Trump not to blame for any rise in anti-Semitism

False narrative pinning blame on Trump for rise in anti-Semitism ignores Obama's role in delegitimizing Israel.

Martin Oliner,

Martin Oliner
Martin Oliner
Yoni Kempinski

President Donald Trump’s critics were quick to blame him for an apparent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States.

The folly of those critics was exposed with last month’s arrest of 19-year-old Israeli-American Michael Kaydar, who has been accused of perpetuating the overwhelming majority of some 150 bomb threats to Jewish organizations across the US in the first months of 2017.

Removing those bomb threats from the list of anti-Semitic incidents could demonstrate that, despite all the reports about rising anti-Semitism since Trump took office, the number of anti-Semitic incidents is actually down.

During the administration of former President Barack Obama, more than 7,000 anti-Semitic attacks occurred yet they made no waves in the media. At that time, no one thought to blame Obama for the anti-Semitic incidents in the manner in which Trump is currently being charged.

A case can be made that the anti-Semitic incidents since Obama left office can be attributed not to the arrival of Trump, but to Obama’s departure.

During President Obama’s term in office, his efforts to challenge the Jewish State were always in the headlines. Anti-Semites in America could keep their hatred for Jews beneath the surface because, from their perspective, an anti-Israel (and thus anti-Jewish) position was already being implemented at the highest level.

It should be acknowledged that President Obama has always spoken very warmly about the American Jewish community, with whom he has had close ties since his days as a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s. Indeed, his hagiographer, Atlantic Magazine editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, even called him “the first Jewish president.”

President Obama also provided Israel with unprecedented, guaranteed military aid that cannot be included in Trump’s planned foreign aid cutbacks. It was, in fact, the most generous financial package ever offered to Israel by any president.

Yet, since Israel’s founding, the Jewish state has been a channel for articulating and implementing anti-Semitism. As Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claims, it is not Israel’s policies, but its very existence, that generates anti-Semitism. One can add to that, envy of the Jewish state’s extraordinary success, which was once again demonstrated by the recent sale of Jerusalem-based Mobileye to Intel for $15 billion.

It can be argued that anti Semites perceived Obama’s policies as supportive of their own views. In his June 4, 2009 speech at Cairo University, Obama undermined Israel’s narrative of the Jewish state’s continuous existence based on its connection to its land going back to the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs. He embraced the false Palestinian narrative that Israel exists only because of the Holocaust. He reinforced that false narrative further by going directly from Cairo to the Buchenwald concentration camp rather than to Jerusalem.

Former President Obama also encouraged the development of J Street, an organization that has actively polarized the Jewish community and made Israel into a divisive issue instead of the unifying force it has traditionally been on Capitol Hill. The president tried (and failed) to do the same with Israelis, urging dovish college students in Jerusalem to push their political leaders to take risks on behalf of peace.

The tensions between then President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu were initiated by Mr. Obama in order to demonstrate to the Arab world that the US was no longer “in Israel’s pocket.” Former Obama adviser Dennis Ross observed in his book “Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship from Truman to Obama” that Obama made a deliberate, strategic decision to place daylight between the US and Israel solely to improve his relations with the Muslim world.

Obama also made a strategic decision to seek a deal with Iran, the terror-supporting Islamic republic that, among other provocative acts, sponsors contests for anti-Semitic Holocaust-denying cartoons.

But one could argue that perhaps no action by Obama encouraged anti-Semitism more than his efforts over his eight years in office to demonize Israeli settlements. Those efforts, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly, portrayed Israel as an aggressor, and painted the Jewish state as the primary obstacle to Middle East peace and the sole source of Palestinian misery. That effort culminated in December with the refusal of the Obama administration to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which states that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory (including east Jerusalem) “occupied” since 1967, has no validity, constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, and is a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive Middle East peace.

The resolution demands that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the “occupied territories,” including eastern Jerusalem. It implicitly encourages the International Criminal Court to prosecute Israeli officials as war criminals for advancing construction in Judea and Samaria.

The most harmful impact of the resolution is the provision that, “Calls upon all states to distinguish, in their relevant details, between the area of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

It is noteworthy that this provision contravenes existing American state and federal legislation. The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a decades-old international campaign, modeled after the South Africa divestment campaign, to place crippling economic pressure on the State of Israel until it submits to conditions supportive of the Palestinians.

In recent years, BDS has been successfully combated by state and federal legislation. Such legislation makes the rejection of BDS a top priority for US negotiators as they work on free trade agreements. Yet, when he signed the Anti-BDS Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act in February 2016, President Obama said he would not enforce it with regard to Israeli settlements.

When such a friend as Barack Obama occupied the White House, the Jewish people’s enemies did not feel compelled to act overtly. Let’s be clear, Barack Obama, himself, was not, nor was he ever, an anti-Semite. Nevertheless, his anti-Israel statements, actions, and policies allowed true anti-Semites to remain dormant.

They were buoyed by the critical nature of the American policy toward Israel crafted by the Obama Administration. Now, with a president perceived as truly pro-Israel, they have resurfaced, and, relying upon their own resources, have resorted to their former, crude tactics. Anti-Semitism has not risen because of a Trump Administration; it has simply moved back from diplomat to thug, and from disdain for Israel, back to outspoken hatred of the Jewish people.

Martin Oliner served as the Mayor of the Village of Lawrence, New York and is currently on the presidium of the Religious Zionists of America, chairs The Center for Righteousness and Integrity.




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