As we mark one year since the deadliest attack on Jews in American history at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Jewish Americans continue to feel the impact of rising anti-Semitism and the emboldening of white nationalism during the Trump presidency. In the past year, the United States has experienced a record high number of anti-Semitic incidents, and 12 white supremacists have been arrested for their alleged role in anti-Semitic terrorist plots similar to the Pittsburgh and Poway shootings, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) strongly condemns the dangerous rise of white nationalism and all forms of anti-Semitism.
President Trump’s public appeals to white nationalists – including equating neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville with those peacefully protesting them – have emboldened hate groups to become more public in expressing their vitriol and committing violent attacks. At the same time, President Trump has repeatedly tried to deflect attention from his role in the rise of anti-Semitism by pointing to his embrace of Israel’s prime minister, using charges of anti-Semitism as justification for racist epithets directed at members of Congress, and alleging that Jews who vote Democratic are either misinformed or disloyal. In this regard, President Trump has weaponized anti-Semitism by using it for calculated political purposes.
Trump has also attacked members of Congress who oppose Israeli government policies, creating a false equivalence between allegations of anti-Semitic rhetoric on the left and virulent and violent anti-Semitism among right-wing extremists. This dangerous false equivalence allows Donald Trump to distract from his responsibility and role in inciting white nationalism and the rise of anti-Semitism, as tracked in this timeline.
A recent study of press coverage of anti-Semitism from the past year conducted by Media Matters reveals that the media have focused on anti-Semitic rhetoric more than anti-Semitic actions, such as the horrific attacks on synagogues in Poway and Pittsburgh. In addition, when media outlets referenced anti-Semitic rhetoric, they were far more likely to reference rhetoric from the left than from the right, with 73% of all references to anti-Semitic rhetoric being attributed to the left.
In an effort to better understand how Jewish voters view this issue, the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) conducted focus groups that examined Jewish voters’ perceptions of anti-Semitism during the Trump presidency. The JEI research demonstrates that Jewish voters understand that the threats to their safety and security largely stem from the actions and violence of the far-right and the emboldening of white nationalists, not the language of the left. Jewish voters flatly reject the false equivalence propagated by President Trump.
Jewish Americans understand that increased threats to their communities and places of worship emanate from the rise of white nationalism and right-wing extremism, which they largely attribute to President Trump. With the rampant politicization of anti-Semitism from the White House, media outlets should learn from these findings and refuse to accept the false equivalence created by President Trump.
The full reports can be read at:
For more information, please contact JDCA at [email protected].
Media Matters Analysis
Despite the reality of deadly anti-Semitic acts perpetuated by far-right white supremacists, Media Matters found in their analysis of media coverage that media outlets have put as much – and in some cases, more – emphasis on perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric from the left than anti-Semitic actions from the right.
Key findings include:
- Across all media studied, Media Matters found more references to anti-Semitism attributed to the left, 56%, than to the right, 44%.
- Regardless of political attribution to the reference, media have focused on anti-Semitic rhetoric far more than anti-Semitic actions: 1,406 of all references to anti-Semitism were about rhetoric, and 525 instances were about actions.
- When media outlets referenced anti-Semitic rhetoric, they were far more likely to be referencing rhetoric from the left than from the right, with 73% of all references to anti-Semitic rhetoric being attributed to the left.
- References to “anti-Semitic” comments from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) outnumbered references to “anti-Semitic” comments from President Donald Trump.
- Fox News accounted for 57% of all anti-Semitic rhetoric attributed to the left, but even without Fox, media still referred to rhetoric from the left slightly more than anti-Semitic actions from the right: 37% to 35%, respectively.
The JEI focus groups found that American Jews are very pessimistic about the direction of our country and they are deeply disturbed by the presidency of Donald Trump. The 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville was a defining moment for American Jews, and the imagery of that day has remained a strong memory. The march – which included neo-Nazis carrying signs that said “Jews will not replace us” – struck a deep emotional chord that goes to the core of Jewish concerns about the size and intensity of anti-Semitic movements. Participants were devastated and near tears when shown video of the march. When shown video of Trump’s public remarks stating there were “very fine people on both sides,” participants were outraged that he could possibly make such comments, and they felt this revealed his true character as a craven politician who will appeal to anybody – including dangerous anti-Semites – if he thinks it is politically expedient or advantageous.
Additional key findings include:
- Participants strongly felt that anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise in America, and a central reason is Trump’s emboldening of extremists who were operating below the surface prior to his candidacy and presidency.
- People cited images of swastikas, the increase in security at Jewish venues, and a president making public appeals to white nationalists for political gain as the primary drivers of their heightened concerns over anti-Semitism.
- Participants remembered the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, and most of them felt that Trump’s policies and comments were responsible for the shooting because he has intentionally sent signals to white nationalists (similar to the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville) that gave them license and confidence to commit acts of violence. They specifically recall the killer citing Jewish support for immigrants as his rationale for targeting the synagogue.
- Participants were familiar with Trump’s ties with the far-right and anti-Semites, going back to the 2016 campaign. They found Trump campaign materials with a Star of David, piles of money, and Hillary Clinton to be a blatant appeal to anti-Semites.
- Participants expressed that someone can be both critical of Israel and pro-Israel, and criticism of Israel should not be equated with anti-Semitism.
- The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement was not well-known, but a handful of participants were familiar with it.
- Most participants were somewhat familiar with Rep. Ilhan Omar, but they did not know a great deal about her. When introduced to Omar’s “it’s all about the Benjamins, Baby” tweet, they were offended and felt it was an anti-Semitic trope. After hearing Omar’s apology, most participants felt it was sincere and appropriately contrite. While participants were bothered by Omar’s comments in February 2019, they also overwhelmingly said that it paled in comparison to Trump’s dangerous rhetoric and the actions of white supremacists and right-wing anti-Semites.
- Trump’s statements that Jews who vote for Democrats “show either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty” were seen by participants as emblematic of his entire approach that invokes anti-Semitic tropes to stir up his base.
- Participants found it preposterous to suggest that Omar’s comments were comparable to the anti-Semitism coming from Trump and white nationalists.
We hope you find these studies helpful and informative. For more information, please contact JDCA at [email protected].