Two Absent Jewish Voices on Anti-Semitism
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
In response to the political hoopla and rhetorical venom spewed forth last week following the Charlottesville march, there have been two important Jewish Trump supporters whose responses have been absent. Considering how quickly Netanyahu has been to attack the specter of anti-Semitism wherever and whenever he sees it, his reaction to the neo-Nazi demonstrations, signs, and swastikas on the streets of Virginia was dramatically low key than what would have been expected. Even more obvious was the fact that Netanyahu failed to address Trump’s repeated equivocation and equating of the White supremacists, neo-Nazis, and racists. Bibi’s response lacked the gravitas that one would have expected. It is understandable that the Israeli Government has larger issues with which Netanyahu needs to insure the goodwill of the American President, but one would have expected that Bibi’s reaction to Trumps morally equating the two sides would have brought Netanyahu to a boil.
Similarly, one heard nothing from Sheldon Adelson, one of Trump’s as well as Netanyahu’s biggest supporters. In addition to his right-wing positions in the U.S. and Israel, Adelson’s financial support has been dramatic and significant for both of them. Given Adelson’s easy access to a President who thrives on personal relationships—it is not so farfetched to assume that Adelson was pushing for a more significant shift by the President regarding another issue. This might well explain why Adelson also refrained from addressing the weak response from the President to the neo-Nazi activity. It would appear that if, as has now been reported, Adelson is joining forces with the alt-right’s efforts to oust or at least limit NSC Advisor H.R. McMaster’s involvement in both Israeli and Iranian matters, it might explain why both he and Netanyahu were muted in their responses.
There a number of dangers and problems, however, with this approach:
- It is dubious that Trump will even respond to the entreaties concerning McMaster, from either Netanyahu or Adelson.
- For these two extremely prominent Jewish personalities to fail to be outraged at the President’s weak-hearted response to the neo-Nazi’s demonstration is insulting to Jews throughout the world and politically transparent.
- One is hard pressed to recall a single moment when a major Israeli leader did not respond viscerally to even the smell of anti-Semitism. In fact, Israeli and Jewish leaders have been attacked by other Jews for over-playing the Holocaust and anti-Semitism card, but that has never stopped them.
- Netanyahu may well be concerned about events transpiring in Syria and what they portend for Israel future confrontations with Iran supplied materials and weapon systems; but this cannot excuse a failure to respond to anti-Semitism.
- Like many other reportedly close friends of Trump have been treated in the past, so too Adelson may well be in for a rude awakening when the President ignores his so-called advice for the NSC.
- Bibi and Adelson have had a rockier relationship of late. Adelson, for example, wanted Bibi to stand firm on moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. In addition, it also has become clear that Israeli legal authorities have been questioning Adelson not only about his own financial dealings, but whether he is implicated in some of the possible corruption charges that are being investigated concerning both the Prime Minister and his wife.
While there is no question concerning Trump’s moral equivalency in discussing the events in Charlottesville, there appears to be a similar unwillingness on the part of Netanyahu and Adelson to speak out in unequivocal terms about racism, bigotry, White supremacy, and anti-Semitism.