ADL condemns Trump's comments on rally 'built on conspiratorial antisemitism'

Jonathan Greenblatt describes president's moral-equivalence over violence as 'beyond the pale'


Jewish organisations have condemned President Donald Trump’s latest comments on the violence in Charlottesville last weekend in which he equated white supremacists, antisemites and neo-Nazis with the people standing against them.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Trump said that there were “very fine people on both sides”.

The president said: “You had a group on one side and group on the other and they came at each other with clubs – there is another side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group.”

However, Jason Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, responded by saying that Mr Trump “has had a pattern of equivocating on prejudice”, and that he had gone “beyond the pale in equating racist white supremacist in Charlottesville with counter-protesters who were there to stand up against hate”.

There was, he said, “no rationalising white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry”.

Neo-Nazi hate sites and white supremacist groups had organised the “Unite the Right” rally for August 12 in Charlottesville, supposedly in response to plans by the city authorities to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate army in the US Civil War. An advertisement for the event described its aim as being “to end Jewish influence in America”.

However, Mr Trump claimed that “not all those people were neo-Nazis, not all those people were white supremacists.” The rally, Mr Greenblatt responded, was “built on racial and conspiratorial antisemitism”.

Marchers, Greenblatt said, had thrown “Nazi salutes as they waved swastika flags, proudly wore swastika pins and shirts and shouted ‘Sieg Heil!’ A sign carried by rally-goers warned that the ‘Jewish media is going down;’ another declared that ‘Jews are Satan’s children.’”

Mr Greenblatt added that one white supremacist had told a reporter that “‘the f****** Jew-lovers are gassing us,’ and another one called a Jewish counter-protestor a kike. ‘Blood and soil,’ which the white supremacists chanted several times, is the translation of the Nazi slogan, ‘Blut und Boden.’ And at least once, white supremacists changed their refrain, ‘You will not replace us’ to ‘Jews will not replace us.’”

The American Jewish Congress tweeted to Mr Trump in the wake of his comments, saying: “In Charlottesville, there were PERPETRATORS--white supremacists/neo-Nazis--who came itching for a fight. Why is it so hard to see?”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, head of America’s Religious Action Centre of Reform Judaism, tweeted: “Hate, racism, antisemitism and xenophobia were easy to spot in Charlottesville. Speaking against them should be easy too”.

Brian Schatz, the senior US Senator from Hawaii, tweeted: “As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President”.

Mr Trump made his comments on Tuesday flanked by two Jewish members of his administration: Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser, and Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury.

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