By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That’s a myth to comfort children. Because what starts with lies spoken, can lead to blows, and end in murder. And this has happened to the Jews somewhere in the world at least once per century for the last 2,000 years. The Holocaust, by far the largest in scope, was not the only historical mass murder of Jews. And while the hate is brewing, Jews—I happen to be one—are always told we are too sensitive or are being paranoid.
Well, brewing time is over. Now, that hate is coming to a boil around the world again, and here in our nation, it has come completely out into the open where no one can avoid seeing it unless—like the leaders of the Republican party—they close their eyes and stick their fingers in their ears.
On Tuesday, November 22, former President Donald Trump broke bread with antisemitic rapper Kanye “Ye” West and virulent white supremacist Nick Fuentes at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club.
Prior to the dinner, West made himself infamous with his statement that he would go “deathcon 3” on Jews on right-winger Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. As a celebrity, West has a long reach. And Trump, by his acceptance, has extended West’s influence even further.
As if this were not enough, Kanye subsequently appeared on Alex Jones’ alt-right show, praising Hitler and the Nazis at length. While doing so, he wore a large jacket, mask, and gloves that entirely hid his color. For West, a Black man, to take up the cause of Hitler and Nazis—who likely would have killed him—is sufficiently unhinged to suggest some self-hate may be at work. And the effort to hide his color was bizarre. Although it does not ameliorate the danger of Kanye’s influence, he does seem to suffer from some form of mental illness.
Nick Fuentes, however, is another matter. To fully understand the depraved antisemitism Trump countenanced by having Fuentes to dinner, it’s necessary to explain the extent of the vile activities in which Fuentes has been engaged.
Fuentes, who attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., is a hate-monger who uses his platform as a neo-Nazi podcaster and organizer to spread racist and antisemitic conspiracy theories.
On his podcasts, Fuentes promotes the spurious stereotype that Black people are innately violent. Based on the bogus “white genocide” conspiracy theory, he calls for closure of U.S. borders to immigrants, and savagely opposes feminism and LGBTQ+ rights.
But like all good fascists, Fuentes attributes these and other progressive and civil rights efforts to Jewish influence. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Fuentes has said these endeavors are the “bastardized Jewish subversion of the American creed. The Founders never intended for America to be a refugee camp for nonwhite people.”
The ADL told Reuters that Fuentes once “denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven.” But to simply say Fuentes is an antisemitic Holocaust denier does not sufficiently define the rabid, deadly hate he spews at Jews in particular.
In one of his podcasts, Fuentes raved, “Jews hate Jesus,” and told Jews to “Get the fuck out of America; You serve the devil. You serve Satan….I piss on your Talmud.”
In another podcast, Fuentes repeated the well-worn slander that Jews control the levers of power, ranting “I want this country to have Catholic media, Catholic Hollywood, Catholic government. I want this to be a Catholic occupied government, not a Jewish occupied government.”
In addition, the New York Times reports that Fuentes in recent weeks has called for the military to be sent into Black neighborhoods and demanded that Jews leave the country.
Trump’s Attempt at Damage Control
That Trump would receive Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago is not in the least surprising. Trump has shown time and again that the only things he cares about are power, money, and praise. And Fuentes apparently has been an eager Trump adherent. At a so-called “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington in November 2020, Fuentes called for followers to “storm every state capitol until January 20, 2021, until President Trump is inaugurated for four more years.”
Furthermore, at least seven people connected to Fuentes’ America First organization have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol. And Fuentes was issued a subpoena by the House Jan. 6 committee, seeking information about his role in that event.
After receiving flak for the dinner, Trump made tepid efforts at damage control, claiming that he invited only West for dinner, and that West brought Fuentes with him. Trump added his usual disclaimer when caught consorting with someone unsavory, claiming West “arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.” Of course, Trump did not denounce either West’s or Fuentes views. Why would he? After all, as Trump noted in one of his repeated defenses, West “expressed no antisemitism” and “I appreciated all of the nice things he said about me on Tucker Carlson. Why wouldn’t I agree to meet?”
The Republican Fellow Travelers
Trump’s behavior was utterly predictable. Far more troubling is that the foremost leaders of the Republican Party have shown themselves perfectly amenable to the virulent antisemitism and racism of Trump, West, and Fuentes. They just wish Trump and his companions wouldn’t express it aloud but keep it hidden in code, however thinly veiled.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proclaimed: “There is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy. And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are [sic] highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.”
McConnell’s so-called condemnation is akin to a non-apology apology. Given the presence of reactionaries such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar in Congress, McConnell’s proclamation that the Republican Party has no room for antisemitism or white supremacy is demonstrably false.
Furthermore, McConnell didn’t denounce Trump or say that he won’t support Trump if he becomes the party’s 2024 presidential nominee. Rather, the minority leader merely made a lackluster prediction that someone with such views is “highly unlikely” to “ever” be elected president. This of course ignores the fact that Trump—a man who furthers such views—was already elected once.
As reported by NPR, Kevin McCarthy, current minority leader of the House (who may become Speaker in January) aped McConnell’s pro forma statement, saying: "I don't think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party." Then McCarthy defended Trump with a lie: "I think President Trump came out four times and condemned” Fuentes. McCarthy also repeated Trump’s excuse that he didn’t know who Fuentes was.
When cornered by a reporter pointing out that Trump did not condemn Fuentes’ ideology, McCarthy replied, "Well, I condemn his ideology, it has no place in society; at all."
But McCarthy does not condemn that ideology. As house minority leader, he has refused to discipline open antisemites such as Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar, and plans—if he is chosen to be speaker—to reinstate them to committees from which they were removed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in part for their antisemitism and ties to white supremacists.
According to Politico, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he hopes to see Trump condemn Fuentes. But Rubio had the gall to add: “because I know [Trump’s] not an antisemite. I can tell you that for a fact that Trump is not.”
One must wonder exactly how Rubio would define antisemitism. Maybe he should leave it to those who are affected by it to make that call.
As Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of ADL, told the New York Times: “You can’t say that you oppose hate and break bread with haters. It’s that simple.” To put it another way, when you provide a platform elevating the cause of antisemites, you are one. And Trump has consistently given such people and organizations a megaphone.
In an interview with News Nation Now, former Vice President Mike Pence said Trump was “wrong” to give a white nationalist Holocaust denier “a seat at the table,” and that Trump “should apologize” and “denounce the hateful rhetoric without qualification.” But Pence’s call for an apology is strictly for damage control to the party. In his usual, two-faced manner, Pence tried to have it both ways by also claiming he doesn’t believe Trump is an antisemite.
Ron DeSantis, current front-running challenger to Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination, has remained strategically silent. Real politick is apparently his watchword.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who twice voted to convict Trump on impeachment charges, was the only politician whose condemnation rang true. According the The Hill, Romney said: “There’s no bottom to the degree which [Trump’s] willing to degrade himself and the country, for that matter. Having dinner with those people was disgusting.”
Romney said he did not think Trump should be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024, adding, “And I certainly don’t want him hanging over our party like a gargoyle.”
When asked if the dinner showed a lapse in judgment, Romney replied, “It’s a character issue.” Thus, Romney was the sole Republican to disown Trump, and do so based on character rather than out of concern for his own or the party’s political fortunes.
The Folly of Republican Jewish Organizations and Leaders
Many Republican Jewish organizations and leaders appear loathe to leave their dream world.
Although some, like GOP billionaire megadonor Ronald Lauder, have been moved by the infamous dinner to withdraw their support of Trump in favor of other craven hopefuls, a number of Republican Jewish leaders continue to rationalize Trump’s antisemitism away. They cannot admit to themselves the nature of the man and the party they continue to support.
The Republican Jewish Coalition condemned Fuentes and West for their “virulent antisemitism” but did not mention former president Trump. The Coalition just called on all political leaders to reject West’s and Fuentes’ “messages of hate” and “refuse to meet with them.”
Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s board, gave Trump a pass—accepting the latter’s statement that he didn’t know Fuentes. Fleischer only suggested that Trump should have said that “had he known, Fuentes would never have been allowed into Mar-a-Lago.”
Ahhh! The magic words that would have made Trump’s despicable ideas and actions disappear from view.
Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, referring to his parents’ survival of the Holocaust, said in the New York Times, “I am a child of survivors. I have become very frightened for my people.” Klein is right to be frightened. But he nevertheless insists, “Donald Trump is not an antisemite. He loves Israel. He loves Jews. But he mainstreams, he legitimizes Jew hatred and Jew haters. And this scares me.”
Why does Mr. Klein not understand that legitimizing Jew hatred and Jew haters is classical antisemitism? Trump’s use of antisemitic tropes demonstrate that he does not “love Jews.” And Trump’s sociopathic, narcissistic nature more than suggests that his support of Israel is entirely transactional. If Klein thinks Trump will continue to support Israel or Jews anywhere if his white supremacist base grabs power for him, Klein is deluding himself.
In the introduction to his 1943 book, The Forgotten Ally, Dutch-Canadian-American journalist Pierre Van Paassen writes of a Dr. W. Filderman, a member of the Rumanian parliament who met his end in Rumania’s Bessarabian murder camps.
Van Paassen writes that in the early 1930s, Dr. Filderman lauded the degree to which he was accepted as a citizen—a Jew who was “heart and soul a Rumanian at the same time.” He told Van Paassen, “I am the friend of King Carol, and the Foreign Minister calls me by my first name and always consults me on important matters of foreign policy.”
But when Van Paassen met with that Foreign Minister, the minister’s first question was, “Are you a Jew?” And when Van Paassen confirmed he was not, the Minister added, “You see, we don’t like Jews in Rumania. We are going to get rid of the whole lot of them, every one of them. They either go abroad, or we’ll starve them out.”
Unlike Rumania in the 1930s, the ancestors of everyone in the United States except Native Americans are from somewhere else. One would expect that fact to place us all on an equal footing. And that a citizen’s status as an American could not be questioned or denied. Nevertheless, here we are again. And the Morton Kleins, Ari Fleischers, and Ronald Lauders—who ultimately will not be protected by their wealth or connections—would do well to heed Van Paassen’s history lesson. As would we all. Because, if permitted, the Trumpian fascists and their confederates in Congress will threaten not only our rights as citizens but even acknowledgement of our citizenship—and then the right to life itself.
Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer, https://www.jessieseigel.com.