(RNS) — Since Donald Trump broke bread with notorious antisemites Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) and Nick (Guess-Who’s-Coming-To-Dinner) Fuentes, various Jewish servitors, supporters and apologists have scrambled to distance themselves from the once-and-would-be-future president. I’m talking about the likes of former ambassador to Israel David Friedman, blogger Ben Shapiro and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America.
Now, some of you may liken this behavior to rats leaving a sinking ship, but I’d say there’s more to it than that. Antisemitism, like other prejudices, has its nuances.
A friend of mine who ranks high up in a major Jewish agency quips that an antisemite is “someone who hates Jews more than necessary.” Decades ago, a now retired Jewish professor informed me that any statement beginning with “Jews are” will be considered antisemitic unless it concludes with something like “people who love their families and value education highly.”
If the latter sounds like something out of Dave Chappelle’s recent ADL-denounced “Saturday Night Live” monologue, that’s beside the point. As with the N-word, insiders are allowed to say things about themselves that outsiders aren’t.
Trump himself is well known, within the Jewish world anyway, for making blanket statements about Jews that would get your ordinary non-Jewish president in trouble. Like that they’re good handling money and lawyering and are insufficiently supportive of him for all he’s done for Israel. Last month, he “truthed” that “they should get their act together” and show more appreciation for the Jewish state “before it is too late.”
I will postulate, then, that Jewish right-wingers don’t continue to cuddle up to Trump simply because they share Trump’s critique of (most) American Jews. (A couple of weeks ago Klein gave him ZOA’s highest award, calling him “the best friend Israel ever had in the White House.”) It’s also because Trump’s Jewish connections are legion, from his late lawyer-mentor Roy Cohn to his still-loyal ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg to, above all, his Jew-by-choice daughter Ivanka and her Jewish-by-birth children.
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In other words, by being Jew-adjacent, he’s been given a pass on those “Jews are” assertions — to say nothing of his winks and nods to Christian white supremacists.
But, but, but … dining with notorious antisemites is a bridge too far.
Members of the Tribe who would do such a thing have traditionally been denounced as “self-hating Jews.” What about that self-adoring gentile?
“Trump’s Jewish supporters must condemn and disavow him,” ran the headline on Jonathan Tobin’s column for the right-wing Jewish News Syndicate. “The former president’s dinner with Jew-haters was a blow to efforts to combat antisemitism.”