Opinion: The left is wrong on Trump, Bannon and anti-Semitism

 

The December Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle included six op-eds from local writers commenting on the results of the election. All six were written from a leftist perspective and decried the results of the election.

When I pointed out in an email to members of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council leadership that there was no opposing perspective, one of them wrote me back suggesting that this represented “a very minority view.” The left is big on inclusiveness – except when it comes to ideas they disagree with.

More disturbing than the lack of intellectual diversity is the defaming, by all six authors, of the president-elect and those who voted for him as bigots or at least having been influenced by bigotry. And it’s not even that this charge was specific to Trump and this election. It has been the modus operandi of the left since Marx to, rather than limit themselves to making substantive disagreements with their opponents, smearing them, e.g., as racist, sexist, Islamophobic, homophobic, etc. I submit that one of the reasons for the election results is that decent Americans who disagree with the leftist agenda are sick and tired of being libeled in such a manner. We know that we are none of these things. Though such tactics have proven very effective, after a while these insults start sounding shrill and empty.

Jim Beer

Jim Beer

What is particularly disheartening is to see leaders of Milwaukee’s Jewish community engage in this behavior – particularly when it comes to allegations of anti-Semitism. Let me be clear, we have an obligation to call out actual substantiated instances of anti-Semitism. However, when such charges are made without credible evidence, as was done by several of the op-ed authors, including the JCRC and the Federation CEO, they could lead to claims of actual anti-Semitism not being taken seriously.

An example of such a false accusation is the JCRC’s assertion that Trump’s pick as chief strategist and senior counselor, Steve Bannon, “Through his words and actions, …. spreads the alt-right’s dangerous white nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism.” Even the now far-left Anti-Defamation League, which had similarly tarred Bannon, has backed down from this accusation.

Unfortunately, this is not new ground for the JCRC. Just one additional example is JCRC Executive Director Elana Kahn’s 2010 Chronicle op-ed in which she compared Arizona immigration officers asking Mexicans for documentation to Nazis asking Jews for their papers. As if both served the same purpose.

That the left would make such defamatory claims is, sadly, expected, but leaders of the Jewish community!? It reflects so badly on Jews and Judaism. The most over-the-top rhetoric within the six op-eds was that of Federation CEO Hannah Rosenthal, who railed against “the level of anti-Semitism that was unleashed by our incoming chief strategist and soon-to-be president.” Among her false and/or exaggerated claims was that Trump’s campaign was characterized by “sieg heils at rallies” and “calls to go to Auschwitz.” She also writes that there were “constant reminders that well-known Jewish names were funding Secretary Clinton’s campaign.” I’m not sure what she means by constant. There was one Trump ad that tied three Clinton donors to “the establishment.” All three happened to be Jewish. The donors were not identified in the ad as Jews – they just happened to be Jews. Yet this was sufficient for Clinton supporters to irresponsibly claim the ad was anti-Semitic. One of the donors, for example, was George Soros, who is much better known for being a funder of leftist causes than for being a Jew. Rosenthal also maintains that the campaign was “mocking and threatening well-known Jewish journalists who were criticizing Mr. Trump,” as if the only journalists Trump mocked were Jewish.

Such untrue accusations of anti-Semitism are even more noxious considering there is actual anti-Semitism in abundance to confront. How about the Federation/JCRC calling out the most central contemporary source of anti-Semitism: Muslim/Arab anti-Semitism? Or Black Lives Matter, whose published platform has characterized Israel as genocidal and an apartheid state? Compare the relative power and threat of this organization, invited to the White House and being given $133 million by George Soros and the Ford Foundation, to that of the so-called “alt-right,” which no one had even heard of until Hillary Clinton mentioned it in a speech several months ago. Or the BDS movement, which wages economic warfare on, of all states, the only Jewish one. Closer to home, how about taking on Marquette and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee’s participation in Israel Apartheid Week?

There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Trump. Would it not be sufficient to address policy differences by, for instance, calling for open borders rather than to accuse Trump and his supporters of being motivated by racism because they want to stem illegal immigration? You may disagree about his approach to the problem of Islamic terrorism, but it clearly is not stemming from hatred of Muslims. It’s from recognizing what anyone who isn’t blinded by the wish that it wasn’t so recognizes: that although (of course) not all Muslims are terrorists, most of those who are committing terrorist acts today are Muslims.

In addition to the use of defamation, the sanctimony of the op-ed writers is palpable. Rabbi Noah Chertkoff wrote that he had sent his congregants a letter the day after the election, “to emphasize that nothing will change our dedication to our core values…. regardless of the outcome of the election. We love the stranger, feed the hungry and care for the orphan and the widow.” As if Trump and those who voted for him do not?

Rosenthal ends her piece with a call for civility, ironic considering she had just finished falsely accusing Trump and those of us who voted for him of exhibiting or being influenced by – the usual incendiary and now tired leftist litany – “racism, sexism, misogyny, Islamophobia and other forms of blatant bigotry.”

We are all Jews. Let’s address our differences with each other with substantive arguments and stop the name-calling.

Jim Beer lives in Fox Point. He is a consultant to human services organizations.