Israel supporters defend Trump’s vicious anti-Semitism

Man stands next to a seated man

President Donald Trump pats Las Vegas Sands Corporation chief executive and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson on the arm before speaking at the Israeli-American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Florida, 7 December.

Patrick Semansky AP Photo

On Saturday, President Donald Trump spewed out an anti-Semitic diatribe at the Florida conference of the Israeli-American Council, a major lobby group.

“A lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well,” Trump told the largely Jewish audience.

“You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all, but you have to vote for me. You have no choice.”

According to the president, Jews would vote to re-elect him just to protect their wealth. He also suggested that some Jews are not sufficiently loyal to Israel.

“We have to get them to love Israel more because you have people that are Jewish people, that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough,” Trump said.

J Street denounced the president’s speech.

The liberal Israel lobby group stated that the president “is incapable of addressing Jewish audiences without dipping into the deep well of anti-Semitic tropes that shape his worldview.”

Democratic Majority for Israel, a lobby group founded to attack supporters of Palestinian rights within the Democratic Party, called the president’s trafficking in anti-Semitic stereotypes “disgusting.”

But what is remarkable is how mainstream pro-Israel Jewish communal groups tip-toed around the president’s words.

Their criticism fell far short of clear condemnation, and the reason is clear: They are prepared to tolerate an anti-Semite and white supremacist in the White House as long as he supports Israel.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, prefaced his gentle admonishment of Trump with praise for the president’s attack on BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights:

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time [the president] has politicized anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt asserted, before mildly chastising Trump for comments that “fall short of the mark and actually could empower those who traffic in bigotry.”

The American Jewish Committee, another major Israel lobby group, was just as mild, also prefacing its reaction with praise for the president’s anti-Palestinian policies.

“Much as we appreciate your unwavering support for Israel, surely there must be a better way to appeal to American Jewish voters, as you just did in Florida, than by money references that feed age-old and ugly stereotypes,” the American Jewish Committee said.

Defending Trump’s anti-Semitism

Some prominent supporters of Israel actually defended the president’s anti-Semitism.

Anti-Palestinian campaigner Rabbi Shmuley Boteach called a headline focusing on Trump’s anti-Jewish remarks “highly misleading” and praised him for “one of the most pro-Israel speeches ever delivered by an American president.”

Caroline Glick, a long-time anti-Palestinian propagandist and Jerusalem Post contributor, praised the president for a “wonderful speech” and dismissed the reports of anti-Semitism as “fake news.”

Indeed, Trump used the speech to tout his administration’s serial cave-ins to the lobby.

They include moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s annexation of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights and declaring that Israel isn’t violating international law by building settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

It’s no wonder then that Matt Brooks, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told those accusing Trump of deploying anti-Semitic stereotypes to “get over yourselves.”

Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America – who typically finds anti-Semitism around every corner – had nothing at all to say.

That’s hardly surprising since the ZOA has previously hosted at its own gala white supremacist Steve Bannon and Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka.

This has become a disturbing pattern.

In the wake of the deadly synagogue shooting by a white supremacist in Poway, California, in April, Israel lobbyists including the ZOA also shielded the far right from criticism.

Instead, they tried to deflect blame towards supporters of Palestinian human rights, who had absolutely no connection to that attack or the one by a Nazi at the Pittsburgh Jewish center that killed 11 people in October last year.

Israeli-American Council

On Saturday, Trump was hosted by the Israeli-American Council, which is chaired by convicted tax cheat Adam Milstein, a major funder of anti-Palestinian causes.

Another key supporter of the group is casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the anti-Palestinian funder who has donated tens of millions of dollars to Trump and Republican Party campaigns.

Milstein had nothing but praise for Trump despite the president’s anti-Jewish invective.

Milstein thanked Trump for being “such a strong supporter of the Jewish People and Israel.”

“The president’s coming executive orders against anti-Semitism to be announced soon are going to be a game changer and in contrast to Congress’ failures,” Milstein said.

Milstein appears to be trailing measures by Trump that are likely to target the Palestine solidarity movement and BDS under the false pretense of combating anti-Jewish bigotry.

After all, if Milstein cared about anti-Semitism he’d start by denouncing the president.

But Milstein only cares about promoting Israel, even if that comes at the price of endangering Jews by tolerating Trump’s anti-Semitism, or stoking bigotry against others.

Though he has denied it, Milstein was reported to be the founder and key funder of Canary Mission, a website that attempts to intimidate student activists into silence by smearing them as supporters of terrorism if they take part in campaigns for Palestinian human rights.

There is no doubt that Milstein funds a slew of anti-Palestinian groups, including the Israel on Campus Coalition.

The Israel on Campus Coalition was revealed by Al Jazeera’s leaked undercover documentary to be surveilling Americans in secret coordination with the Israeli government.

In contrast to his appreciation for Trump’s anti-Semitic speech, Milstein took a leading role in inciting false accusations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobic smears against congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib earlier this year solely because of their defense of Palestinian rights.

Toxic lies

While real anti-Semitism is downplayed or ignored when it comes from supporters of Israel, false allegations of anti-Jewish bigotry are now the weapon of choice against any politician who dares cross Israel and its lobby.

No one has been a greater target of such false and manufactured smears in recent years than Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

With the UK’s 12 December general election just days away, the smears are reaching unprecedented levels of dishonesty and audacity.

If these toxic lies have their intended effect of ensuring Corbyn is not elected, the next target of such smears will certainly be Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont senator is Jewish and insists he is “pro-Israel.”

But his pledge to reduce military aid to Israel makes him enough of a threat that even he will be smeared as a Jew hater by those who give Trump’s very real anti-Semitism a pass.

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It used to be that American anti-Semites questioned Jews' loyalty to the United States. These days, that little matter doesn't even enter the picture. The issue for anti-Semites now is whether Jews are loyal to Israel. If they are, they're acceptable. If not, they'll be denounced as- you guessed it- anti-Semites.

And then there are the friendly Christian Zionists like Mike(s) Pence and Pompeo who openly announce they long for the complete elimination of Jews, an event otherwise known as The Rapture. As the saying goes, you couldn't make it up. Only they did.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.