Oscar Hammerstein II wrote in 1949, when Donald Trump was only 3, that racism isn’t born in a person, it is learned later on. Young Donald was a quick study.
If Trump’s political career can be summed up in a single phrase it is from the first line of a song Hammerstein wrote with Richard Rogers for South Pacific, “hate and fear.”
Trump’s message to his base is “I hate all the people you hate,” especially “people whose skin is a diff’rent shade” or speak a different language.
Like the infamous State Department official Breckinridge Long during the Nazi era, his goal is to keep out undesirables. The message was as simple then as now:
Go home, we don’t want you and we don’t care what fate awaits you there. You’re not welcome in my white Christian country. Our resources are over-burdened, there’s not enough room for more refugees, many of whom were likely to be spies and subversives and thus a threat to our national security.
For both Long and Trump – and others like them — their mission was to erect obstacles, usually political but also physical, to delay, discourage and prevent refugees from entering the United States. Humanitarian concerns were of no concern.
For assistant secretary of state Long, the most undesirable of all were the Jews of Europe. For President Trump they’re Latinos from south of the border, many fleeing Central American violence. Both seem undeterred by the thought of children being separated from their parents, even permanently, and sent no-one-knows-where.
Family separation should alarm everyone, particularly Jews, even the well-to-do Republican ones who attended last week’s meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas. Instead, they cheered and chanted “four more years” for the man who purged the Department of Homeland Security for not being aggressive enough in taking refugee children, putting them in wire cages and losing track of them.
Most Jews in this country today are the children and grandchildren of immigrants who arrived here over the last 140 years. That includes most of the affluent ones at the at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas owned by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the son of immigrants, and his wife, Miriam, a naturalized citizen.
Adelson is the principle benefactor of the RJC as well as the Republican Party ($120 million last year), Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump bragged to the 1,500 Jews how much he’d done for Israel and “your prime minister.” The audience was apparently too besotted being in the presence of the self-declared everyone’s “all-time favorite president” to understand they’d just been accused either of dual loyalty or not being real Americans.
He told them many Democrats in Congress “aren’t fighting for Israel, and their “radical agenda” “could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.” “Yourselves,” in other words, you foreigners and your fellow Israelis.
No one rose to say, “I am an American, too.” The American Jewish Committee said statements like Trump’s “feed bigotry.” The ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt said Trump’s reference “leads people to believe Jews aren’t loyal Americans.”
Trump’s dual-loyalty implication is “the same anti-Semitic trope for which congresswoman [Ilhan] Omar [D-Minnesota] has been criticized,” Mika Brzezinski said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
A tweet quoted in Haaretz noted, “Ilhan Omar was labeled an anti-Semite for merely suggesting what Trump said out loud.”
None of Trump’s cheering Jewish donors seem troubled by his use of Nazi-era slogans to define his presidency, like “America First” or “fake news,” which is a translation of “Lugenpresse,” a Nazi slur that means “lying press” or “enemy propaganda” and is still used by neo-Nazis and right-wing groups. He also embraced Josef Stalin’s term the press, the “enemy of the people.”
He borrowed from the Nazis and the Soviets another favorite anti-Semitic slur, “globalist,” used interchangeably with “international bankers.” And when he employs that anti-Semitic imagery it often includes pictures of Jews like Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, philanthropist George Soros, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Bankenfein, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and billionaire Tom Steyer.
Trump’s presidential campaign was marked by anti-Semitic imagery and references. A tweet showing a picture of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of $100 bills and a six-pointed star and the words “Most Corrupt Candidate.”
More recently he has accused Soros, a Holocaust survivor, of financing “caravans” of Latin American refugees “invading” our southern border.
Trump is defined not by what he believes or what he stands for but what he hates. It began well before he came down the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015 to announce his candidacy. (Remember his birtherism campaign to delegitimize the first African-American president?) But that is when he put it on the national agenda with his messages of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia.
Trump’s attempt to keep non-white immigrants – he calls them “animals” – from seeking asylum under US law was blocked by a federal judge this week.
Trump doesn’t hate all immigrants. He married two and brought over his in-laws and got them quick citizenship. His mother was an immigrant (from Scotland) and he is confused about his father’s status. At first he said Fred Trump had been born in Germany and then in Brooklyn; it was actually the Bronx. Grandfather Friedrich Trump was born in Bavaria. Donald used to lie about that, too. In The Art of the Deal, he said his father came to America as a boy from his native Sweden.
This week Trump dumped his homeland secretary because she wasn’t harsh enough on immigrants, asylum seekers and family separation.
Make no mistake, having Jewish grandchildren does not immunize anyone from being an anti-Semite.
Maybe “before it’s too late, before (they)are 6 or 7 or 8,” they will be taught NOT to “hate all the people their relatives hate.”