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Trumpeting their views
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Trumpeting their views

Readers sound off on my criticism of the president

Gabe Kahn is the editor of The New Jersey Jewish News.

Let no one say that the Jews have abandoned Donald Trump. 

I can personally attest to that, as I drew a fair amount of their ire for my previous column, “White supremacists emboldened by the president” (Aug.  22), in which I wondered how much longer there would be any Jews in Trump’s corner after his disappointing and delayed response to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. 

I was a little taken aback by my critics’ reactions. It’s not that I haven’t received kind words for the piece — I have — or that my fragile ego can’t handle criticism — I’ve had my share (constructive, of course) from my better half — but I was surprised at how passionately some of our readers were willing to defend the president on his relative equivalency of white supremacists and their opponents. 

A reader from Tinton Falls writes: (all letters edited for space) Nazis and white supremacists, relatively small marginalized groups, are low-hanging fruit that take no insight, courage, or honesty to bash.

In that case, why did Trump fail to do so in his initial statement and why did it take more than 48 hours for a condemnation, which he subsequently muddied up? 

Another reader, this one from Marlboro, opened his letter as follows: 

[Your column] distorts President Trump’s statements and omits the overriding facts which support my position… Trump is the only sitting U.S. president to go to the Kotel; none of the previous presidents respected the unification of Jerusalem. 

The president should be applauded for showing up at the Western Wall, but that does not absolve him of lack of moral leadership at home. Plus, his promises on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem appear stalled and he declined to refer to the holy city as the capital of Israel during his visit in May.

Using the serious issue of neo-Nazism as a cheap political tool (blaming Trump) rather than working toward a serious response is the worst kind of anti-Semitism.

In other words, in calling out someone who refused to call out anti-Semitism, the reader is calling me anti-Semitic. Interesting logic.

Your Garden State of Mind was a thinly veiled diatribe of orchestrated leftist political attacks intended to smear the president.

Let’s not forget that a number of key Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, criticized the president’s response to Charlottesville. As did the Republican Jewish Coalition, “calling upon President Trump to provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism.”

This next letter came from a reader in Orefield, Pa.: 

Mr. Trump clearly and explicitly condemned the White Nationalist group in Charlottesville at least three times, but I guess it didn’t happen at exactly the speed or timing demanded by his near-hysterical media critics.

No, it did not. And it was troubling that the president needed to be prodded to denounce people who accessorize with swastikas.

What he also actually said, namely that there was violence on both sides (including from a non-permitted aggressive group of Leftist “Antifa” demonstrators which actually initiated the violence), and that some of the original (permitted) demonstrators were there simply to protest the taking down of Robert E. Lee’s statue and were good law-abiding citizens, was all true. 

Yes, in some instances Antifa initiated the violence, damaging their cause. But to say that the demonstrators protesting the removal of the statue should not be lumped in with the neo-Nazis marching next to them? That’s the argument of a court-appointed lawyer representing a defendant charged with accessory to murder.

Why aren’t you mentioning all the much larger and more important sources of American anti-Semitism these days, like virulently bigoted but prominent “leaders” on the Democrat Left like Linda Sarsour, or show concern about much more violence and intolerance from leftist groups like Antifa or Black Lives Matter? 

First, let’s not create a false dichotomy between groups like Black Lives Matter — covered by NJJN for their pro-BDS/anti-Israel biases — and neo-Nazis. Despite my disagreements with some tenets of the movement, the mission of Black Lives Matter is to end discrimination against African-Americans. The mission of white supremacists is to ensure that blacks, as well as Jews, LGBTQ, immigrants, and a whole slew of other minorities, be considered second-class citizens, at best.

Second, I suggest you check njjewishnews.com before accusing us of ignoring racists like Sarsour.

I’m getting snippy so I should probably move on to a new letter, this one coming from Port St. Lucie, Fla.: 

The president spoke against David Duke, etc. several times during the past several years.

That’s true. But other times, such as in February 2016 when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked the then-presidential candidate if he would comply with the wishes of the ADL by condemning Duke and declaring that he did not want his or the KKK’s support, Trump’s responses included:

“I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.” Pleading ignorance, though he had spoken of Duke in the past, and insisting it would be “very unfair” to condemn groups “that are totally fine” without checking into them. Which sounds like the president’s Charlottesville response that there may be people in the KKK who are “fine,” and that he didn’t want to respond quickly “for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts.” This is his modus operandi when confronted with the racist behavior of his supporters: profess ignorance and defer judgment in the interest of protecting the innocent. 

If the alt-left did not show up without a permit, dressed and armed for a fight…

I let this go once, but please stop using the “permit” argument. The Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising were breaking the law, whereas the Germans lawfully murdered them with the full backing of the government. This is not a legal matter but a moral one.

The following comes from a reader in Elizabeth:

You seem afraid that a few hundred neo-Nazis/KKK at Charlottesville will take over the world.

Considering the history of our people, I’d say we’re entitled. And not only has there been a rash of racist behavior in the last year, but the ADL has reported 34 anti-Semitic incidents across the country since the rally, including flyers with anti-Semitic and racist propaganda posted around Asbury Park last week.

I’ll close with my personal favorite:

With your horrible bias you are making Jews a mockery of themselves. Please stop. Either report the news or become a window cleaner.

Guess I missed my calling. 

And despite the back-and-forth here, please keep the letters coming; that’s how democracy works.

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