The New York Times published an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting a blind Donald Trump being led by a canine Benjamin Netanyahu in its international edition earlier this year. Following near-universal condemnation, Trump seemed more concerned for himself than for the Jews. His tweet on the matter was typically puerile:
‘The New York Times has apologized for the terrible Anti-Semitic Cartoon, but they haven’t apologized to me for this or all of the Fake and Corrupt news they print on a daily basis.’
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that mere months after this incident, the president, or some deputy, has invited the notoriously anti-Semitic alt-right cartoonist Ben Garrison to a White House social media summit scheduled for July 11. This confirms that Trump’s issue with the Times’s cartoon was the way it characterized him, not the way it characterized Jewish people. Surprising or not, the Garrison invitation is a slap in the face to American Jews and Jews all over the world.
Consider the egregious specimen of Garrison’s work from 2017 above. General H.R. McMaster, former national security adviser, and General David Petraeus, the ex-director of the CIA, are manipulated by their puppet master George Soros, who is himself guided by a greenish hand and arm labeled ‘Rothschilds’, the name of a Jewish family of financiers whose name has become a byword for internet conspiracists.
This is classic anti-Semitic imagery, familiar from Tsarist, Soviet, Nazi and Arab nationalist propaganda: government ministers as puppets of a shadowy Jewish conspiracy. Compare Garrison’s cartoon to the Times‘s cartoon of Netanyahu and Trump, and we see how similar they are. Major political figures with tremendous power and influence are supposedly manipulated by Jewish hands. The takeaway — ‘Jews control the world’ — is identical.
Garrison claimed that the cartoon had been commissioned by ‘alt-right’ blogger Mike Cernovich; the reason, allegedly, being that Cernovich feared McMaster and other recent appointees wanted to purge the administration of figures sympathetic to the alt-right. If this is true, it suggests a deployment of anti-Semitism not from conviction, but as a kind of cynical strategy.
That Trump’s biggest problem with the Times cartoon was its characterization of him fits into the broader picture of the administration’s sloppy attitude toward Jews. It was Trump who argued that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ in Charlottesville. It was his administration that issued a statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day that ‘forgot’ to mention the primary victims of the Nazis. What doesn’t make sense is that the communities who rightfully condemned the New York Times aren’t condemning Garrison’s invitation. Where is the outrage from Jews? Where is the outrage from Republicans?
The unfortunate reality is that concern for Jews and outrage over anti-Semitism has become a political tool, wielded by both the left and the right at their convenience. You might imagine that such competitive reactions toward bigotry would be good for the Jews — that people on both sides of the aisle would scrambling to prove their philo-Semitic bonafides. Not so. Instead, all this competition has produced is a fierce commitment to whataboutism, in which, when one faction betrays anti-Semitic tendencies, the first instinct, rather than apologize, is to point to a previous misdeed across the aisle. Perhaps this is what inspired the Republicans who released righteous fury about the cartoon in the Times to do absolutely nothing in reaction to Trump’s invitation to Garrison. True allies should root out anti-Semitism wherever it appears, whether spouted by political friend or foe.
As for the Jewish perspective, it may be tempting to refrain from criticizing an administration that has been exceptionally friendly to Israel. But support for Israel’s Jews should not come at the cost of support for Diaspora Jewry. Likewise, the White House may believe that in exchange for its support for the Jewish state, American Jews will give the administration a pass for signaling to a small but vocal segment of its base — through acts of a sort of wink-and-nod anti-Semitism — that it still shares some of their key world views.
Lest the left read this as a purely partisan rebuke to the right, it’s worth mentioning that just a few days ago Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, having lately minimized the evil of Nazi concentration camps in order to score a cheap point at the Southern border, cherished being compared to Eva Perón, the fascist first lady of post-war Argentina. Eva and President Juan Perón counted among their possessions treasures stolen from Jews by the Nazis. They also harbored Nazi war criminals fleeing Europe, including the notorious ‘doctor’ of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele. Republicans and Democrats who sincerely wish to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism should recognize that is is a plague on both their houses — and now, with this ill-considered and typically sloppy invitation, a plague on the White House.
Daniella Greenbaum Davis is a Spectator columnist and a senior contributor to the Federalist.