By Sarah Gertler
The Trump administration says it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel. That’s the gist of a recent executive order that would treat campus calls to boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians as anti-Semitic discrimination on the basis of “national origin.”
Days after the order, the synagogue I most often attend here in Washington, D.C. became another of the hundreds in the U.S. to be vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Swastikas and the word “Jew” were found gouged into its historic doors.
This graffiti isn’t the symbol of the nonviolent boycott movement. It’s the symbol of the neo-Nazis Trump called “very fine people.”
Every mainstream headline I saw about Trump’s recent order seemed to accept that it was designed to combat anti-Semitism. You could almost forget that Trump himself is one of the single biggest dangers facing the Jewish community in this country today.
During his presidency, he’s called rooms full of Jewish people “brutal killers” while making excuses for Nazis after Charlottesville. His former chief strategist was the head of an alt-right website.
Trump has backed white supremacist conspiracies that migrant caravans are secretly funded by Jews, said Jews who vote for Democrats show “great disloyalty,” and — at his Hanukkah party, no less — gave the floor to a pastor who says that Jews are going to hell. Subtle.
And never mind that categorizing Jewishness as a “national origin” hearkens back to anti-Semitic trope that, wherever we go, we’re an “alien people.”
Under Trump, anti-Semitic hate crimes have skyrocketed to historic levels, and it’s affecting us all.
Every time I’m in a large Jewish gathering, I can’t help but think of the massacres in Pittsburgh and Poway and Jersey City. I find myself looking around the room, wondering: Will it happen here at high holiday services, or at this showing of Fiddler on the Roof with my friends?
The man whose presidency forces me to ask these questions is clearly not trying to protect me. So why did he pass this executive action?
The meat of this action is aimed at Israeli boycott movements on college campuses across the U.S. It threatens to withhold federal funding from schools where students organize events linked to the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
It’s been pushed for years by Trump education official Kenneth L. Marcus, who equates boycotting Israel with Holocaust denial. It’s the support of far-right figures like Marcus the president is after. As Trump recently told the Israeli American Council, “You have to vote for me. You have no choice.”
As a Jewish activist, let me assure you: Boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitic.
Aside from the fact that many of those fighting for their colleges to divest from Israel are Jewish themselves, the BDS movement is one of the only available ways to protest the U.S.-backed brutalization of Palestinians that’s continued ceaselessly for decades. This is a human rights issue, no matter your religion.
Shutting down BDS allows Trump to support Israel’s far-right government in systematically abusing Palestinians, secure the support of some politically powerful pro-Israel voters, and convince the public it’s being done in the name of protecting Jews.
It’s not. When Jews and non-Jews alike speak up for human rights and are crushed into silence, no one is safer. When congresspeople who speak up against this are slandered as anti-Semitic, while our clearly anti-Semitic president is not, no one is safer.
As a Jew, I know Trump is not supporting the people who congregate in synagogues to sing, eat, pray, and live. He’s emboldening the ones gouging swastikas into the doors.
Sarah Gertler is the Newman Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Seems someone has hatred in their heart. Sad to hate over politics.
Agkistrodon and Sarah Gertler are right . Trump hates all but brutal , murderous , fraudulent dictators . Israeli PM , Crown Prince , Russian Dictator . Pompeo , Barr , Trump , remind me of Goring , Goebbels , Hitler .
Percy's mother says
Trump’s daughter is an orthodox Jew, as are his grandchildren.
Nancy N. says
Many bigots have a close friend or family member that is an “exception” that they somehow mentally exclude from their bigotry. It doesn’t make them not a bigot. Almost every racist uses “my black friend” as their defense when called out for vile behavior.
Percy's mother says
Just can’t accept that you’re being indoctrinated by CNN, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.
How about switching to a more neutral news source.
There is no free press left in the United States.
Feel for you, Nancy. Don’t take the propaganda and hatred with you to your grave.
You can reply but I’ve wasted enough time on this and on people who are blinded by hate.
Ben S says
When someone calls you a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe because you happen to disagree with them about tax policy or same-sex marriage or abortion, that’s bullying. When someone slanders you because you happen to disagree with them about global warming or the government shutdown, that’s bullying. When someone labels you a bad human being because they disagree with you, they are bullying you. They are attacking your character without justification. That’s nasty. In fact, it makes them nasty
Mrs. Knight says
Amen Ben. Thank you for being a voice of reason.
Sarah Gertler is a well-known and prolific BDS activist. Coming out and identifying herself as one instead of just identifying herself as “the Newman Fellow at the Insitute of Policy Studies” would have been the honest and transparent thing to do. The fact that she didn’t choose to do so should tell everyone reading this article all they need to know about Sarah Gertler and the way she chooses to promote her personal biases (against Israel or anything or anyone else), as well the BDS organization she is such a vital and active part of.
Pierre Tristam says
Ben, when someone makes a false analogy to discredit someone else, it’s intellectually dishonest–or, to use your preferred word, nastily dishonest. Nancy responded to Percy’s nonsequitur regarding Trump’s relations with a valid point to which Percy obviously opened the door: just brandishing one’s family members or friends of one religion or color or another doesn’t necessarily make one less of a bigot, and may in fact only underscore one’s bigotry, as Nancy’s reference to the some-of-my-best-friends-are-this-and-that line notes. I have no idea why Percy came back with that even more inexplicable nonsequitur about the media, but whatever. You’re arguing that Nancy is calling Trump a bigot because she disagrees with him over something entirely different than the matter at hand. That’s just patently false. Trump’s bigotry is not exactly a matter in too much dispute. We can argue about it of course but it’s been richly documented, especially regarding this very issue of anti-Semitism and his white supremacist sympathies. This column points out his hypocrisy on the issue, and his ulterior motives, which arguably have nothing or almost nothing to do with fighting anti-Semitism. Nancy responded to Percy’s suggestion that somehow just because Trump has these family relations he couldn’t possibly be a bigot, which is ridiculous. You invented “slanders” and “bullying” to detract from the point. It’s obviously a favored technique these days–anything to avoid addressing the actual issue at hand. But it doesn’t work. Not here, anyway. Meanwhile not a single comment addresses Gertler’s points directly. It’s all “hate” this and “hate” that, as if that, too, has anything to do with what she wrote–or as if Gertler being a BDS advocate somehow discredits her points. I’m a BDS advocate too, for the same reasons that I was a BDS advocate during South Africa’s apartheid era. So what? That means I can’t have a point of view? My concerns for Palestinian rights make me automatically an anti-Semite? Please. (And I say this of course as a Semite myself.) One of Gertler’s points is that Trump’s order is an attempt to shut down even the right to have that position, a First Amendment right no less. We can disagree about BDS. But let’s not equate a point of view immediately with “hatred” or “bullying” or anti-Semitism as just an other means of silencing debate. Israel is not sacrosanct. Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism any more than criticizing Washington is anti-Presbyterian. Let’s grow up a little and for once argue the merits of an issue, not fish around its schools of red herrings.
Mrs. Knight says
“Trump’s bigotry is not exactly a matter in too much dispute.” – Not true, Pierre.
“To truley know who rules you, look to those you cannot criticize.” Voltaire