Andres Oppenheimer

Trump is not an anti-Semite, but his words and actions have emboldened anti-Semites

President Trump is not an anti-Semite, at least in the strict sense of the word. But you have to be living on another planet — or exclusively watching Fox News — to not realize that his words and actions have led to the worst outburst of anti-Semitic hate crimes in recent U.S. memory.

It’s no coincidence that there have been 68 bomb threats to 53 Jewish community centers in 26 states so far this year, according to the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. Or that nearly 200 tombstones were vandalized at a Jewish Cemetery in Missouri, or that anti-Semitic talk is raging through U.S. social media.

Trump created this monster. While he probably harbors no ill feelings against Jewish people — he keeps reminding everybody that his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism and married an Orthodox Jew — he has unleashed the dark forces of racism, xenophobia and intolerance among his followers since the first day of his presidential campaign.

And as a public figure, you can’t be anti-Mexican, or anti-Muslim, or make fun of the handicapped, or say that you can grab women by their genitals, without sending the message that it’s OK to deride minorities and unintentionally emboldening some of your followers to commit hate crimes.

As Rep. Mark Sanford, R-South Carolina, recently told Politico, “Trump has fanned the flame of intolerance.” And once you do that, it’s hard to put out the fire.

Remember, Trump started his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015, grabbing world attention with his claim that most Mexican undocumented immigrants are criminals. Mexicans are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” he said.

And from then on, Trump’s thinly-veiled hate speech, racial innuendo and xenophobic rhetoric has only risen in tone. He questioned U.S.-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel’s credentials to rule in a suit against Trump University because “he’s Mexican.” He laughed at former Republican hopeful Jeb Bush because he “speaks Mexican.”

He has made racist remarks against Muslims, as when he told CNN on March 9, 2016, that “Islam hates us,” without distinguishing between followers of that religion and Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. And white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups — including the KKK newspaper The Crusader — have openly supported him, forcing him to belatedly disavow some of them. 

Trump was for several years the leading proponent of the unsubstantiated claim that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which many have long seen as a racist attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the first black president of the United States.

Trump’s motto, “America First,” was the slogan of Nazi-friendly Americans shortly before World War II. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) asked Trump in an April 18, 2016, statement to drop the phrase, citing its “undercurrent of anti-Semitism.”

Most importantly, as president, Trump has surrounded himself with several top advisers close to the so-called “alt-right” movement, such as his top adviser Stephen Bannon.

The White House recently failed to mention anti-Semitism as the driving force of the Holocaust in a Jan. 27 declaration on International Holocaust Memorial Day, prompting Jewish leaders to criticize the omission as giving ammunition to Jewish Holocaust deniers.

Earlier this week, after weeks of complaints by Jewish community leaders that he had repeatedly failed to denounce the rise in hate crimes against Jews since his election, Trump read a statement saying, “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible,” and that the country has to “root out hate and prejudice.”

My opinion: Mr. President, you are the one who must take the lead in rooting out hate and prejudice in America because you are the one who set them loose.

And the way to do it is not just saying — too little, too late — that anti-Semitism is horrible. The way to do it is stopping your rants against Mexicans, Muslims and others, which embolden racists across the country, and to denounce white supremacist groups that support you.

Take a deep breath, get rid of that angry demeanor, start building a positive agenda instead of being the anti-immigration, anti-trade, anti-everything president, and become the president of all Americans. 

Watch the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show Sundays at 9 p.m. on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

Watch “Oppenheimer Presenta” Sundays at 9 p.m. on CNN en Español