United States / 08-02-2017
Trump’s “America first” vision awakens the demons that Jews tried to forget
By Oren Nahari
The founder of the Ford company, Henry Ford, is being consistently ranked in surveys as the greatest industrialist of the 20th century. When President Trump talks about bringing back jobs to the United States, he is remembering the assembly line- the invention Ford adopted- along which laborers, most of them immigrants from Ireland, Poland and Germany- worked, and at the end of which cars rolled out, starting with the classic T model that transformed the history of the automobile from the legendary Mustang to this day. Ford was at the time perhaps the most feted and well known American citizen in the world. Those were the days American cars were the symbol of the country’s legendary wealth and reflected the determination, entrepreneurship and the wisdom of manual labor of America
Ford was also a notorious antisemite. Increasingly antisemitic. Between 1920 and 1922 he financed the publication of all four volumes of the “The International Jew” which were claimed to have greatly influenced many Nazi leaders. The portrait of Ford hung in Adolf Hitler’s Munich office and the American industrialist- who during the battle of Britain refused to supply the British spitfire aircrafts with Merlin engines, but whose factories went on operating at full-steam for the Wehrmacht, was decorated for his contribution to Nazi Germany.
During the 1920s, the renewed racist organization Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had millions of white Christian, racist and antisemitic followers from every walk of life. During those years, the radio program of father Coughlin, an antisemitic Catholic priest, was one of the most tuned in radio show in the United States. Had a survey been conducted among Jews in the 1920s and they would have been asked which country in the world wished to annihilate the Jewish people to the very last one standing, it is highly unlikely they would have pointed out the USA as the villain.
During those years the “right” clubs refused to accept Jews and needless to say, blacks, as members. The Numerus clausus (a method used to limit the number of students who may study at a university- discriminating Jews) was put into effective use in prestigious universities and notable lawyer firms, big banks and leading companies were essentially “Judenfrei”.
The Jews were pushed aside- and yet flourished- in their “own” industries and professions, ranging from clothing to cinema. The Warner Bros., the film studios considered the most Jewish of all, were subjected to a legendary legal battle with the Bell company back then, one of many to follow, regarding patents on using sound in films (which were silent until the release of the film “The Jazz Singer” by the Warner Bros. studios). At the height of the conflict, Harry Warner walked into the office of the Bell company’s president and announced he would relinquish all claims and transfer the patents to the Bell company on one condition- that the president of the company would name one Jew employed within the company.
antisemitism in the United States did not see the light of day for the first time when Trump was elected nor will it die out when the first Jewish president is elected to office. The opposite may be true. The anti-defamation league, which was established following the public lynching of Jewish Leo Frank who had been accused of raping a girl a hundred years ago, is cautioning us. The rich and prosperous American Jewry, which had adapted best to its surrounding of all Jewish communities throughout history, is still living in fear. These days, anxiety is on the rise and even though it seems we have reached a post-racist era, we are also facing the era of post-facts and post-truth.
In his inauguration speech, Trump used the term “America first” more than once. It was not just a declaration of patriotism, or of a national agenda, instead of an international one. To a Jewish ear, very world wary and not without a reason, this phrasing may sound frightening. This term was the slogan of the separatist movement in the United States towards the end of 1930s and the start of the 1940s. Its leader was the famous pilot Charles Lindberg, the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean on a solo flight.
The movement which supported the Nazis argued the United States should not interfere in World War II. They also argued it were the sly Jewish advisors who pushed President Roosevelt to enter the war. In the alternative history book - "The Plot Against America" - the Jewish-American author Philip Roth described an alternative reality in which Lindberg was elected president of the United States in 1940, Ford is elected to cabinet minister and the two give orders to collect all the Jews and send them to the camps. This may be a posteriori fear but it teaches about the present.
When it turns out that the person who wrote Trump’s inauguration speech is Steve Bannon, the man many people claim is instigating the president, the man who had been accused of antisemitism and is doubtlessly flirting with the ideas about White Supremacy- and let there be no mistakes, when we talk about White supremacy we talk about the Christian white race- fear is on the rise and even more so when it turns out that David Duke, the former leader of Ku Klux Klan, is supporting Trump, that Bannon is the closest person to Trump and not his Jewish son-in-law Jerard Kushner. When, on international Holocaust Remembrance Day, there is no mention of the Jewish people in the declaration of the president- and a mention of it in the announcement of the state department is omitted by Bannon- it is obvious we are beyond vague fears. And when in a debate with Hilary Clinton, candidate Trump is speaking badly about three people only- who are widely known as being Jewish- it feels even more uncomfortable.
The Jews were on the losing side in those last elections to president of the United States. There is only one Jew serving in congress on behalf of the Republican Party as opposed to 18 Jews on behalf of the Democratic Party. There are ten Jews representing the Democratic Party in senate and not even one is representing the Republican Party. The overwhelming majority of Jews support the Democratic party and are wary of the Republican Evangelists. They are more liberal, more supportive of the separation between church and state and their vast majority identify with the values of the Democratic party and notably its liberal elements.
Trump is not antisemitic
The surveys conducted by Anti-Defamation League in recent years reveal that 15% of US citizens are antisemites. So, what have those elections changed, if anything? Trump is not antisemitic and there is no claim to support he ever has been. But this turbulent, aggressive and polarizing election season has cost a price, which is partly paid by Jews. In recent months, there has been a rise by dozens of percents in the number of anti-Jewish statements, especially on social media.
The old theories, the demons we believed were dead and buried, safely beyond reach of the American immune system, emerged once more to shake America to its core. During the Obama presidency, which was a period of political correctness in its broadest definition, when the first black president was elected and it was assumed the minorities’ coalition would go on ruling the country and overrun the decimating majority of white people, antisemitism, racism and xenophobia were not legitimate and even illegal.
antisemitic sentiments did not disappear, of course, but they were pushed aside, only to emerge once again during this election season. It is hard to deny that Jewish prominence in certain professions turned the Jews into a target. In the media, of course, in financial life and in business, in Hollywood, in the New York and Californian elites- of the two biggest democratic states- Jews in general, and a few Jewish journalists in particular, became a hot target.
Every day antisemitic attacks are staged throughout the United States, on social media, in the subway, against synagogues, all the dormant sentiments have awoken once more, and in the Jewish community they now feel that racism is now legitimate, that Jews are fair game, along with Hispanics and Muslims. Jews may not be declared enemies of the state or are perceived as dangerous like other groups, but all racists may now rise their chins.
They have a president they can like in the White House, a proud patriot who is attentive to the problems of white people who felt they were being pushed aside in their own country and can now say freely what they think about ‘them’. In Stalin’s Soviet Union, the accusation that could lead one to the Gulag or to execution, was that the person was cosmopolitan- and mostly referred to Jews. In the present day United States, the Jews are, in part, cosmopolitan and favor the international agenda Obama set up, and which had been shattered by Trump.
American Jewry reached unprecedented prosperity and huge accomplishments in a country to which their forefathers immigrate. But even after New York became a Jewish city, even after Jewish humor won over the United States and then the world, after Jewish scientists headed American research, there was always fear that it may all be temporary, that antisemitism in the United States had not really disappeared, and that it was always going to be there.
But let there be no misunderstandings, this is still the United States where millions of Jews live, where the prominence and status Jews have attained, is everywhere to be seen. Three out of eight high supreme court judges are Jews. One can take solace and pride in that, but there will always be shadows behind the status of liberty, and they are now spreading, and there is no reason to believe they may diminish let alone disappear.
Oren Nahari is the editor of the foreign news of Walla! NEWS