Donald Trump delivered his major foreign policy speech on Wednesday, and though some in Jerusalem and the Jewish world were pleased to hear him say that Obama “has not been a friend to Israel,” some were irked by his "America First" slogan, saying it strikes some problematic historic notes.
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The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged Trump to reconsider the phrase Thursday citing its "anti-Semitic use in the months before Pearl Harbor by a group of prominent Americans seeking to keep the nation out of World War II."
According to a statement released by the Jewish watchdog, the most leader of the “America First Committee” was Charles Lindbergh, who "sympathized with the Nazis and whose rhetoric was characterized by anti-Semitism and offensive stereotypes, including assertions that Jews posed a threat to the U.S. because of their influence in motion pictures, radio, the press, and the government."
Nonetheless, ADL chief Jonathan A. Greenblatt said “the undercurrents of anti-Semitism and bigotry that characterized the America First movement ... is fortunately not a major concern today.”
“However, for many Americans, the term ‘America First’ will always be associated with and tainted by this history," he said, adding that "in a political season that already has prompted a national conversation about civility and tolerance, choosing a call to action historically associated with incivility and intolerance seems ill-advised.”
Haaretz's Chemi Shalev raised a similar point in his analysis of Trump's foreign policy speech, writing that the slogan "was a disturbing choice of words with troubling historic connotations especially for American Jews."
Shalev posits that "It’s hard to imagine that Trump used the term America First inadvertently without any knowledge of its historical background," and adds that "It resurrects an earlier effort to revive the slogan carried out by Pat Buchanan [who] has also been publicly identified by American Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, as a Holocaust denier, an anti-Semite and an enemy of the State of Israel."