Trump’s fake-hate claim sparks alarm

● Pres­i­dent sug­gests an­ti­semitism wave staged to dam­age him ● Fear spreads to UK as Jewish Mu­seum in Lon­don evac­u­ated

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY IS­ABEL DE BERTODANO

PRES­I­DENT DON­ALD Trump’s sug­ges­tion that the an­ti­semitic threats and van­dal­ism sweep­ing Amer­ica have been staged to dam­age his rep­u­ta­tion has sparked alarm and out­rage within the coun­try’s Jewish com­mu­ni­ties.

Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro re­ported that Mr Trump, speaking about the wave of Jew-hate at a meet­ing of state at­tor­neys gen­eral on Tues­day, had said: “Some­times it’s the re­verse, to make peo­ple — or to make oth­ers — look bad.”

This state­ment was widely in­ter­preted as im­ply­ing that Jews them­selves could have been re­spon­si­ble

for the bomb threats and ceme­tery des­e­cra­tions that have been caus­ing fear and dis­rup­tion since the new year. The com­ment closely mir­rored a re­mark by for­mer Ku Klux Klan leader and Holo­caust de­nier David Duke, who wrote on Twit­ter last month: “Pres­i­dent Trump, do you think it might be the Jews them­selves mak­ing these calls to get sym­pa­thy to push their eth­nic agenda?”

At least 100 bomb threats have now been made by phone on five dif­fer­ent days over two months, lead­ing to evac­u­a­tions at com­mu­nity cen­tres and schools across the US, while hun­dreds of grave­stones have been des­e­crated in ceme­ter­ies in St Louis and Philadel­phia over the past two weeks. And a bul­let hole was dis­cov­ered in the win­dow

of an In­di­ana syn­a­gogue this week.

Rabbi Yosef Gold­man at the Tem­ple Beth Zion syn­a­gogue in Philadel­phia said he un­der­stood Mr Trump’s words as sug­gest­ing Jews or­ches­trated the threats.

“I think what he said sounded very sim­i­lar to what peo­ple in Ger­many in the 1930s were hear­ing,” he said. “The trou­ble is there are many peo­ple who will be­lieve it, de­spite proof [to the con­trary].”

“An­ti­semitic groups in this coun­try have heard sup­port in [Trump’s] words and have felt em­bold­ened, as if he is one of their own,” Rabbi Gold­man added.

Rabbi Gold­man vis­ited the Mount Carmel Ceme­tery in Wissi­nom­ing, Philadel­phia soon af­ter it had been van­dalised. “It was dev­as­tat­ing,” he said. Over 500 head­stones had been toppled and bro­ken, and the at­tack­ers

had left rub­bish and ex­cre­ment. “It felt like walk­ing on a bat­tle­field af­ter a hard fought bat­tle.”

Jonathan Green­blatt, CEO of the Anti-Defama­tion League, a hate watch­dog, said Mr Trump ur­gently needed to lay out plans to ad­dress the in­ci­dents. “We are as­ton­ished by what the pres­i­dent re­port­edly said. It is in­cum­bent on the White House to im­me­di­ately clar­ify these re­marks,” he said.

One of Mr Trump’s ad­vis­ers, An­thony Scara­mucci, in­flamed the de­bate by writ­ing on Twit­ter: “It’s not yet clear who the JCC of­fend­ers are. Don’t for­get the Democrats’ ef­forts to in­cite vi­o­lence at Trump ral­lies.”

The In­ter­faith Al­liance, which de­fends re­li­gious free­dom, de­nounced Mr Trump’s re­mark as “out­ra­geous and ir­re­spon­si­ble”. The pres­i­dent of the al­liance, Rabbi Jack Mo­line, said: “The re­marks by Trump and Scara­mucci rep­re­sent an ut­ter fail­ure to com­pre­hend the re­cent surge in vi­o­lent rhetoric and at­tacks di­rected at Jews, Mus­lims and other re­li­gious mi­nori­ties.”

In an at­tempt to ad­dress the storm of crit­i­cism, on Tues­day Mr Trump be­gan his first ad­dress to a joint ses­sion of Congress by con­demn­ing Jew-hate. “Re­cent threats tar­get­ing Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tres and van­dal­ism of Jewish ceme­ter­ies… re­mind us that while we may be a na­tion di­vided on poli­cies we are a coun­try that stands united in con­demn­ing hate and evil in all its forms,” he said.

How­ever, Rabbi Gold­man said the com­ments were in­suf­fi­cient. “We are feel­ing more than we ever have in my life­time the re­al­ity of the Jewish com­mu­nity be­ing a re­li­gious mi­nor­ity, of our oth­er­ness,” he said.

US At­tor­ney An­drew Luger, a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor in Min­nesota, who is also Jewish, de­scribed a “dif­fer­ent and height­ened” cli­mate of con­cern.

PHOTO: AP

Pro­vok­ing alarm: Trump

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