Trump accused of invoking Jewish stereotypes at Jewish forum

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Forum in Washington on December 3, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-TRUMP-STEREOTYPE, originally transmitted on Dec. 3, 2015.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Forum in Washington on December 3, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Yuri Gripas *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-TRUMP-STEREOTYPE, originally transmitted on Dec. 3, 2015.

WASHINGTON (RNS) Republican candidates tried to impress the audience by speaking of their commitment to Jewish values and Israel at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum on Thursday (Dec. 3), but some felt that Donald Trump crossed a line and trafficked in stereotypes.

And while several at the forum, which featured all 14 of the Republicans running for president, spoke vehemently about the need to take on radical Islam, they generally avoided anti-Muslim rhetoric at the event, which occurred as it was still unclear whether the previous day’s workplace shooting by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, Calif., was linked to any militant movement.

But Trump raised some Jewish listeners’ concern when he repeatedly mentioned the business savvy of his audience, seemingly invoking stereotypes about Jews as dealers and moneymakers, pulling the strings of government.

Trump suggested they would not vote for him because he is funding his own campaign: “I don’t want your money so therefore you’re probably not going to support me,” he said to the audience in the Ronald Reagan Building, a few blocks from the White House. “You want to control your own politician,” he said later in the speech.

“Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals?” he asked at another point, and then answered his own question. “Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”

“I think it is problematic to use negative stereotypes,” William Daroff, who attended the forum and directs the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, said regarding Trump’s remarks.

On Twitter, the response was harsher:

Among other Trump remarks that raised eyebrows:

— “We’re all good with contracts,” he said, contrasting his audience with the Obama administration.

— “I think you as business people will feel pretty good about this, and respect it,” he said, about how relatively little he was spending on his campaign.

— He said he was “a negotiator, like you folks.”

But not all who heard Trump speak thought he had flirted with anti-Semitic stereotypes.

“I don’t think he was doing that. I think he was talking to his audience,” said Jay S. Feldman, of Chevy Chase, Md. “I think he was talking to the people in the room. A lot of the people in the room are very successful businesspeople.”

While the forum was underway, the rival National Jewish Democratic Council tweeted out reminders that  Jews overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.


In the last presidential race, for example, Jews voted for President Obama over Mitt Romney by 69 percent to 30 percent.

Trump, generally considered a strong supporter of Israel, was still booed when he refused to commit to moving the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which both Palestinians and Israelis consider their capital.

The audience better appreciated Trump’s references to his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism and observes the Jewish Sabbath.

“You just like me because my daughter happens to be Jewish,” Trump said. “The only bad news is that I can’t get her on Saturday.”

The other candidates at the forum also bragged about their Jewish ties — their friendliness toward Israel and the depth of their friendships with Jews. They critiqued as a danger to Israel the deal the Obama administration and other powers negotiated with Iran this summer. That agreement lifts some sanctions on Iran — whose leaders have threatened to destroy Israel — in exchange for the reining in of its nuclear program.

And while the candidates warned of the dangers of Islamic extremists, they also seemed to avoid rhetoric that would have offended Muslims.

Candidate Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon riding high in the polls who has said he would not vote for a Muslim for president, trod carefully in a speech that focused heavily on Middle East politics, a subject about which, his rivals argue, he knows little.

“I will actually be using a script,” he announced before he began his speech. “It may be the first time anybody has seen me doing that.”

Then he drew some laughs for repeatedly mispronouncing the name of the group that rules Gaza and is considered a terrorist group by the U.S.: Hamas. Carson said it a few different ways, but often it sounded as if he was talking about “hummus,” the chickpea dip that is popular in Israel and Arab countries.

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  • Jack

    Interesting how the article spent almost zero time on any other candidate there besides Carson, and only because Carson appeared as buffoonish as Trump and maybe worse.

    It sounds like the author wants to paint all Republicans in a negative way. My hunch is that folks like Rubio and Cruz did just fine, but you’d never know it from the article.

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  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    Why the surprise? He traffics in this kind of stereotype-ridden rhetoric every time he speaks to or of a group that isn’t WASPs. The interesting thing about it is that he’s so culturally isolated that he not only doesn’t know he does it, but that when it’s pointed out to him he still doesn’t get it.

    You’d think at least his handlers would know better.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    This is in a league with all black people have rhythm and love watermelon.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    you seriously think the Jewish electorate is likely to be impressed with the analytical prowess of Rubio and–god help us all–Cruz?

  • Larry

    Their well publicized Christian Dominionist stances also won’t do much for Jewish voters either. Trump at least has the slight advantage of not being beholden to a voting base which expects all Jews to accept Jesus before the End of Days.

  • observer

    The meeting was a fund raiser for Republican candidates with financially successful Jewish donors. The real test was which Republican candidate is most likely to be elected and do the bidding of a militant Israeli government. Thus prolonging one aspect of the turmoil in the Middle east.

    The question of the writer should be “Which candidate has the best interest of America and not some other government?”

  • Jack

    Daniel, they were all speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition.

    Republican…..

    By definition, the audience members were not Hillary voters, unlike yourself.

  • Jack

    Larry, the RJC isn’t fooled by crude scare tactics. That’s because at both AIPAC and CUFI events, Jewish Republicans and pro-Israel evangelicals have mingled for years, and real friendships have developed as a result, where people on both sides know each others’ families and get together for special occasions.

    This is not 30 years ago. Times have changed….and the Democrats’ support for the Iran deal has only pushed the two groups closer than previously. Booing Israel at the 2012 Democratic Convention certainly didn’t help matters.

  • Jack

    Another day, another anti-Semite rearing its head.

    Observer, who taught you to hate? Just curious.

  • Larry

    Pro-Israel evangelicals tend to look at the relationship in much rosier terms than Jewish Republicans do. Jewish Republicans usually willing to overlook tone deaf unintentional anti-semitic religious proclaimations for the sake of pro-Israel lobbying support. Pragmatism taking precedence.

    In the past it was far easier when American conservatism was predominately of the “fiscal” type and the “social conservatives” were largely confined to areas without large Jewish populations.

    Christian politicians raving about the necessity to inject Jesus into government action or how (Evangelical Protestant interpretations) of Biblical law must trump all other legal considerations don’t endear themselves to Jewish Republicans. But a friend of Israel is never turned away. (even a backhanded one who expects Jews to be gone come Rapture time)

    I am glad you are finally willing to admit that the Evangelical affection towards Judaism is only about a generation old.

  • Larry

    A crowd still more likely to look towards more obviously fiscal conservatives like Trump or even Jeb Bush than Cruz or Rubio.

    Jewish Republicans are not exactly enthusiastic “social conservatives” to put it mildly. But they like a strong military and continued support for Israel.

  • Observer

    A cheap shot Jack to deflect the real issue.

    We send billions to an Israeli government that then directly provokes the situation with more settlements and other actions that prevent peace from getting a chance. We send added billions to Arab countries in the hope that they will not react.

  • Garson Abuita

    It’s not a cheap shot when you insert dog whistles like “financially successful Jewish donors.”

  • Larry

    Jack, your need to fling insults does not help here.

    Actually the aid to Israel takes the form of billions in military equipment WE SELL to Israel, money aiding in joint military development projects, such as missile defense systems and to strengthen economic links with Israel’s pharmaceutical and agricultural R&D cross-national efforts. Israel ranks as one of the few countries which gives us something back for the money spent in aid.

    That being said, the settlements are a political eyesore and a liability for both the US and Israel. Arab responses towards Israel have never been in particularly good faith and usually have a backhanded purpose.

  • Larry

    Or engage in the typically antisemitic screed that American Jews owe their allegiance to Israel over their own country, as done here.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    Larry, you’ve knocked it out of the park with your analysis.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    you know nothing about me; and your presuming to make such assumptions about me is boorish.

  • Jack

    Actually, Larry, evangelical “affection” goes back centuries, but what’s relatively new are the actual friendships that are developing between people on the ground today. Evangelicals and Jews are now experiencing each other as actual people, not as stick figures. Jews are realizing that many evangelicals went to the same schools as they did, read many of the same books, and share similar concerns. Evangelicals are realizing that Jews are not magical super-beings blessed by God at every twist and turn in life’s journeys, but flesh-and-blood human beings just like they are.

  • Jack

    All true, except for the part about Trump. They’re scared out of their minds about the prospect of his getting the nomination, and I share their concern.

    They realize it may come down to Cruz vs. Rubio. They will go with Rubio because they think he’s more electable, but the Adelson family is split between the two. The husband leans toward Rubio, but his wife is for Cruz. I can say this because it’s already been reported.

    But Cruz has the thicker skin, is more cunning and calculating and seems to be ten steps ahead of everyone else in his strategizing. All those traits will be necessary to defeating Hillary.

    Interestingly enough, a gay Jewish couple was ready to host a Cruz fundraiser in New York but backed out when the radical left road warriors came along and pressed them not to. They dared to break the stereotype that gay people are one-dimensional and care solely about gay issues. Their big concern was Israel and they loved Cruz’s stance.

  • Jack

    Your apparent ignorance of Jewish center-right voters gives you away.

  • Larry

    LMAO!!!!!! So that is what you call it? Funny, from the POV of those on the receiving end of their “affection” it looked pretty negative for a very long time.

    Evangelicals as with all active proselytizing Christian groups were at the forefront of antisemitic rhetoric until fairly recently. They even have trouble stifling it to this day. The tone deaf “replacement theology” being one of its more obvious forms still used. Even among “Christian Zionists”.

    Evangelicals are also at the forefront to attacks on secular government. Jews as a minority are quite aware Secular government protects them from legalized sectarian discrimination.

    Nevertheless Jewish pragmatism tends to let this sort of thing pass if it means more political support for Israel. Plus evangelical social conservative efforts have zero chance of national acceptance anyway.

    Come back when you are done with the apologia, revisionism and flat out fictions and are ready to seriously discuss the subject.

  • Larry

    If it comes down to Cruz or Rubio, expect a large number of Jewish Republicans to stay at home. Neither candidate has much appeal for that crowd beyond what sparse fiscal conservative platforms they are on. Both are beholden to Dominionist interests.

    “Interestingly enough, a gay Jewish couple was ready to host a Cruz fundraiser in New York but backed out when the radical left road warriors came along and pressed them not to. ”

    Cite to the article. You have a tendency to reference stories from less than reputable sources or just engage in outright partisan fictions.

  • Jack

    You have a reputation for lying as easily as most people tell the truth, Larry: How could I be citing from “less than reputable sources” when I virtually never fill my posts with citations to begin with?

    This time, you’re going to let your fingers do the walking and find the articles referencing the two gay men who were for Cruz.

    In case you are an incompetent researcher, let me give you some hints:

    One of the many sources citing this is the New York Times.

    Another hint is that the NYT cite is from April 23 of this year.

    Now run along and fetch those sources. I just pointed you toward one of them.

  • Jack

    Larry, somehow I trust Israel more than I do you to determine how best it can meet its own security needs.

    When Israel’s enemies wake up one day and decide they truly desire peace, there will be peace and all that goes with it, including compromise.

    Implying that the settlements have anything whatsoever to do with the current state of affairs is to engage in mind-numbingly wishful thinking…..of the kind a control freak is apt to embrace.

    The sad fact is that there is nothing further that Israel can do to try to make peace with her foes. The ball is squarely in the other side’s court.

  • Jack

    Larry, I hate to break it to you, but you were the one who first used the word, “affection” in your prior post. Check out the first line of your last paragraph. In my response, I put it in quotations for that very reason.

    So you are laughing at yourself. I would only add that forgetting what you yourself just posted is probably no laughing matter.

    The rest of your post is littered with your usual made-up nonsense, amounting to buffoonery on parade.

    My favorite one is your equating Christian Zionists with believers in replacement theology. That’s hilarious…..like equating pacifists with militarists. One necessarily excludes the other. The two are logically irreconcilable. Given their definitions, to embrace one means to reject the other.

    But leave it to Larry to make up his own facts and hope no one catches him on it.

    Like most sociopaths, he has no fear of getting caught, no matter how many times it actually happens.

  • Larry

    “My favorite one is your equating Christian Zionists with believers in replacement theology. That’s hilarious”

    Yet exemplified by nabobs such as Michelle Bachman in her recent trip to Israel as of late and apologists for her tone deaf remarks concerning the conversion of the Jews. You were defending such remarks or at least minimizing them. You were (and still are) oblivious to its underlying antisemitic nature.

    Even to the point of attacking Jewish posters on whether they were really antisemitic or not. As if you would know better.

    That was hilarious.

  • Larry

    OK, You are lazy and probably telling a fib. Duly noted.

    More likely than not, if I wanted to bother to verify your story, I will find your representation of the events is probably different than reality. Its why you never post links or try to cite sources directly.

    After all, why be credible when you can be indignant?

  • Larry

    “I trust Israel more than I do you”

    And there is the essence of the Jewish Republican view of Christian Zionism. 🙂

    You miss the point in your effort to be snarky.

    The settlements will remain a sore point for US/Israel relations. A sore point among Israel and Diaspora Jews. Even a sore point among Israelis. They are an unnecessary political stumbling block for all involved.

    That being said, we both agree that when the Palestinians are ready to talk about peace and nation building, there will be peace.