Analysis

Trump’s 'Go Home' Invective Echoes Nazi Incitement Against Jews

The U.S. president may be Earl of Israel who deserves his own Bible book - but he is also a Prince of Prejudice, Marquis of Malice and Viscount of Venom

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 16, 2019.
\ Leah Millis/ REUTERS

In 1938, the German company Gunther and Co. came out with its brand new board game, “Juden Raus.” Participants in the game, which became immensely popular, had to extract Jewish citizens from their German cities to “concentration points,” over which hung a banner reading “Auf nach Palästina!” - Off to Palestine. The first player to successfully relocate six Jews from Germany to Palestine was the winner.

The creation of the game had nothing to do with the Nazi Party or its officials, who actually protested that it did not sufficiently highlight their own stupendous achievements. For Gunther and Co., which is still in operation, the new game was a strictly commercial venture. In its promotion, the company boasted that Juden Raus was an “up-to-date and outstandingly jolly party game for grown-ups and children.” After five years of Nazi rule, expelling Jews to “where they came from” was as natural and desirable as buying Boardwalk and Park Place.

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Donald Trump, of course, is no Nazi, but he often seems to be drawing from the same playbook. Perhaps his inspiration comes from Adolf Hitler’s collection of speeches in his book “New Order,” which Trump kept next to his bed, according to his former wife Ivana. In principle, and notwithstanding the conventional taboo on “comparing,” It’s hard to tell the difference between the large signs hung outside German cities declaring “Jews, immigrate to your land, in our land we already know who you are” and Trump’s suggestion to four non-white Democratic Congresswomen to “go back” to what he previously described as their “shithole” countries. Both imbibe from the same toxic cesspool of spreading division and hate, while defining the different as an alien and dangerous “other” in order to advance political and ideological aims.

Except for Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and immigrated at a young age, the other three Congresswomen at whom Trump took aim have been U.S. citizens since the day they were born - Rashida Tlaib was born in Michigan to Palestinian parents, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents and Ayanna Pressley was born in Chicago to, well, American parents. The four, now nicknamed "the Squad,” are at the forefront of the Democratic Party’s radical progressive wing. They are sharp-tongued and outspoken, anti-Israel to varying degrees and, it is alleged, borderline anti-Semitic.

But it is highly doubtful whether Trump would have attacked the four in unison were it not for their double faults: they are at once women and non-white. The lethal mixture has been Trump’s favorite punching bag since he launched his presidential campaign in 2015. He reserves his most vicious rhetoric for black women, from former Democratic consultant Donna “crooked and criminal” Brazile to Congresswomen Maxine “low IQ" Waters”

Besides giving air to his dark and arguably racist basic instincts, Trump’s onslaughts have clear-cut political goals: To divert attention away from his predicaments, which currently include an escalating clash with Congress, criticism of immigrant detention camps and the upcoming brouhaha over allegations that he forcibly raped minors supplied by Jeffrey Epstein; to paint the Democratic party as veering to the left and to spark confusion and embarrassment among his rivals; to supply his frenzied fans with a fix of fear and loathing sufficiently potent to sweep him back into the White House in 2020. In Israel, this stratagem is all too familiar.

Trump seeks to taint the Democrats with The Squad’s perceived radical views and statements, though the flip side is that he is forcing Democratic leaders to stand by their sides, and is thus legitimizing the very views he seeks to undermine. He did not hesitate to draw the Israel ace up his sleeve, though he did so in his usual ludicrous way: Trump claimed that because of the four Congresswomen, whom most Israelis have never heard of, Israel’s feels “abandoned” by the U.S. He must have missed Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the Israeli public worships Trump for his unprecedented historic support for their country.

The injection of Israel into Trump’s squabble with Democrats, however, inflicts direct damage upon its image and standing, in both the present and future. It strengthens the partisan divide over Israel and identifies it with Trump’s vile rhetoric. It also widens the gap between U.S, Jews, who are aghast at Trump’s words and view them as a warning for the future, and Israel, which admires Trump, is indifferent to American Jewish sensitivities and stays silent about his racist outbursts. Trump is driving a wedge between Israel and the Democratic Party and is hampering the party leadership’s ability to arrest the sinister stream.

As with Israel’s Likud and their leader Netanyahu, but a thousand times over, Trump’s invectives highlight the moral depths to which the Republican party has sunk: It has transformed from a Grand Old Party into a cheerleading squad that prostrates itself before its master, no matter what he says or does. Whether out of fear or hope for favor or both, the Republicans’ feebleness also echoes the conduct of similarly spineless political parties, which facilitated but later succumbed to the most evil tyrants of the 20th Century. 

But the demons unleashed by Trump on America don’t stop at its shores. They roam throughout the globe, giving a U.S. presidential seal of approval to chauvinism, ethnocentrism, racism and hatred of foreigners and immigrants, which all fell into disrepute in the wake of the Holocaust and World War II. And since Trump always goes for broke and heads for the extreme, his emulators around the world - including the sizable Israeli contingent - can always point out how moderate they are in comparison. If Trump can depict U.S.-born Congresswomen as aliens who should leave, who can complain about Israeli transferists who believe Israel’s Arab citizens should be expelled?

Trump, Earl of Israel, Cyrus reborn, the man that Miriam Adelson believes merits a bible book in his honor, is also the Raj of Racism, Prince of Prejudice, Marquis of Malice, Viscount of Venom, Maligner of Minorities and Detester of Democracy. The Israeli sage Shlomo Ibn Gvirol said a millennia ago that “He who sows hate will reap regret,” but he didn’t know Donald Trump, who wouldn’t know regret, contrition or even a mistake if they hit him in the face.

Many Israelis are rooting for him. Sadly, a great number also identify with his race-baiting remarks, especially when these are directed at Muslim legislators with an anti-Israeli animus. The history of the Jewish people as a persecuted minority perennially depicted as “the other,” no matter how long they’ve lived in the same place, doesn’t seem to speak to us anymore. As Israel’s venerated poet-columnist Natan Alterman once asked, in a slightly different context - “Where will we put our shame?”