Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

In the new Trump era, Jews are being used as pawns

    Donald Trump greets supporters from Ukip, including Nigel Farage (centre) and Raheem Kassam (far-right), in New York City
    Donald Trump greets supporters from Ukip, including Nigel Farage (centre) and Raheem Kassam (far-right), in New York City

    Despite the appointment of Steve Bannon as an advisor with ties to the antisemitic "alt-right"; despite the use of antisemitic tropes in electoral material; despite the antisemitic attacks on journalists by supporters during the campaign; despite all this: Donald Trump and his team have a ready-made response to accusations of using antisemitism:

    "How could we be antisemitic? Look at the Jews who supported us! Look at Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism! Look at our strong support for Israel!"

    There's something disturbingly familiar here. One of the defining features of the controversy in Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party has been the meeting of accusations of antisemitism by pointing to his Jewish supporters.

    I am not comparing Mr Trump and Mr Corbyn's wider politics and personalities. Jeremy Corbyn is clearly a better human being for one thing.

    Moreover, the self-defined anti-racism of Mr Corbyn and most of his supporters, and their obvious distress when some are accused of antisemitism, at least allows the possibility of better relations in the future with Jews who are not supporters.

    Jeremy Corbyn
    Jeremy Corbyn

    In contrast, Mr Trump's support is suffused with a wider racism of which antisemitism is but one part - and Mr Trump is going to have the power to act on this, should he wish to.

    But pointing to Jewish supporters when being accused of antisemitism does seem to be a common strategy.

    US, UK and other Jewish communal leaders and organisations have long complained when the pro-Palestinian left claim to accept Jews in the diaspora but not in the state of Israel. Now they are having to come to terms with the reverse: supporting Israel but not diaspora Jews.

    Mr Trump's Jewish supporters are a minority in the US, just as Jewish pro-Palestinian leftists are a minority in the UK, as well as elsewhere. Inevitably, we will see attacks on the Trump-supporting minority from more liberal-minded Jews for acting as the alibi for antisemites, just as Corbyn-supporting Jews are accused of a similar treachery.

    Such attacks only compound the situation. A minority of the Jewish community become treated as the "good Jews", the ones whom the rest of the Jews are "persecuting". The good Jews are pulled closer, the bad ones are attacked, their concerns ignored.

    The danger is that this suggests you can choose the Jews whom you treat decently and defend against antisemitism. Jews become pawns in a wider political game. The differences between Jews are leveraged and exacerbated for ends that have nothing to do with Jews themselves.

    A new political landscape for Jews is emerging where antisemitism is only treated seriously when its victims happen to be those Jews you like. This is something that all Jews should fight against.

    That requires some hard challenges. First, Jewish supporters of Mr Trump, of Mr Corbyn or of anyone else who is accused of tolerating antisemitism have to grit their teeth, insist they are not the only Jews whose feelings matter and that the concerns of other Jews should be heard, even if they themselves do not share them.

    Second, Jewish detractors of Mr Trump, Mr Corbyn or others need to aim their fire not at their Jewish supporters but on the non-Jews who are using them.

    In turn, they also have to fight against being used by their opponents and guard against being a tool in a wider political struggle.

    Jews have to remind the world that we are here, are diverse and will not accept antisemitism against any of us – even those Jews we cannot stand.

Comment

Is Labour unapologetically antisemitic?

Colin Shindler

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is Labour unapologetically antisemitic?
World

Writer who uncovered troll hit by online antisemitism

Lianne Kolirin

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Writer who uncovered troll hit by online antisemitism
Blogs

Pesach fruity matzah kugel

The Fresser

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pesach fruity matzah kugel
Blogs

No screams for ice cream

The Fresser

Monday, July 17, 2017

No screams for ice cream
World

Fox TV's awkward Kushner spelling mistake

Michael Moran

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fox TV's awkward Kushner spelling mistake
Blogs

Pesach breakfast ideas #3 - fruit 'n nut banana...

The Fresser

Friday, April 14, 2017

Pesach breakfast ideas #3 - fruit 'n nut banana...
Blogs

Forging friendships with food

The Fresser

Friday, July 14, 2017

Forging friendships with food
Blogs

World Chocolate Day: a cool way to join in

The Fresser

Friday, July 7, 2017

World Chocolate Day: a cool way to join in
Blogs

Pesach breakfast ideas #2

The Fresser

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Pesach breakfast ideas #2