Let’s see if we can figure out whether Ann Coulter is an anti-Semite. The Internet is abuzz with this question because the satirical conservative columnist was struck by all the statements of solidarity with Israel during Wednesday’s Republican debate. So she sent out a Tweet saying “How many f---ing Jews do these people think there are in the United States?”
A dispatch in the Daily Beast calls this “dog-whistling anti-Semites.” It reports that Coulter’s tweet generated “a wave of support from anti-Semites craving a pundit to give a sense of legitimacy to their prejudiced views.” It adds that the #IStandWithAnn hashtag has generated 2,000 favorites, including one that said: “#IStandWithAnn because six Jewish companies control 97% of the global media.”
Poor fellow. I once joked that it’s one thing for Jews to permit Christians to control the banks, the government, the courts, the military, and the churches, but it would be going too far to let them also run the newspapers. More seriously, Coulter’s comment stirred up plenty of reaction as hostile to Jews as, say, the comments Haaretz attaches to the bottom of my columns defending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yet Ann Coulter, who has not only a provocative personality but a nose for a story, was marking a newsworthy nuance. The Republican candidates at the debate Wednesday certainly did make a point of voicing their support for the Jewish state. No wonder. The 2016 election is emerging as a test of whether the GOP can make inroads into the traditional Jewish support of the Democrats.
It would be foolish to predict that the GOP will succeed. The landscape, I’ve remarked in this space before, is littered with columnists who erroneously predicted Jews would shift to the GOP. But it would also be foolish to write off the GOP’s effort entirely. Never has an American administration so pointedly brushed aside Israel’s strategic concerns as the Obama administration has done over Iran.
Ann Coulter’s candidate for president — Donald Trump — is right in the middle of this. He has what the headline writer in the Jewish Daily Forward calls “the strongest Jewish ties of all GOP candidates.” The headline is over a dispatch of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reporting that the billionaire real-estate mogul has long been a "vocal supporter of Israel.”
“You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu,” the JTA quotes Coulter’s chosen candidate as saying. “He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all.” Coulter’s candidate even recorded an election spot saying “Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.”
Trump’s daughter, moreover, has converted to Judaism. She has given The Donald two Jewish grandchildren. So if Ann Coulter were seriously (instead of satirically) anti-Semitic, what in the world would she be doing getting behind the Trump campaign? If she wanted a candidate who was crosswise with the prime minister of Israel, why, she’d have endorsed U.S. President Barack Obama.
It’s not my purpose here to endorse Trump. I want no part of the way he has conducted his campaign against illegal immigration; it’s a deal-breaker for me. I’m in the free market camp that, while it favors enforcing the immigration laws, isn’t worried about the vast influx of strivers seeking to make a better life here in America. I’m for economic growth, which requires population growth.
The point that needs to be made about all the support for Israel aired at the Republican debate is that it is animated by America’s own interests. This is no doubt why the percentage opposing the Iran deal is bigger among all voters than among Jewish voters. So by attributing to the Republican debaters the motive of Jewish voters, Ann Coulter is, in fact, making an error.
She’s giving in to the very identity politics she’s tweeting against. This is the idea that our electoral contests are about appealing to interest groups, factions, and racial and religious camps rather than to principles. If that’s what she’s doing, the shocking truth would be that Ann Coulter is not behaving like an anti-Semite so much as like a Democrat.
Seth Lipsky, the founding editor of The Forward and a former foreign editor of The Wall Street Journal, is editor of The New York Sun.