:
“I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a Striker prediction,” he wrote. “This lice infested ghetto Jew will be getting hardcore press coverage and made into a folk hero for a month straight or more. But on the bright side, Jews will gasp when they realize that A) nobody is listening to their fake news or celebrities anymore, and B) everyone is pretty damn sick of Jews.”
Striker added that crimes against Jews are “fake” and “they should shut up and be grateful that anti-Semitism isn’t what it should be.”
“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate with a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made and a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists.”
Former KKK leader David Duke also praised Trump for a “great” press conference, saying, among other things, “As we all know, the United States media is an enemy of the great majority of the American people. It is totally part of the Jewish deep state.”
“What a president says and doesn’t say is significant. So when President Trump was asked once on Wednesday and twice on Thursday to address an upsurge in anti-Semitism in America, his reaction was notable,” wrote ADL’s Greenblatt in a Washington Post op-ed last week. “Trump could have said he condemns anti-Semitism and takes incidents, such as the dozens of threats made to Jewish Community Centers, seriously. But instead, he lashed out against those asking the question. It was startling and, unfortunately, it was only the latest episode in a troubling pattern.”
Greenblatt cited the White House’s omission of reference to the killing of six million Jewish people in its Holocaust Remembrance Day statement last month as another example of this administration’s seeming appeasement of anti-Semitism. “The very reason that the day was created by the United Nations more than a decade ago. Unlike statements put out by previous Republican and Democratic administrations, the language evoked long-standing efforts by white supremacists and anti-Semitic regimes to trivialize Jewish suffering and downplay the Nazi extermination of the Jewish people.”
Meanwhile, the White House also has not mentioned last week’s arrest of a South Carolina man who admitted to the FBI that he was plotting to attack a synagogue to emulate his hero Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. And in Missouri, over the weekend, more than 100 headstones were found desecrated at a historic Jewish cemetery, according to local news reports.