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Trump, the Jews and anti-Semitism: A Dangerous Double Game

'I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life,' the U.S. president declared one month after not mentioning Jews while marking Holocaust Remembrance Day

President Donald Trump listens to a question during an interview with The Associated Press in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, in Washington.
Evan Vucci,AP

U.S. President Donald Trump has long been dogged by accusations that he stokes anti-Semitism both by the language and references he uses and by hiring and embracing figures who actively promote a hyper-nationalist, racist and discriminatory agenda for the United States. This accusation took on a whole new relevance in the wake of the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, in which a white nationalist killed 11 congregants during a baby naming ceremony.

Trump closed his winning 2016 presidential campaign with an ad that many observers slammed as blatantly anti-Semitic. In his first month in office Trump again sparked scandal when the White House left out any mention of Jews while marking Holocuast Remembrance Day. After topping off a campaign littered with dozens of such incidents, the accusations surrounding Trump and anti-Semitism reached a boiling point at his first solo press conference in February 2017, where, responding to a question about recent threats to Jewish centers across the country and rising anti-Semitism, Trump declared, "I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life."

Trump: 'I Am The Least Anti-Semitic Person'

The day before that press conference, Trump hosted a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he was also pressed to address rising anti-Semitism in America. Trump answered, "As far as people - Jewish people - so many friends, a daughter, a son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren. I think that you're going to see a lot different United States of America over the next three, four, or eight years. I think a lot of good things are happening, and you're going to see a lot of love. You're going to see a lot of love. OK? Thank you."

>> From lynchings to mass shootings: The history of deadly attacks on Jews in America ■ Opinion: Trump didn’t pull the trigger on Jews in Pittsburgh, but he certainly prepped the shooter

After Trump responded, Netanyahu came to his aide saying,“I think we can put that to rest,” despite the fact that Trump never used the word “anti-Semitism.” Trump’s daughter Ivanka is a convert to Judaism and married into an Orthodox Jewish family.

In the campaign ad that Trump released back on November 5th, 2016, four villains are blamed for the problems the everyday American is facing - which Trump promised to fix as apart of his “make America great again” pitch for the presidency. Those villains were Hillary Clinton, George Soros (financier and philanthropist), Janet Yellen (then Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs CEO). Three out of the four are Jewish.

Donald Trump's Argument For America

As Soros and Yellen come onto the screen in the ad, the narrator says, “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests. They partner with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”

In August 2017, Trump stunned the nation when he declared that “both sides” were culpable for violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which claimed the life of a counterprotester. A torchlit march that preceded the day of violence featured white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Trump later clarified his original remarks and openly condemned the white nationalists. However, veteran journalist Bob Woodward wrote in his recent book “Fear,” that Trump felt, "That was the biggest fucking mistake I've made. You never make those concessions. You never apologize. I didn't do anything wrong in the first place. Why look weak?"

The book put Bob Woodward in the Trump family’s crosshairs and resulted in an additional anti-Semitism scandal for the Trump clan when Eric Trump, the president’s youngest son, said of some of the claims in the book, that "It’ll mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels." Using the word “shekel” is a long-standing anti-Semitic trope going back to Judas’ betrayal of Jesus in the New Testament.

Jewish journalist Julia Ioffe’s April 27 profile of Melania Trump in GQ irked the first lady enough that she tweeted criticism of it calling it, “another example of the dishonest media and their disingenuous reporting” and that Ioffe had “provoked” the deluge of anti-Semitic hate online that followed the publication of the profile, including from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which urged its followers to “go ahead and send her [Ioffe] a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery.”

Jews funding immigration

Last week both Soros and Clinton were sent bombs in the mail by a Trump supporter who targeted almost a dozen Democrats and CNN - the news network Trump often singles out as “fake news” and as an “enemy of the people.”

Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, who invited a Holocaust denier to this year’s State of the Union address, posted a video on Twitter this month which shows people in Guatemala being handed money. Gaetz, without citing evidence, suggested in the Tweet that Soros was funding a migrant caravan headed towards the U.S. He wrote on Twitter, “BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!”

Trump tweeted the exact same video a day later, writing, “Can you believe this, and what Democrats are allowing to be done to our Country?”

The gunman in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, who yelled "All Jews must die" before opening fire, made anti-Semitic comments online and expressed anger at a Jewish group which helped refugees. 

Bowers wrote on an alt-right social media platform, that “HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics. I’m going in.”

HIAS is an American nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees.  Another post from Bowers that apparently referred to HIAS read, “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy evil jews Bringing the Filthy evil Muslims into the Country!!” Bower’s massacre of worshippers is the deadliest attack on a Jewish community in American history and his motive as of now appears to be a white supremacist driven hate of Jews and his belief that the Jewish community aids refugees and immigrants entering the U.S.

Bower’s summed this up in post he made weeks before the shooting, “There is no #maga as long as there is a kike infestation.”

Ungrateful

In December 2015, Trump again waded into anti-Semitic waters when he said in a speech addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” adding, “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals? Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

However, despite his claim at the RJC that he is above transactional politics, Trump in September of this year seemed to complain that the U.S. Jewish community was not more grateful after Trump moved the U.S. Embassy, in a ceremony which included Pastor Robert Jeffress who believes “Jews are going to hell,”  from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

Opinion: Donald Trump Thinks the Jews Aren't Grateful Enough

A report from the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank, in September quoted a White House official who claimed the move should have generated praise from within the Jewish community, but that Trump is treated unfairly.

“We can take justified criticism, but if Obama had transferred the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the American Jewish community would have been united in applauding him!” the official said.

Earlier this month, Mark Mellman, who once ran Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid campaign in 2015, published a poll with the Jewish Electorate Institute that found roughly seventy-five percent of Jewish Americans plan to vote for the Democrats in the midterm elections, with only a quarter voting Republican.

Additionally, Fifty-six percent polled said they disapprove of the embassy move, while only 44 percent said they approved.

Growing anti-Semitism

A new report released Friday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found far-right extremists have increased an intimidating wave of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish journalists, political candidates and others public figures of next month's U.S. midterm elections.

ADL researchers analyzed more than 7.5 million Twitter messages from Aug. 31 to Sept. 17 and found nearly 30 percent of the accounts repeatedly tweeting derogatory terms about Jews appeared to be automated "bots."

The study also found a "surprising" abundance of tweets referencing "QAnon," a right-wing conspiracy theory that started on an online message board and has been spread by Trump supporters.

"There are strong anti-Semitic undertones, as followers decry George Soros and the Rothschild family as puppeteers," researchers wrote.

Trump, who has been pushing his “America first,” anti-globalist message since announcing his campaign in 2015, took the unprecedented step last Monday of outright declaring, “I am a nationalist.”

“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that,” Trump said at a rally in Houston.

"You know, they have a word – it’s sort of became old-fashioned – it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word."

Trump’s rhetoric helped him win in 2016 by whipping up his base and energizing voters. His rallies have become a central feature of his presidency and while he may say he is “the least anti-Semitic” and “least racist person” ever - his rhetoric has reshaped the Republican Party and deeply divided Americans.

From Virginia to California, the Republican Party has an unprecedented amount of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis on the ballot this year. The GOP has actively worked to both distance and remove some of these candidates off the ballot in some cases, while unhappily accepting them in others.

In Virginia, Republican Corey Stewart is running for the U.S. Senate as a self-described neo-Confederate, championing a “take back our heritage” platform. In Illinois, Arthur Jones, a candidate for the state’s 3rd Congressional district boasts of his membership in the American Nazi Party. Anti-Semitic GOP candidate, John Fitzgerald, made it through his open primary and will appear on the ballot in California’s 11th Congressional District. Fitzgerald’s campaign has urged to “end the Jewish takeover of America.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article