Eric Trump, the second son of former President Donald Trump, is set to speak this weekend at a hotel owned by the former president. Earlier this week, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow noted that Trump was going to speak at this event on the ReAwaken America Tour alongside Scott McKay and Charlie Ward, both of whom have been accused of spreading antisemitism.
Trump, in turn, tweeted:
.@maddow is walking a fine line. We are the most pro-Israel family in American political history — from the Abraham Accords, moving the embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights to sanctioning Iran, no one has done more for Israel than our family. Never mind, that my sister, brother-in-law and niece and nephews happen to be proud Jews. If she or anyone else even remotely suggests I am anti-semitic I will not hesitate to take legal action against them personally.
McKay and Ward were dropped from this weekend’s lineup, though reportedly not from the overall tour. This is a minor victory in a much bigger battle, as extremists continue to push to include antisemitism and white nationalism on mainstream GOP platforms. The consequences of this push are everywhere, from Jan. 6 to last year’s mass shooting in Buffalo.
What neither Trump seems to understand is that the vast majority of American Jews do not consider Israel their top priority when going to the polls.
Some mistakes in Trump’s 80 or so words are beyond the scope of this piece. It’s well established, for example, that antisemites can have Jewish family members or friends. Though Henry Ford published the Dearborn Independent, which regularly included antisemitic vitriol and conspiracy theories, he nevertheless considered himself a friend of his neighbor, Rabbi Leo Franklin.
But the crux of Eric Trump’s argument seems to be that nobody in his family could be antisemitic because of how supportive they are for Israel.
There are two issues with this. The first is that it conflates the state of Israel with the Jewish people. This is a move Eric’s father often made, once referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” when speaking to American Jews, or appearing unable to understand why American Jews were not voting for him based on his policies toward Israel. Donald Trump also took to chiding all but the Orthodox for failing to love Israel enough.
This is a sort of evolution of the “dual loyalty” trope, which says that Jews are ultimately loyal to other Jews, and thus cannot really ever be loyal citizens to their own country. In this new, updated version, American Jews who fail to see their political future wrapped up in Israel — or, more particularly, with Israel as promoted by the Trump administration — are seen as falling short as American Jews.
What neither Trump seems to understand is that the vast majority of American Jews do not consider Israel their top priority when going to the polls, nor do they agree with the Trumps’ view of what’s best for Israel. Some polls suggested that a majority of American Jews supported the Iran nuclear deal. (And this is to say nothing of how some “pro-Israel” American Jews themselves are currently navigating what it means to support Israel. The current government proposes changes that critics say would gut judicial independence and includes prominent individuals who have been accused of encouraging violence against Palestinians and appeared to call for their expulsion.)
In the realm of politics, there are plenty who simultaneously are supporting the current Israeli leader and pushing antisemitic rhetoric.
The second issue with Eric Trump’s comments is that it is completely possible for a person to use antisemitic rhetoric or spend time with antisemitic conspiracy theorists and to be fully supportive of the state of Israel. Those who want ethno-nationalist societies may be fine with the idea of Jews living in “their own” country, but not with Jews living among them. There are others who deem some kinds of Jews acceptable, but not others (consider those who say they have no problem with people practicing Judaism, but with secular people who have “Jewish last names”). These individuals, too, may be comfortable both with support for Israel the state and with tropes about Jewish control of the media, Hollywood or finance.
And, in the realm of politics, there are plenty who simultaneously are supporting the current Israeli leader and pushing antisemitic rhetoric. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, for example, blasts “globalists” and blamed one particular Jewish person, Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros, for flooding Europe with migrants. Many, including myself, would say this is antisemitic, as it over-assigns agency to a Jewish person and accuses that person of trying to degrade the country. But Orban has found a friend in Netanyahu, whose own son has pushed anti-Soros conspiracy theories. Soros has given money to Human Rights Watch, which has criticized Israel’s policies toward and treatment of Palestinians. There are many Jews committed to universal human rights and many Jews committed to Israel, and if only the latter is considered Jewish enough to be protected from hatred, then that, too, is a form of antisemitism.
The idea that supporting the state of Israel somehow means that a person is unanswerable for their words and deeds as they relate to antisemitism is one that has been pushed for too long and should be understood to be both a distraction and untrue. At the beginning of this week, Eric Trump was going to appear alongside a speaker who said Jewish families “built Hitler” and another who shared a post that viruses “are Man (JEW) made.” When pressed on this, he brought up support for Israel and Jews to whom he is related. But the danger posed by Scott McKay and Charlie Ward’s extremist, bigoted views is obvious and real. There is no support for any state that can change that stubborn fact.