‘Too little, too late.’
For months, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect has issued statement after statement condemning the Trump administration.
Since entering the political fray, Donald Trump has gotten into his share of unexpected feuds. Whether he’s battling the cast of “Hamilton,” declaring the free press to be the “enemy” of the American people, hanging up on the prime minister of Australia, or reviewing the latest episode of “Saturday Night Live,” there’s no shortage of “Oh-my-God-I-cannot-believe-the-president-of-the-United-States-is-doing-this” drama to go around.
But while most of these feuds are blown-up distractions from larger issues, there’s at least one that deserves more attention: Trump versus the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.
When Trump compared the CIA to Nazi Germany, AFC Executive Director Steven Goldstein called Trump’s words “a despicable insult to Holocaust survivors around the world and to the nation he is about to lead.” And as Trump unveiled plans for a southern border wall and large-scale travel ban, Goldstein accused the president of “driving our nation off a moral cliff.”
The president has earned the organization’s ire mostly for what he hasn’t done — especially when it comes to threats against the Jewish community.
Over the past several months, Jewish Community Centers around the country have experienced a sharp uptick in bomb threats. In fact, just this year, JCC locations in 27 states and one Canadian province have received nearly 70 threats — all without a word from Trump.
The closest Trump came to addressing the issue — which quite rightfully has members of the Jewish community feeling alarmed — came in a tense exchange during last week’s wild press conference. Jake Turx of Ami Magazine, an Orthodox Jewish weekly, tried to ask Trump about how the administration planned to respond to bomb threats. Trump cut him off, saying it was “not a fair question,” and responded: “So here’s the story, folks. Number 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Number 2, racism. The least racist person. In fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.”
The response was bizarre, in part because Turx had prefaced his question by saying he didn’t believe Trump or his staff were anti-Semitic. Trump responded as if it were a personal attack, and he went on to accuse “the other side” of carrying out these threats.
“But let me just tell you something: I hate the charge,” Trump added, responding as though he had been personally accused of anti-Semitism. “I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me — and you heard the prime minister, you heard Benjamin Netanyahu, did you hear him, Bibi? He said, ‘I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time,’ and then he said, ‘Forget it.’ So you should take that instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.”
On Monday night, White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters finally condemned the threats against JCCs using some especially vague language.
“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” said Walters.
Combined with the White House’s decision to omit any mention of Jewish victims in its official Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, it comes off a bit like the administration is taking steps not to offend white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and members of the so-called “alt-right” who do possess anti-Semitic worldviews.
The Trump administration may not be actively encouraging anti-Semitic violence, but it’s not exactly going out of its way to discourage it, either — at least in strong terms.
In June of last year, the day after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, Trump called on President Obama to resign for refusing to acknowledge what Trump saw as the cause of it. “President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words ‘Radical Islam.’ For that reason alone, he should step down,” Trump said.
Using that same logic, why won’t Trump denounce these attacks by name? Why won’t he directly address the victims of this terrorism? Why can’t Donald Trump denounce white supremacy and white nationalism?
On Tuesday, Trump traveled to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There, he finally addressed the threats against the Jewish community.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.
The AFC, however, isn’t letting Trump off the hook that easy, calling his statement “a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration.”
While Trump has now at least acknowledged the problem, he still hasn’t said anything about how he plans to address it.
“Do not make us Jews settle for crumbs of condescension. What are you going to do about anti-Semitism in [the] White House?” the AFC tweeted.
And they’re right. Trump hasn’t put forward a plan to address anti-Semitic violence. In fact, there’s been talk that the administration may actually rebrand the government’s Countering Violent Extremism program as the Countering Islamic Extremism program. Funds that would ordinarily go toward countering neo-Nazis and white supremacists may no longer be available. The singular focus on Muslim extremists could very well make the rise of white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups even worse.
While so much remains up in the air, we can count on the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect to keep it real and put pressure on the White House to do the right thing.