Liran Kapoano, who considers himself a conservative Republican, became so disgusted with his party’s presumptive presidential nominee that he launched a social media campaign urging fellow Republicans to vote for his presumptive Democratic opponent.
“It only took one week for me to get my first death threat,” said the East Brunswick resident regarding the onslaught of anti-Semitic messages he has received from hate groups after launching GO(P) With Her, urging other Republicans to support Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.
“We were just trying to get the word out and gain support on Twitter and Facebook and literally we were hit overnight,” he said. “It was surprising how quickly it happened.”
Bethany Mandel, a conservative freelance writer whose work appears in national publications, has also criticized Trump. The Highland Park resident said she has been called “a slimy Jewess” and was told she “deserves the oven,” among other threatening insults.
They are among a prominent group of Jewish Trump critics and news commentators who have been targeted by hate groups. Included are CNN’s Jake Tapper, former Commentary editor John Podhoretz, and author Ben Shapiro. New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman was forced to close his Twitter account following a barrage of threatening hate messages.
When journalist Julia Ioffe published an unflattering profile of Trump’s wife, Melania, in GQ magazine she was hit with so many anti-Semitic insults and death threats she filed a police report in Washington. Melania later said Ioffe “provoked” her critics and that she and her husband did not control the hate groups.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt has urged Trump to denounce the anti-Semitic actions by some of his supporters, stating, “The onus is now on Donald Trump to make unequivocally clear he rejects those sentiments and that there is no room for anti-Semitism in his campaign and in society.”
Attempts by NJJN to reach the Republican Jewish Coalition for comment were unsuccessful.
However, Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Edison, founder of the Rabbi for Trump group supporting the candidate because he believes he is the stronger supporter of Israel, contended that Trump has disavowed the haters, including white supremacist David Duke.
“How many times does he have to say the same thing about David Duke?” asked Rosenberg, who was born in a displaced persons’ camp in Germany to Holocaust survivors. “He doesn’t support them and he is not asking them for their support and he doesn’t want their support. I don’t think he’s Hitler and I don’t think he’s a fascist. I think he’s a politician with a lot to learn, which he hopefully will learn if and when he becomes president.”
Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that many find objectionable are “all showmanship,” said Rosenberg. “He knows what he’s doing and he gets lots of free press for doing it.”
For Kapoano, what he terms the anti-Semitism brought out by the campaign only adds to his disillusionment with the Republican candidate, who, he said he believes, does not stand with the GOP on the issues and is woefully lacking in credentials.
“There’s no place in the public discourse for this,” he told NJJN. “I think we’re at a very scary moment in the U.S. If we get to a place in this country where I can’t voice a political opinion on Facebook or Twitter without being inundated with anti-Semitic threats, I might as well pack up my home and family and move to Israel — because we have lost.”
While Kapoano doesn’t think Trump or the majority of his supporters are anti-Semitic, he believes his rhetoric against Muslims, Mexicans, and others attracts people he calls “Trump trolls.”
“He definitely sees the world in racial terms and we’re just lucky he sees us as one of the good people,” Kapoano said.
What is most troubling for Kapoano is that although not all of the members of his group are Jewish, hate group members have assumed they are.
On its website, gopwithher.com, the group notes, “If we are against Trump, we must be Jews. And in their minds, being Jews means we are anti-American, internationalist, dual-loyalty, Protocols of the Elders of Zion-following, Fifth column, Jewish banker, Rothschild disciple saboteurs.”
Kapoano, who runs an Internet marketing company and advocates for Israel, is no stranger to controversy. He helped launch Facebook groups in support of actress Scarlett Johansson and singer Neil Young when they were targeted by the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign.
While a student at Rutgers University, Kapoano was a founder and president of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious pro-Israel Scarlet Blue and White.
Although those activities generated numerous nasty responses, he said, “No one ever threatened me with hanging or physical violence, so it’s really strange how aggressive these people are now.”
Mandel is also a Rutgers graduate who was honored last month by Rutgers Hillel with its Young Alumni Award. She previously was a writer for the conservative Heritage Foundation and Commentary Magazine.
She said the threats against her began in the early fall and were the impetus behind her purchasing a gun, although as a Second Amendment proponent she likely would have purchased one at some point in the future.
“This provided the motivation to get my act together and do all the paperwork to finally do this,” she told NJJN.
She also wrote in the Forward that she received death threats on her private Facebook account, which were reported to the police.
“I have blocked most of them on Twitter,” she said of many of the haters. “A handful I’ve given to law enforcement, but there’s nothing they can do because they’re not explicit. Photo-shopping my face onto some Holocaust picture is not the same as coming and saying, ‘I’ll kill you.’”
Mandel has called Trump out on his objectifying of women and his lack of Republican credentials, but has received very little pushback from Republicans, many of whom “are on the same wavelength.”
“He’s not a Republican,” said Mandel. “He’s donated to Hillary. He’s to the left of Bernie Sanders on health care and is the ultimate flip-flopper.”
Unless something “miraculous” happens and a third-party candidate emerges, Mandel plans to skip voting for president, although she will cast a ballot for other Republican candidates. She advises others to do the same “because if we lose the House, Senate, and Supreme Court, we as Republicans really lose.”
However, in the unlikely scenario that the race gets close in blue-state New Jersey, Mandel said, she would vote for Clinton to ensure Trump is not elected.
Mandel’s take on the whole situation is that “it is a reminder that wherever we are and whatever year it is, hatred never goes away.”
Kapoano, who has voted consistently Republican over the last 12 years, feels so strongly about defeating Trump, he not only plans to vote for Clinton, but has also volunteered to work on her campaign. He plans on casting votes for other Republican candidates, and predicts after Trump receives the nomination other disgruntled Republicans will cross party lines to vote for the former secretary of state.
“We want our party back, and the only way to do that is for Trump to lose in a landslide,” Kapoano said.
“If he loses by a small margin, he or some other clone just like him will be back in four years saying bad things about Muslims and Mexicans because they’ll see that sort of thing works.
“Even worse, when people see success they try to emulate it, so Dems might try to throw up a similar candidate on the Left,” said Kapoano. “All we’ll have are candidates who appeal to lunatics. We effectively won’t have a two-party system.”