New Antisemitism in American Politics (Trump and Turx)

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This is a sea change in the public sphere of American and American-Jewish political life. Watch the exchange posted below between Trump and journalist Jake Turx. The President expects a “friendly” question from Turx, obviously, because Turx is an orthodox (haredi) Jew. Turx states from the start that neither he nor people from his community was accusing Trump of being an anti-Semite. But Turx expressed a broad concern among the Jewish public about the wave of anti-Semitism associated with the Trump campaign into our public life (or one could say, coughed up into our public life). A visibly angry President Trump tells Turx to sit down, directly accuses him of lying, and proceeds to defend what for him matters more than anything, namely Trump.

This President was never going to hear, much less understand the question posed to him by Turx. While one might see this otherwise, at issue was not that Turx accused Trump of anti-Semitism, he purposely did not. At issue was the pall cast on the Trump campaign, persona, and now presidency by the very asking of the question. Instead of simply condemning the phenomenon, which Trump could have easily done and which would have met many people’s satisfaction, Trump doubles down on his own image, on his grandchildren and the hechsher granted to him by Benjamin Netanyahu, who now, all of a sudden, no longer cares about anti-Semitism in public life. What’s the takeaway? I cannot recall the question of anti-Semitism at the forefront of American public life.

One would have to go back to the original American First movement from the 1940s. What is shown is the malice of the President of the United States turned against an orthodox Jew at a televised press conference in the full view of the public eye. No matter how you cut it, this is the “new anti-Semitism in American politics.” It has been introduced and brought before us by Trump and  Trumpism. No matter the high regard in which he holds himself, this is more than enough to make Donald Trump an anti-Semite.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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