Opinion | A Perilous Path for Republicans

Trump’s Jewish defenders may be blinded by their support for Israel
By | Jan 11, 2023
Opinion, Winter Issue 2023

Last February, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) issued a stinging rebuke of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Republican representative from Georgia, over her participation in the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), hosted by neo-Nazi demagogue Nick Fuentes. “It is appalling and outrageous that a Member of Congress would share a platform with an individual who has actively spread antisemitic bile, mocked the Holocaust, and promoted dangerous anti-Israel conspiracy theories,” the RJC statement read. It pledged to “actively oppose anyone who associates with Nick Fuentes, AFPAC, and their ilk.”

Nine months later, the RJC reneged on that promise. After former president Donald Trump hosted Fuentes, along with the antisemitic rapper Ye (Kanye West), at his Florida resort just before Thanksgiving, the RJC told The New York Times that “we strongly condemn the virulent antisemitism of Kanye West and Nick Fuentes and call on all political leaders to reject their messages of hate and refuse to meet with them.” After criticism that the statement did not name Trump, who just weeks before had spoken at the RJC’s Leadership Meeting, RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks responded with a churlish tweet. “Let me dumb it down for y’all,” Brooks wrote. “The RJC did not mention Trump in its statement, even though it’s obviously in response to his meeting because we wanted it to be a warning to ALL Republicans. Duh!”

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Brooks’s juvenile reaction not only gave Trump a pass, it created a template for future cowardly evasions of the escalating antisemitism within the Republican Party. Republicans, for instance, widely hail new Twitter owner Elon Musk as a hero for supposedly exposing how conservatives were silenced under the platform’s previous owners. Meanwhile, there’s radio silence over Musk’s replatforming of neo-Nazis like Andrew Anglin, who in 2018 orchestrated a terrifying harassment campaign against a Jewish realtor in Whitefish, Montana. Donald Trump, Jr., the former president’s son, regularly praises Musk’s purported exposé of conservative repression, but says nothing about the increasingly dangerous antisemitism running rampant on Musk’s platform.

Many Republicans still embrace as a friend of the right anybody considered an enemy of the left.

Trump Jr. himself keeps dubious company. In early December, the New York Young Republicans Club (NYYRC) hosted a gala in New York City featuring speakers Trump Jr. and Marjorie Taylor Greene (an obvious flouting of the RJC’s attempt to isolate her). Also in attendance was Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec, who once responded to the Anti-Defamation League’s inclusion of him on a list of alt-right figures with a video of himself at Auschwitz, saying, “It would be wise of the ADL to remember the history of what happened the last time people started going around making lists of undesirables.” Also attending the NYC gala were members of the Austrian Freedom Party, founded in the 1950s by former Nazis and chaired for its first 20 years of existence by former SS officers. Many of these people had celebrated Trump’s rise in 2016 and sought to form lasting alliances with him and his administration. We are now seeing how much they succeeded.

Meanwhile, many Republicans still embrace as a friend of the right anybody who’s considered an enemy of the left, especially on Israel. In an interview with The New Yorker, Morton Klein, president of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, defended having given Trump his group’s most prestigious honor, the Theodor Herzl Gold Medallion, just days before the former president dined with grotesque Hitler admirers. The medallion, said Klein, is “given to people who’d done extraordinary work benefiting the Jewish state of Israel and the Jewish people.” The former president could not be an antisemite, Klein insisted, because if he were, he “would never do all the extraordinary things for Israel.”

And yet, in his speech accepting the ZOA award, Trump all but threatened non-Republican-voting Jews outright, warning that “You do have people in this country that happen to be Jewish that are not doing the right thing for Israel—too many.” The phrasing echoed a previous Truth Social post in which Trump said Jews insufficiently supportive of Israel “have to get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel—Before it is too late!”

As this reminds us, the true menace to American Jews is not people who fail a right-wing litmus test of supporting the Israeli government. At the NYYRC gala, club president Gavin Wax rallied the audience for “total war” against the left: “We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets.” Greene boasted that if she had been in charge of January 6, “We would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed.”

Trump’s Jewish defenders must know what these words mean. Yet by defending Trump, they continue to give his far-right Republican successors a blueprint for how to deflect charges of antisemitism—with the support of Jews.

Sarah Posner is the author of Unholy: How White Christian Nationalists Powered the Trump Presidency, and the Devastating Legacy They Left Behind.

Opening picture: Gage Skidmore, Supporters of Donald Trump at a campaign rally at the South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Flickr

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