President Donald Trump last week finally condemned anti-Semitism. On Tuesday, Trump said that "Anti-Semitism is horrible and it's going to stop, and it has to stop. The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and our Jewish community centers are horrible, are painful and they are a reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."
Those are the right words. But Andrew Silow-Carroll asks why it took the Trump administration five tries to get it right.
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, called Trump's statement "a pathetic asterisk of condescension ... When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that's when we'll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment."
This exchange between Goldstein and Trump apologist Kayleigh McEnany has to be seen to be believed:
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield captured my ambivalence: "I read President Trump's words regarding the undeniable uptick in anti-Semitic threats and attacks - including yesterday's vandalism of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis - with mixed emotions. Part of me is heartened by the sentiment, and part of me screams, 'Thank you, Capt. Obvious!' " Hirschfield continued:
It doesn't take a great deal of moral courage to denounce bomb threats against community centers and defacing graves, after all. The fact is, that while there has been an uptick in anti-Semitic acts, they remain both highly aberrant, and overwhelmingly deplored by the general community. That's the good news, and the reason why, as disturbing as these actions are, people should not be freaking out. But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a response. It means that the response needs to be more than, "Anti-Semitism is bad."
After repeatedly ducking the issue, after running a campaign using anti-Semitic tropes, after appointing Steve Bannon senior White House adviser, and after appointing an advisor who wears a Nazi medal, we have a right to wonder if Trump really meant or understood what he said and what actions Trump will take in furtherance of his overdue statement.
Trump has not yet earned the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, the man who never met a thought he didn't tweet has yet to tweet a condemnation of anti-Semitism. But Trump did describe himself as "the least anti-Semitic person you're going to meet in your entire life." Chemi Shalev begs to differ.
Republicans are raving about U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley's speech. It seems that the people who for so long thought that history began on Jan. 20, 2009 now think that history began on January 20, 2017. Yes, Haley did condemn the U.N. for anti-Israel bias. That's good. But it's nothing new.
President Barack Obama's first U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, spoke of the "anti-Israel crap" at the U.N. Hannah Rosenthal, President Obama's first anti-Semitism envoy, noted in 2010 that "Clearly Israel is being held to a different standard [at the U.N.] and that means it has crossed the line from anti-Israel policy to profound anti-Semitism."
And of course President Obama's last U.N. ambassador, Samantha Power, said just two months ago that "the simple truth is that for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations...such unequal treatment not only hurts Israel, it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself."
Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee. Perez won on the second ballot. I listened in on a conference call Perez had with Jewish community leaders in December; this description is accurate.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) said after the call that "As someone who's been involved in the Jewish community for a long time, the fact that someone named Tom Perez is able to sum up, in an emotional way, the connection of the Jewish community to the Democratic Party, and the reason that being involved in the Democratic Party is because of the values that the community holds dear, resonates and says a lot."
I almost feel sorry for our Republican friends, who were ready to attack the Democrats for electing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). One would expect that intellectual honesty would compel them to praise the Democratic Party for electing a DNC chair with an unblemished record on Israel, but one would be expecting too much. The GOP, after all, is the party that actually did elect Donald Trump.
Maybe our Republican friends would do better to focus on what Trump, the actual leader of their party and the president of the United States, has done and said in the past 30 days.
Urge your senators to vote against David Friedman. Friedman is Trump's choice for U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Last week, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) noted that:
Five former ambassadors under Republican and Democratic presidents have deemed [Friedman] unsuitable for confirmation, citing his "extreme, radical positions"... Worse, unlike his predecessors, Friedman lacks diplomatic experience; his major credential appears to be handling legal work for Trump's casinos.
For those of you keeping score at home. Check out Trump's record on Israel thus far.
Republicans have a problem with flags. Last week, attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference were pranked into waving Russian Trump flags. Less funny, and less excusable, Vice President Pence tweeted about his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition with images of Nicaragua's flag, not Israel's (click on either tweet to see the full image).