How to Get Away With anti-Semitism: A 'Pro-Israel' Free Pass for Ann Coulter

If you're hardline enough, pro-Netanyahu enough, anti-Muslim enough, pro-Trump enough, and therefore 'pro-Israel' enough, can you also reap the spotlight with a gut-punch of anti-Semitism now and then?

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Ann Coulter
Ann CoulterCredit: AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

For decades, rightist defenders of Israel have written off criticism of hardline Israeli policies by branding the critics as anti-Semites. 

This has even been true - perhaps especially so - if those voicing opposition to settlement expansion, deprivation of Palestinian rights, and other policies, were themselves Jewish. 

It's all the more noteworthy, then, that when conservative, proudly pro-Israel commentator Ann Coulter makes a statement about Jews that the Anti-Defamation League condemns as "ugly, spiteful and anti-Semitic," we now have prominent figures on the American Jewish right rallying to her defense. 

So, if you're hardline enough, pro-Netanyahu enough, anti-immigration enough, anti-Muslim enough, and therefore "pro-Israel" enough, does that now buy you a free pass to give rein to a gut-punch of unapologetic anti-Semitism now and then? 

And, of course, reap the spotlight in the process.

At issue is perhaps the most incendiary remark of the recent Republican debate. The statement came from none of the many presidential candidates, not even shockmeister front-runner Donald Trump.

The honor fell to conservative commentator Ann Coulter, irked at the frequency and fervor of the candidates' expressions of support for Israel and Netanyahu.

Coulter,  in the most memorable of a flurry of acid observations
to her more than half a million twitter followers, touched off a firestorm when she wrote: "How many f---ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”

In an unusually blunt condemnation, ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt declared that Coulter's tweets were "hyperbolic and hateful," providing "fodder to those who buy into the anti-Semitic notions that Jews 'control' the U.S. government, wield disproportionate power in politics, and are more loyal to Israel than to their own country."

But conservative commentator Dennis Prager, in a widely syndicated JTA opinion piece titled, "Ann Coulter is not an anti-Semite," argued that the discussion needed to go beyond simple condemnation, and that her pro-Israel bona fides trumped the possibility of anti-Semitism on her part.

Prager conceded that this was not the first time that Coulter had been accused of anti-Semitism.  In 2007, Coulter told CNBC interviewer Donny Deutsch that her view of heaven was that everyone there was Christian. Asked if "We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then?" She told Deutsch, who is Jewish, "Yeah." Coulter went on to say that she didn't want Jews to be wiped out, only "We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say."

In Prager's view, "Against this is a lifetime of defending Jews and Israel. Every mention of Jews or Israel I’ve read in any of her books is a spirited defense of Jews and Israel, or an attack on those who attack Jews and Israel. I should add, for what it’s worth, she has been to my home twice for Shabbat dinner."

Another vote for Coulter as a non-anti-Semite comes from conservative veteran newspaper editor Seth Lipsky. Writing in Haaretz, Lipsky quotes press accounts showing that that Coulter's candidate, Donald Trump, has "the strongest Jewish ties of all GOP candidates," is a vocal supporter of Israel, an enthusiastic backer of Netanyahu, and, for good measure, has two Jewish grandchildren.

"So," Lipsky asks, "if Ann Coulter were seriously (instead of satirically) anti-Semitic, what in the world would she be doing getting behind the Trump campaign?"

To their credit, others on the American Jewish right have been unflinching and vociferous in condemnation of Coulter's remark, none more so than Morton A. Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America.

“Last night, Ann Coulter made appalling, anti-Jewish remarks which evoked the classic, anti-Semitic trope about Jewish manipulation of America for the purposes of supporting Israel at America’s expense," Klein said after the debate.

“Ann Coulter was gratuitously offensive and anti-Jewish in her remarks on twitter yesterday. If such was not her intention, there is a simple remedy: she should immediately retract and make a heartfelt apology for her words.

“Failing this, Fox News and other media outlets should no longer have her as a guest.”

Coulter, a frequent analyst on Fox News Channel but not a paid employee of the network, has repeatedly refused requests and appeals to apologize for her remark. Soon after the debate ended, she appeared on Fox to discuss Trump and his rivals.  Anchor Megyn Kelly introduced the discussion by quoting Coulter's tweet, and asking her "Do you want to take that back?" Coulter's answer was a firm no.

There's something in the air these days. In Donald Trump's America, as in Benjamin Netanyahu's Israel, there's something in the air that's pervasive and acrid, something that refuses to go away. It smells a lot like bigotry. 

And, from the looks of things, for the Ann Coulters and the Donald Trumps of this world -  and for the Benjamin Netanyahus - bigotry can be made to pay off handsomely, whether the reward happens to come in the form of publicity, or polls, or power.

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