President Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism and nod to the Holocaust in his 2019 State of the Union address drew rapid praise from some corners of the Jewish community. But Jewish history offers a cautionary tale to those who take Trump’s rhetoric at face value.
Tablet Magazine senior writer Yair Rosenberg explains why President Trump can be seen as both a philosemite and an antisemite. Rosenberg uses examples from Trump's pre-presidential past, as well as the rhetoric he currently uses to address American Jews. As Rosenberg sees it, “Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable.”
Since at least the 1930s, American conservatives have tried to police Jewish identity, by attacking the Jewish credentials of anti-fascist, ‘subversive’ and ‘disloyal’ Jews – all the while declaring they ‘love Jews’. When politicians or right-wing influencers declare their love for Jews while deliberating exploiting divisions that affect Jews – singling out Jews who don’t deserve protection, capitalizing on conflict between Jews and other groups, and casually spinning out anti-Semitic tropes – we should ask ourselves whether what they really love is not Jews per se, but our usefulness to them as symbols.
Trump accepts anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews (they’re greedy, good with money, control lots of stuff, only look out for their own, etc.), but that he views these things as positive. This sort of outlook can unfortunately be easily manipulated and used to turn people against Jews