Donald Trump’s first visit to the UK last year was met with extraordinary protests, and not just in terms of their size. Amidst the thousands of people on London’s streets was a bloc of over 100 Jews, marching as one in a display of unprecedented unity. Despite differing politics and religious observance, we came together to sing songs in Hebrew, brandish placards in English and Yiddish and pray together at a Kabbalat Shabbat service held at the end of the day.
We were motivated to overcome our differences because we recognised the unprecedented threat that Trump posed, both to Jews and to other minorities. The antisemitism he engaged in was unlike anything seen in American politics for decades, and the vitriol he reserved for other minorities was even worse. As Jews we know better than most what it means when a political leader refers to people as “animals” and implies an entire religion is a fifth column.
As clear as the danger posed by Trump’s rhetoric was then, it is tragically even clearer now. Last week saw the second synagogue shooting of Trump’s presidency, the nadir of the antisemitic hate crimes that have increased dramatically under his watch.
There is no doubt that these atrocities have come about because Trump has legitimised the politics that inspired them. The Pittsburgh and Poway shooters – along with their counterpart in Christchurch – all subscribed to the same conspiracy theory that Jews are trying to destroy the white population by enabling mass migration to the west. This is the viewpoint Trump gave credence to when he implied George Soros was funding a caravan of refugees travelling towards the United States, and when he labelled as “very fine people” the extremists who marched through Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”. They are who he is talking to when he chants “America First”.
The normalisation of this far-right discourse is having a dangerous effect far beyond America’s borders. This month alone has seen an MP and a government advisor regurgitating antisemitic tropes about ‘cultural Marxism’ and a “Soros empire”, while it emerged at the trial of a far-right terrorist that he had considered planning an attack on a synagogue.
The necessity of standing against this rhetoric is obvious, yet our government is instead choosing to condone it with a state visit. Allowing Trump to parade along The Mall in a gilded carriage and to speak in parliament sends a message that his politics are worth celebrating, when they are actively putting so many at risk. It is hard to fathom how any so-called ‘special relationship’ could be considered more important than the protection and inclusion of minorities.
We need to send a clear message that this decision is intolerable, and that Trump’s bigotry has no place in the UK. There are some who may believe that staying quiet will keep us safer than rocking the boat, but this will only let the problem fester. If we care about our safety, and about ensuring the safety of minorities everywhere, then we must march loudly and proudly as Jews against Trump’s state visit in June.