Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Danger of Trump's "False Flag" Claim

I have a new column in Ha'aretz talking about the dangerous antisemitism latent in President Trump's insinuation that at least some of the antisemitic attacks that have raked Jewish Community Centers are plants designed to make him and his allies look bad. These claims are not just a Trump special -- we've seen them start to percolate amongst other mainstream Republicans too, like Mike Huckabee and Anthony Scaramucci.

The column also examines why many Jews and Jewish organizations have been loathe to call out this form of antisemitism. Part of it may be due to Trump's putative "pro-Israel" stance giving a "get-out-of-antisemitism-free" card. But part of it seems to be a strange (and inconsistent) insistence that antisemitism is about more than malign hearts or unadorned hostility towards each and every Jew. As I write:
The assumption seems to be that unless Trump is anti-Semitic in every case – an actual reincarnation of Hitler or Himmler – he can’t be anti-Semitic in any case. This is a silly fallacy. The fact of the matter is that anti-Semitism rarely comes unadorned as the pure, open, unvarnished, abject hatred of each and every Jew in any and all contexts. It always has its caveats, its “good Jews” – whether they be the anti-Zionists willing to denounce Israel, the Zionists willing to leave “our” country and move to Israel, the Orthodox who don’t threaten good conservative social values or the Reform who embody secular enlightenment ones.
Anti-Semitism is not primarily about malign hearts or exclusive friend groups – it’s a set of conditions that impede the full and equal participation of Jews in political and social circles. When Donald suggests that when Jews cry “anti-Semitism” it’s really a plot to discredit him and his, it doesn’t matter what his motives are – the effect is to render Jews a little more suspicious, a little more alien, a little less trustworthy, and a little less worthy of our solidarity and support. And in this way, the most ancient and dangerous anti-Semitic canards are slowly but surely resurrected in the American psyche.
Incidentally, my eyeball appraisal of the Twitter response is about 80% positive, 15% "MAGA!", and 5% "well in 1954 there was this thing called the Lavon Affair between Israel and Egypt and that's totally germane to who's responsible for attacks on JCCs in America 63 years later."

No comments: