Should Jews vote for Donald Trump? I suppose one can ask the same question of Muslims, immigrants, Mexicans, African-Americans, women, Americans, Democrats or even Republicans, but last week the question came up for Jews as it never has before in any presidential election. Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman said that "any man who declines to renounce the affections of the KKK and David Duke should not be trusted to lead America. Ever."
By now, most of you know about the anti-Semitic tweet that Trump sent, altered and refuses to apologize for. Last week, Highland Park's Dana Schwartz wrote an article that every Jew even thinking of voting for Trump should read. She dismantles almost every excuse from the Trump camp, including one so absurd that I would not believe anyone would make in real life except that I've heard it myself: Trump has a Jewish son-in-law and granddaughter, so he can't be anti-Semitic (yes, some of his best friends...).
The one excuse she didn't refute, because Trump made it after her article was written, was that Disney used a similar star for Frozen. Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, said, "Just so we're clear, [Trump's] image originated with a white supremacist--not Disney animators in Burbank." And, of course, unlike the Disney image, Trump's Jewish star was on a bed of money. Those distinctions are lost on some of Trump's apologists, but as Bethany Mandel writes in response to Trump's Frozen tweet, Trump's bigoted supporters definitely get the message.
The Anti-Defamation League said that "Donald Trump should stop playing the blame game and accept that his campaign tweeted an image with obvious anti-Semitic overtones and that, reportedly, was lifted from a white supremacist website. It's long past time for Trump to unequivocally reject the hate-filled extremists orbiting around his campaign and take a stand against anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate."
Is Trump anti-Semitic? People close to him say he's not. Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt says that Trump is an "inadvertent anti-Semite" -- someone who "while not a hater of Jews, has internalized some of the most pernicious stereotypes about Jews."
Time and time again, Trump has condoned and refused to condemn anti-Semitism in his campaign and among his supporters. Is this the America we want to live in? You don't have to read Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (but you should) to know what could happen if a president who condones anti-Semitism is elected.
Trump praised Saddam Hussein. Trump said Saddam was a "bad guy," but he was good at killing terrorists. In fact, Saddam personally bankrolled Palestinian terrorism against Israel civilians. As Yair Rosenberg wrote:
That Trump would whitewash the record of a brutal dictator like Hussein--who notoriously gassed his own people, murdering thousands of Kurds--should not surprise. After all, Trump has also lavished praise on other vicious authoritarians, from Russia's Vladimir Putin to North Korea's Kim Jong-un. What would truly be surprising is if any serious person continues to claim that Trump is a "pro-Israel candidate" after he excused and erased an ugly history of terrorism against the Jewish state's population.
Abner Mikva passed away last week. I have a confession to make: When I was in middle school, inspired by a paperback copy of Barry Goldwater's "The Conscience of a Conservative"(purchased at a library used book sale), the first campaign I worked on was Sam Young's re-election campaign. His opponent was Abner Mikva. Two years later, I came around and supported Mikva. I still have my "Mikva!" button.
The 10th District was just as close then as it is now, but Mikva won by fighting hard for a pro-Israel liberal agenda, not by moderating his beliefs. Who knows how many more people would be alive today if his bill to ban the sale, manufacture and distribution of handguns had passed. President Obama knew him too. May his memory be for a blessing.