- He asked the attendees "How did you support President Obama, how did you support the Democrats?"
- He also told them to explain his allegedly successful tariff policy "your people" who "don’t like tariffs."
- An RJC twitter account spoke of one speaker's "Jew heritage" -- apparently favorably.
This is not even the first time that Trump has told American Jews that Israel -- not America -- is "your" country. And given that we just spent however many weeks obsessing over "allegiance" and "Benjamins" -- indeed, given that groups like the RJC have insisted that we obsess over "allegiance" and "Benjamins" -- this seems like a big deal.
And to be fair, Jewish groups have not been silent. The AJC, ADL, and Israel Policy Forum all issued statements criticizing the President. The AJC was one of the first off the blocks, saying "the Prime Minister of Israel is the leader of his (or her) country, not ours. Statements to the contrary, from staunch friends or harsh critics, feed bigotry."). ADL chief Jonathan Greenblatt criticized Trump for language "that leads people to believe Jews aren’t loyal Americans." The Orthodox group Torah Trumps Hate blasted "this antisemitic trope spewed by the president."
Individual Jewish figures also took note. Yair Rosenberg accused Trump of going "full dual loyalty". Batya Ungar-Sargon said the President's comments were "straight up anti-Semitic." Abe Foxman called out Trump's "dual loyalty tropes". Rep. Eliot Engel wryly observed that "I somehow doubt the president would say 'your Taoiseach' to a roomful of Irish-Americans."
But there still remains the question -- is this going to become a story?
What I said yesterday, I stand behind today: it is absolutely clear that Jews care about antisemitism of this sort when it comes from Trump or other elected Republicans. We don't give it a pass, we don't shrug it off. My tweet attacking Trump for saying Israel, not America, is my country is at 3,000 likes and counting (possibly my most-liked tweet ever).
Yesterday I said that the problem isn't that Jews don't care when Trump does antisemitic things. It's that nobody else does. We do express our concerns, but they're not amplified. The 1,000 microphones thrust in our face when Omar says "allegiance" disappear when Trump says "your Prime Minister".
Is that going to happen again? Some media sources have picked up on the antisemitism angle as something worth emphasizing. While JTA buried the lede (its current headline is "Trump gets hero’s welcome at Republican Jewish Coalition conference"; the "your country" bit is 9 paragraphs in and described as an "awkward moment"), others shone the spotlight where it belonged.
Haaretz ran the same body text as JTA but reheadlined the story "'Your Prime Minister Netanyahu': Watch Trump's Very Awkward Speech to American Jews" (subtitle: "At Republican Jewish conference, U.S. president mocked refugees, asked crowd to push for tariffs with 'your people' and seemed to suggest all Jews voted Obama"). Allison Kaplan Sommer filed her own piece "Calling Out Omar and Democrats' 'anti-Semitism,' Trump Pulls Jewish Dual Loyalty Trope."
The Times of Israel's story was "Trump tells US Jews that Netanyahu is 'your prime minister' (subtitle: "President also says Democrats would leave Israel 'out there by yourselves' in comments to Republican Jewish group; asks how they could back Obama, apparently referring to all Jews").
Outside the Jewish press, Business Insider wrote "Trump spoke to an audience of American Jews and referred to Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu as 'your prime minister'", and Slate ran with the similar "In Speech to Republican Jews, Trump Refers to Netanyahu as 'Your Prime Minister'".
So that suggests these remarks are getting coverage, and are getting coverage as an antisemitism case. Which is good. Because it should.
But what we haven't seen yet is the sort of secondary reporting that truly defines something becoming a story. Nobody, for example, has pressed the RJC's Matt Brooks or other prominent GOP figures to comment on Trump's remarks, or ask them if they think that Bibi is "their" Prime Minister. There haven't been headlines or stories which take for granted that this is a controversy or a crisis for the GOP and RJC -- nothing has yet run of the form "Trump, RJC on defensive after comments suggesting Jewish 'dual loyalty' to Israel". Nobody is pressing groups like the ADL as to whether they're in contact with the RJC or Trump and if there has been satisfactory progress to walk back the antisemitic valences of what Trump said. Indeed, there isn't yet even the call for an apology, let alone the feverish meta-commentary about what it means that no apology is forthcoming.
That's the big difference between how left and right antisemitism is covered. It isn't that the latter is ignored. It's that Jewish criticisms of the latter aren't amplified; they don't yield the multi-day meta-coverage and the demands for apologies and the calls for comment that requires everyone to take a stand and get placed in awkward and uncomfortable positions.
Some of that is due to Trump's unique property -- he's got so many scandals swirling about him at any given time that no individual one ever seems to stick for more than a half-second.
But this is clearly more than just a Trump phenomenon. And I'm not sure how to fix it. The claim is often said that we, the Jewish people, can't "let" this sort of unequal coverage and treatment persist. And yes, it's probably true that the Jewish media could do more to keep these stories afloat -- to treat them as stories, not just one-off "awkward moments" that get a day's comment and are forgotten.
Yet the fact is that it strikes me as unlikely that such efforts, even if expended, would gain traction unless they were matched by interest from the non-Jewish press -- and that I very much doubt is forthcoming.
For my part, a huge swath of the non-Jewish interest I've seen in this story centers almost exclusively around the "hypocrisy" charge -- Omar got raked over the coals for "allegiance" while Trump was supposedly met with "crickets." The problem is that (a) hypocrisy is a two-way street -- how many people in the former case were insisting that dual loyalty insinuations weren't a big deal or were just a big ol' smear? -- , (b) depending on the critic, hypocrisy can be an unfair charge insofar as it implies that Jews haven't been trying to call out Trump over this (see above to falsify that), and (c) the time spent on the meta-point of hypocrisy is energy taken away from the primary point of "Trump said something antisemitic," so it ends up diluting the narrative and ironically further entrenches the sense that Trump is taking less fire for a similar sin.
In any event, I may not have a solution, but I know what I want to see. I want to see journalists calling up Brooks and GOP congressmen and White House spokespersons (and the ADL and AJC, and Democratic officials and other liberal anti-racism and anti-antisemitism groups) and getting comment and keeping the story alive. I want headlines that are about the scandal and its continued fallout. I want pained discussions of the difficult position this is placing conservative figures, how they're struggling to grapple with how to forcefully denounce antisemitism while not cutting ties with a President still popular in his party, and what this signals for 2020. I want pieces about the huge blow the RJC conference struck against ongoing GOP efforts to attract Jewish voters -- what should have been a coming-out-party for Trump-supporting Republicans turned into a fiasco.
In short, I want journalists to treat Trump's antisemitism like a story.
We'll see if they do.