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Editorial: On the menu at Mar-a-Lago: Antisemitism

Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Op Eds

To wallow in a sewer is to smell like one. To consort with noxious racists has the same effect.

No excuse remains for anyone to pretend that Donald Trump isn’t an antisemite after he welcomed two of the worst of them to Mar-a-Lago last week, the entertainer Kanye West, now known as Ye, and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

It’s no surprise, of course, to learn in what gutter Trump’s sympathies lie. That was clear enough in 2017 after the neo-Nazi riot in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides” among those who protested in favor of the Confederacy.

What’s astonishing now is that he doesn’t bother to deny it. Consider how he tried to explain hosting West and Fuentes and what he didn’t say upon being called to account.

“Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago,” Trump said. “Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.” He said later that West “expressed no antisemitism.”

West alone is so notorious that no politician should want to associate with him, least of all a former president who’s running again. Moreover, none of his subsequent statements expressed any revulsion toward the antisemitism for which West and Fuentes are infamous. His silence validates them and makes him complicit.

West’s record is clear

West has a long and current record of outspoken antisemitism. He’s become an avatar for night riders whose graffiti and handbills desecrate Jewish neighborhoods, cemeteries, synagogues and schools. Trump has no excuse for not knowing that.

Fuentes hosts a livestream show, "America First," which has a following called the “Groyper Army.” He founded the extreme right America First Political Action Conference as a rival to the more establishment Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Groypers “claim not to be racist or antisemitic and see their bigoted views as ‘normal’ and necessary to preserve white, European-American identity and culture. ... They believe their views are shared by the majority of white people.”

To Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, Fuentes is “a vicious bigot and known Holocaust denier.”

At a “stop the steal” rally in November 2020, Fuentes told his followers “to storm every state capitol” to keep Trump in the White House. And Trump doesn’t know him? Fuentes also was at the Jan. 6 insurrection, but apparently remained outside the Capitol.

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have risen sharply since 2015, the year Trump announced his candidacy. The ADL counted 942 that year, 1,267 the next and 2,717 in 2021 with 1,494 so far this year. In 2018, eight worshippers were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“Antisemitism is only coming back because it’s being encouraged to come back,” the filmmaker Steven Spielberg told The New York Times.

Trump’s responsibility cannot be whitewashed.

 

Republican reaction

Here’s what Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, had to say about that on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday: “I don’t think it’s a good idea for a leader that is setting an example for the country or the party to meet with an avowed racist or antisemite. … It’s very troubling and it shouldn’t happen. … When you meet with people, you empower.”

Silence empowers, too. Politicians in leadership positions betray a responsibility to their party as well as our nation when they tolerate Trump’s empowerment with silence.

Hutchinson is not the only Republican who has condemned Trump. So have his former vice president, Mike Pence, and Sens. Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy, among others. Late to join them was Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader who intends to take the gavel from Speaker Nancy Pelosi next month. Still silent on the matter: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s unannounced rival for the 2024 GOP nomination. An inquiry to DeSantis’ office remains unanswered.

With a precarious potential majority of five votes, perhaps McCarthy only belatedly criticized the meeting because he was afraid to antagonize members of Congress such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Paul Gosar of Arizona. Of course, kowtowing to the worst elements in his caucus is no excuse.

Trump occasionally claims to be a friend of the Jewish people. He points to his having moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which did nothing for Jews in America and was no offset to his indulgence for domestic antisemitism.

It was plainly transactional, much like the support he receives from people of various faiths who ignore his profound immorality because they like what he did on taxes and judicial appointments.

The most prominent Jew who was in his White House, Stephen Miller, is an anti-immigrant fanatic repudiated by his former rabbi.

‘You are better than this’

“To my friend Donald Trump, you are better than this,” said David Friedman, his longtime bankruptcy lawyer whom he appointed ambassador to Israel. “Even a social visit from an antisemite like Kanye West and human scum like Nick Fuentes is unacceptable. I urge you to throw those bums out, disavow them and relegate them to the dustbin of history where they belong.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition, a Washington-based lobby, condemned “the virulent antisemitism” of West and Fuentes and called on all political leaders to reject them and refuse to meet with them.

Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said what they stand for does not have a home in the GOP. She is wrong, of course. As long as Trump has a home in the Republican Party, so does the hatred of Jews that he tolerates and empowers.

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©2022 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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