Republican front-runner Donald Trump was accused of promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes in a speech before a group of Jewish Republicans on Thursday. While speaking before the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, D.C., Trump told his largely Jewish audience “I’m a negotiator, like you folks” and “Stupidly you want to give money. …You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.” By the end of the speech, Trump was reportedly booed for waffling on whether or not Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel.
Critics seized on Trump’s comments, claiming that they invoked ancient stereotypes of Jews being avaricious swindlers.
Trump was not without his defenders, however. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, pointed out that Trumps comments were part of his usual braggadocio. “After having carefully reviewed the speech, we do not believe that it was Donald Trump’s intention to evoke anti-Semitic stereotypes,” Greenblatt said, adding that Trump “has made similar comments about spending his own money on the campaign, and not asking for money from donors, to many other groups.”
Over at Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss wrote that Trump was “describing a quality he values more than anything else, dealmaking. I don’t see how you can be anti-semitic [sic] if you’re praising a trait you love in yourself.” Moreover, the men in the audience were there precisely because “they’re wealthy and they’re shopping for pro-Israel candidates.”
Still, this didn’t stop white supremacists — a disturbingly large portion of Trump’s fan base — from celebrating. Over at The Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin posted a glowing article titled “Finally: Trump Calls Out the Filthy Snake Jews — ‘You Can’t Buy Me.'” “At long last, what we have been waiting for has happened,” he wrote. “The Donald has engaged ‘anti-Semitic stereotypes’ in a speech to Republican Jews.”
At Stormfront, the premier white nationalist website, many of the forum’s commenters were ecstatic that a Republican presidential candidate was taking on the “Jewish question.” One commenter wrote, “There’s just nowhere this man wont go, telling jews he doesn’t need there money, just shook every jew on the planet…to the core. No one can buy the Don. Anyone who disagrees with the Don is a jew.” Another similarly interpreted Trump’s speech as a denunciation of “the jewish supremacists.” “So tired of Jews thinking they own us and the entire world,” wrote a third. “Go Trump!”
Others posted more sinister messages. One poster, “J Civello”, wrote that “Trump is too much of a strong White man for them,” and that “Jews still remember…what happened last time a strong White man came to office.” Accompanying his statement was a photo of Nazis forcing Jews to scrub the streets. “Freedom lover” followed suit, dismissing the Holocaust as a myth but adding that, “Maybe this time the holocaust will actually come to pass, and this time we can get on with our lives without having the eternal parasite sucking our blood.” “I call dibs on a Bernie Sanders lampshade,” wrote “J Civello.”
Trump’s popularity was evident on /pol/ — 4chan’s “politically incorrect” sub-forum — where anonymous users view him as the most palatable alternative to mainstream politicians who support multiculturalism and immigration. Many users referred to Trump as a “strong independent goy”, “our savior” and “OUR GOD EMPEROR.” “Hail to your future king!” wrote one 4channer. “If he’s pissing off kikes, hes doing something right,” wrote another. On another thread, a user stated that Trump is “slowly revealing his powerlevel” and that by January he’ll “be calling to gas the kikes.”
I’m not sure whether or not Trump’s statements qualify as overtly anti-Semitic or not. Trump is certainly openly bigoted toward blacks, Latinos, women, Muslims, and the disabled, yet I’m tempted to agree with the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt, who noted that context is everything here. Trump consistently praises his negotiating skills and boasts of his wealth — and of having no need to take money from Super PACs, unlike his rivals. It appears as though Trump’s critics and die-hard white nationalists supporters are making a mountain out of a molehill, at least in this case. That doesn’t stop his racist fans from projecting their ambitions onto a man whom they believe to be the the savior of “the white race.”