Just the lat­est big US bigot

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Jonathan Freed­land

Toff with the shrug­ging dec­la­ra­tion that “That’s Trump,” break­ing ev­ery rule in the political book and get­ting away with it. But there’s more to it than that — and at least two rea­sons for tak­ing it se­ri­ously. First, it’s easy to as­sume that a US politi­cian at­tack­ing Jews rep­re­sents a wild de­par­ture from the Amer­i­can norm. In the Jewish imag­i­na­tion, the US has all but ac­quired the sta­tus of an al­ter­na­tive Zion. It is the Gold­ene Me­d­ina, the place that em­braced Jews when the rest of the world was spurn­ing them. To­day, as the Euro­pean air seems to chill for Jews, Amer­ica looks like a peren­ni­ally safe har­bour. But that re­quires a very selec­tive view of Amer­ica’s past. Con­sider two of Trump’s fore­bears as larger-thanlife US fig­ures se­ri­ously talked of as con­tenders for the White House. Ahead of the 1924 elec­tion, the pres­i­den­tial buzz hov­ered around au­to­mo­bile ty­coon Henry Ford. Cen­tral to his political iden­tity was the se­ries of ar­ti­cles that ran in the news­pa­per he owned, the Dear­born In­de­pen­dent, and later col­lected in four vol­umes: The In­ter­na­tional Jew. Week af­ter week, Ford would ex­pose what he called the “Jewish men­ace”: “Jewish degra­da­tion of Amer­i­can Base­ball” was a typ­i­cal head­line. None of that stopped him be­com­ing na­tion­ally ad­mired. Six­teen years later, it was avi­a­tion hero Charles Lind­bergh who was tipped for the Oval Of­fice. His plat­form was op­po­si­tion to US in­volve­ment in the war against Hitler. Three groups, he warned, were try­ing to drag Amer­ica into a se­cond world war just as they’d pulled Amer­ica into the first: the Roo­sevelt ad­min­is­tra­tion, the Bri­tish and “the Jewish.”

Nor is this just in the pre-war past. Among Richard Nixon’s many flaws was a ten­dency to, of­ten foul-mouthed, an­tisemitism. The no­to­ri­ous Nixon tapes re­veal him say­ing, “The Jews are just a very ag­gres­sive and abra­sive and ob­nox­ious per­son­al­ity.” When dis­cussing ap­point­ments, he told an aide: “No Jews.”

So, in his readi­ness to in­sult a Jewish au­di­ence, Trump is hardly a nov­elty even if he seems like one. But Jews are not the main religious mi­nor­ity on his mind. That place be­longs to Mus­lims, whom Trump wishes to ban from en­ter­ing the coun­try. Which brings us to the se­cond rea­son why it’s worth pay­ing at­ten­tion. Imag­ine a US pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, ahead in the polls for his party’s nom­i­na­tion, seek­ing to ex­clude all Jews. We would be quak­ing with anx­i­ety. When we con­tem­plate Trump’s on­go­ing cam­paign against Mus­lims, we should re­mem­ber the his­tory, re­mem­ber our place in it — and feel not only em­pa­thy, but out­rage.

With Trump, we should feel not just em­pa­thy but out­rage

Jonathan Freed­land is a colum­nist for the Guardian

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