In the aftermath of the deadliest anti-Semitic shooting in American history in Pittsburgh on Saturday, the media have leapt to push the narrative that President Trump is somehow responsible. That’s a tough narrative to sell, given that the shooter was outspokenly anti-Trump – he was enraged at Trump for being too pro-Semitic, in fact. The shooter tweeted, “There is no #MAGA, as long as there is a kike infestation.” Trump has, in fact, been historically pro-Israel – by far the most pro-Israel president in American history – and has spoken in glowing terms about Jews and in harsh terms against anti-Semitism. His statement after the shooting was extraordinarily strong:
Anti-Semitism and the widespread persecution of Jews represents one of the ugliest and darkest features in human history. Anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears.
This was far stronger than the tepid, milquetoast rhetoric of President Obama, who simply lumped in Jew-hatred with all other types of hatred, as though all hatreds are the same or spring from a similar place:
This would be the same Obama who once labeled an anti-Semitic attack on a kosher French supermarket “random.”
So, what’s the evidence that Trump should be linked to the Pittsburgh shooting? Presumably, that Trump winked at the alt-right during the 2016 campaign and the 2017 Charlottesville killing. That’s at least the case made by Julia Ioffe, among others, in The Washington Post.
Now, Trump did that. I remember. I was there. I was the leading target of the alt-right that Trump refused to condemn during the campaign, according to the Anti-Defamation League; Trump studiously avoided slamming those who, in anti-Semitic fashion, attacked Leftist journalist Julia Ioffe, who wrote a piece about Melania he didn’t like. This led Ioffe to reason that Trump’s rhetoric was responsible for the shooting.
Of course, Ioffe also said “gentiles” shouldn’t comment on the situation, and then blamed Jews who voted for Trump:
Presumably, according to Ioffe, Jews who voted for Trump traded his Jerusalem position for the rhetoric that caused the shooting. This is purely despicable stuff.
But let’s parse all of this, because several things can be true at once.
1. Trump’s 2016-2017 Winking At The Alt-Right Was Disgusting. Trump did wink at the alt-right throughout his campaign, from his unwillingness to condemn David Duke on CNN to his unwillingness to condemn alt-right attacks on Ioffe to his campaign chief strategist, Steve Bannon, bragging about turning Breitbart News into a gathering place for the alt-right. I know this – I was heavily targeted by the alt-right for my lack of Trump support during the 2016 campaign (the most heavily targeted Jewish journalist in America, by the ADL’s measure). Trump’s statements in the hours following the Charlottesville alt-right march provided aid and comfort to white supremacists. Trump isn’t a white supremacist or an anti-Semite – he just has a pathological aversion to criticizing anyone who says anything nice about him (see Putin, Vladimir and Kim Jung Un).
2. White Supremacism Is Not Alt-Right MAGA. White supremacism and attendant anti-Semitism long predate Trump’s existence on the political scene. The alt-right is a fairly recent development. White supremacists shooting up Jewish targets aren’t. In 1999, a white supremacist drove past the high school I later attended, scoping it for a shooting; he went on to shoot up the West Valley JCC. That same year, six Orthodox Jews were shot in Chicago, as was a black man, as were several Asians, by a white supremacist. White supremacists have been a fringe part of America for decades. Trump had no hand in that.
3. Trump Has Separated From The Alt-Right In Dramatic Ways, And It’s Made Them Angry. Trump is not the avatar for the alt-right. The alt-right may have been warm on Trump during the 2016 campaign, but they’ve been tossed out of the White House on their ear over the course of Trump’s administration. Members of the alt-right are despondent about this. They believed Trump would implement their political agenda while mirroring their worldview. He didn’t, and he doesn’t. Read their websites if you don’t believe me.
4. Flirting With Anti-Semites Is Common On Both Sides Of The Aisle. While the Left condemns Trump’s old flirtation with the alt-right, the mainstream Democratic Party continues to welcome anti-Semites with open arms. Bill Clinton appeared onstage with Louis Farrakhan just weeks ago. Linda Sarsour introduced Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) at a recent rally. Keith Ellison nearly became Democratic National Committee chair. Members of the Democratic Party routinely hobnob with Jew-haters. Anti-Semitism is actually far more at home in the halls of power of the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, to the discomfort of members of the media who have been telling the opposite story.
5. Trump’s Policies Have Been Wildly Pro-Jewish. President Trump’s pro-Israel policy is the strongest in the history of the country. Not only did Trump move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, he has cut off aid to the anti-Semitic, terror-supporting Palestinian Authority, and fought the Obama administration’s Iran deal tooth and nail. He has never kowtowed to the radical Muslim world’s anti-Semitic biases in the way his predecessors did. And Trump’s warmth toward the Jewish community in the United States has been obvious.
6. If We’re Going To Talk About Presidents Responsible For Jewish Deaths, Trump Comes Last On The List. As I’ve been saying for years, it is unfair to blame politicians for violence unless they are calling for that violence. With that said, Trump should never have winked at the alt-right, nor should he spend his days fulminating about the press as the “enemy of the people” (ripping them for their obvious and ridiculous bias is fair game, of course). But if we’re now going to start blaming presidents for violence against Jews, Trump comes in last on the list. President Obama’s entire foreign policy in the Middle East was built around the idea that Israel had to be contained, and that Israel had to be forced to make concessions to its terrorist enemies.
It’s fair to criticize President Trump’s rhetoric. It’s necessary to do so. I’ve done so continuously for years, with special focus on his alt-right associations in 2015-2017. But to blame him for a terrorist attack on a synagogue is not only inaccurate, it’s partisan hackery at its finest – and a blatant attempt to twist an evil event into a club with which to beat Trump.