Pinning an ‘Antisemite’ Label on President Trump
In a Friday The Intercept editorial, Mehdi Hasan wrote that President Donald Trump “and his acolytes” have been “banging their anti-Semitic drum in plain sight” since United States House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s September 24 announcement of an impeachment inquiry in regard to Trump. But, Hasan then offers no substantial evidence to back this bold claim.
The first pittance Hasan presents as supposed backing for his claim is a September 28 Twitter post from Trump. In the tweet, Trump complains about the treatment of Trump by “Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC Plus 3.” The people referenced are all House members: Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (“AOC”) and three other freshman House members who are seen by Trump and many other people as forming a group with Ocasio-Cortez based on common interests — Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).
Hasan notes that Schiff and Nadler are Jewish. Hasan also mentions that Ocasio-Cortez is a “woman of color.” Plus, observes Hasan, Trump only chose to mention these House members from among the more than 200 House members who “have signed onto an impeachment inquiry.”
From this information, Hasan presents the following rhetorical question as if he has proven something: “How is such rhetoric not racist?”
How, indeed? A negative comment does not become a racist comment just because the individuals about which the comment is made are of particular races, ethnicities, or religions.
Of course, Trump has a long and well-known record of harshly criticizing people of various races, ethnicities, and religions. The fact that his presidential primary and general election opponents were not mostly Jewish people or “women of color” did not prevent Trump from leveling at many of them verbal and written attacks similar in strength to the attack found in the tweet Hasan references.
Further, there is good reason, other than racism, that Trump would single out the House members he did for criticism. Nadler and Schiff, as Hasan notes in his editorial, are chairmen, respectively, of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees. In those roles the two men have been devoting much time and effort to developing and promoting the case for Congress removing Trump from the presidency. While “AOC Plus 3” lack committee chairmanships, they have been very harsh in their criticism of the president. Trump’s inclusion of these four additional Congress members in the tweet also makes sense as part of his ongoing trading of barbs with them.
So, in answer to Hasan’s question, there is plenty of reason not to interpret Trump’s tweet as racist or antisemitic.
Next up, Hasan makes this claim:
On October 2, Trump escalated his brazenly anti-Semitic attack on Schiff. ‘We don’t call him “Shifty Schiff” for nothing,’ the president told reporters in the Oval Office. ‘He’s a shifty, dishonest guy.’
Hold on. Why is this a “brazenly anti-Semitic attack”? It just sounds like Trump being Trump. He frequently attacks people verbally and in writing, often doing so by calling them names. Wikipedia even provides a long list of nicknames, many of them negative, that Trump has used for people. Among the listed nicknames are multiple negative nicknames for people including Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer (most of whom are not Jewish), along with Schiff.
But, insists Hasan: “The stereotype of Jews as ‘shifty,’ the suggestion that they are sneaky and manipulative, has a long and ignominious history.” Whatever. There is a long history of people calling non-Jewish people shifty too.
An obvious reason Trump would choose to use the insulting nickname “Shifty Schiff” is because the nickname is made up of two words that share a first syllable. That helps make the nickname catchy. Indeed, looking at the Wikipedia list, you can see Trump has applied similar types of nicknames playing on the sound of people’s names before — “Lamb the Sham” for House Member Conor Lamb (D-PA) and “Wacky Jacky” for Senate Member Jacky Rosen (D-NV), for example.
That’s it for Hasan’s argument that Trump is saying antisemitic things since Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry regarding Trump. Talk about underwhelming.
Just as underwhelming is how Hasan then proceeds to argue in support of his assertion that Trump’s “acolytes” are doing the same thing. To support the claim, Hasan points to two October 2 Twitter posts from Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr.
Before dealing with those tweets it should be noted that it is absurd to have trump’s son stand in for all Trump’s “acolytes.” Even if Donald Trump, Jr. wrote something antisemitic that does not mean that all supporters of President Trump, or even a substantial portion of them, agree with it.
Hasan points to Donald Trump, Jr. saying in two October 2 tweets that Schiff is a “radical liberal” who “has been hand picked and supported by George Soros” and is “a George Soros *puppet.*” Hasan apparently has a problem with these tweets because Soros is Jewish. Hasan writes:
Radical liberal. Handpicked by George Soros. A Soros puppet.
Don Jr.’s tweets provoked a rare response from Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who referred to his invocation of Soros, a left-leaning Jewish billionaire, as an ‘anti-Semitic trope’ and a ‘dangerous’ insinuation.
Alleging politicians are taking actions and making public stands because of pressure from wealthy individuals, or from businesses or interest groups, is common practice in American political debate. Soros comes up in some of those allegations, but so also do many other individuals, groups, and organizations — Charles Koch, the military-industrial complex, and the National Rifle Association, for example — that are not generally seen as connected to Jewish ethnicity or religion.
The truth is that Soros directs much effort to influence political action in America and across the world. Saying that people should refrain from noting and criticizing such effort because Soros is Jewish is saying that some major players in political influence should have a free pass from recognition and criticism. That is not a call for suppressing antisemitism. Rather, that is a call for suppressing debate.
After presenting his milk-toast evidence, Hasan asks the following question:
So why isn’t there more outrage over Trump’s blatant and dangerous anti-Semitism, in the specific context of this impeachment inquiry?
All that “blatant and dangerous anti-Semitism” is in Hasan’s head, not in reality. Hopefully Hasan, and other people offering the spurious arguments in Hasan’s editorial, will find little success in their effort to recruit people to believe their fantasy assertions of Trump’s expressions of antisemitism.