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Trump impeachment proceedings stoke anti-Semitism

  • Steven Gruzd
United States President Donald Trump faces impeachment over pressing a foreign leader to dig up dirt on Trump’s main political opponent. The involvement of prominent Jewish Democrats in these congressional proceedings is stoking anti-Semitic rhetoric by Trump and his supporters as they fight back.
by STEVEN GRUZD | Oct 10, 2019

At the centre of the storm is a July phone call by Trump with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (who also happens to be Jewish). Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over connections to a shady Ukrainian energy company. These details emerged from a whistle-blower in the US intelligence community. Joe Biden is the Democratic front runner to square off against Trump in the November 2020 presidential elections.

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, announced on 24 September the commencement of impeachment proceedings against Trump (having previously been reluctant to do so). The main congressional committees involved are all chaired by Jewish legislators: Adam Schiff (intelligence), Jerry Nadler (judiciary) and Eliot Engel (foreign affairs). In addition, several Jewish first-timers in congress, including Democrats Elaine Luria and Elissa Slotkin, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post supporting impeachment.

The enquiry will be spearheaded by Schiff, who hails from California. He was also at the forefront of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US election, which has fizzled out.

But Trump and his supporters are on the offensive, and they have Jews in their cross-hairs.

Schiff has become “enemy number one” in Trump’s eyes, and has been the main target of his Twitter attacks over the past few days. He refers to him as “Shifty Schiff”. This plays on stereotypes of Jews as dishonest, untrustworthy, and manipulative. Journalist and activist Peter Beinart notes that Trump “often plays on well-worn caricatures about cleverness, deviousness, and physical weakness” when he mentions Jews, deliberately evoking anti-Semitic tropes.

Trump has repeatedly disparaged Schiff on social media, lambasted him in numerous press conferences and media appearances, and called him a traitor and a puppet of left-leaning Jewish billionaire George Soros.

For example, a Trump tweet on 28 September said, “Can you imagine if these Do Nothing Democrat Savages, people like Nadler, Schiff, AOC plus three … and many more, had a Republican Party who would have done to Obama what the Do Nothings are doing to me. Oh well, maybe next time!”

With more than 200 Democrats supporting the enquiry, why does Trump choose to name only Jews and an African American woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

On 2 October, Trump tweeted, “We don’t call him ‘Shifty Schiff’ for nothing,” and told White House reporters, “He’s a shifty, dishonest guy.” The following day, he tweeted, “Schiff is a lowlife who should resign [at least!].”

On 5 October, he retweeted a video clip from the Disney cartoon Pinocchio intercut with interviews with Schiff denying that he knew the whistle-blower’s identity. Trump headed the video “Lyin’ Shifty Schiff!”

Trump’s railing against Jews has a history. In August, he accused Jews who didn’t vote for him of being “dumb and disloyal”. He also said that neo-Nazi demonstrators were “very fine people”, and called comedian Jon Stewart “Jonathan Leibowitz”.

It’s likely that as the impeachment enquiry gathers momentum, so will the anti-Semitic outbursts and insinuations of Trump and his supporters. His cries that the impeachment is a “witch hunt” will gain steam as he plays the violated victim. It’s not difficult for Trump’s base and the right-leaning media like Fox News and Breitbart to believe that a nefarious Jewish plot to oust the president is at play. Jews are frequently seen as being at the heart of far-fetched and vicious conspiracy theories, further fuelling anti-Semitism.

But deeds follow words. In 2017, hate crimes against Jews or Jewish institutions in the US increased 37%. The massacre in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and sending of pipe bombs to prominent Democrats and George Soros show the extremes to which toxic speech can lead. We can expect more Jew-baiting as the impeachment progresses.

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