Donald Trump is not an anti-Semite. Certainly not an informed anti-Semite, because he knows little or nothing about the history of antisemitism. Nor is he an Islamophobic or a racist. His world view is too narrow to allow such fine distinctions. When he looks at the world he doesn’t even distinguish between U.S. allies and adversaries. What makes Trump and his pseudo-policies so dangerous is that they are rooted in simplistic and delusional chauvinism and fueled by blind anger and hatred which threaten to wreck the ship of state and render it irreparable.
As a student of the history of antisemitism, I have learned one important lesson about the correlation between Jew hatred and the rise and fall of empires. Every major power throughout time that persecuted the Jews went into decline and lost its preeminance. It is not always clear whether the former caused the latter or whether turning against the Jews is a symptom of an ailing power, but whichever way one chooses to look at it, the two have always gone hand in hand.
• After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, The Spanish Empire went into decline and lost its preeminence in Europe and in the New World to other powers such as England. Here, it turns out, exiled Spanish Jews did play an active role in helping England wrest such possessions as Jamaica and other Caribbean islands from Spain and turning them over to England. To this day, Spain has ceased to be a world power.
• Germany under Hitler, in its pursuit of world power, committed genocide against the Jews of Europe. Jewish physicists such as Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Robert Oppenheimer played a key role in enabling the United States to produce an atomic bomb ahead of Germany and bring World War II to a decisive end. To this day, Germany lives under the long shadow cast by the Holocaust.
• In the Soviet Union, Jews were not allowed to practice their faith, and antisemitism was widespread under Stalin and his successors. In the seventies, when world Jewry a launched a struggle to free Soviet Jewry, the exodus of one and a half million Jews from the Soviet Union was followed by the collapse of what President Reagan called the “Evil Empire.” Today, what remains of the Soviet Union, namely, Russia, is an economically depressed autocratic country whose delusional leader desperately seeks to resuscitate the former empire by acts of aggression against former member countries of that union.
Since its inception, the United States achieved preeminence in the world because it functioned as a haven for the downtrodden and the persecuted of the world. The contributions of immigrants from all over the world, including Jews, and, I might add, including also African Americans who were brought here originally as slaves but who have greatly enriched the cultural, spiritual, and social fabric of the country, have made America great, not the delusions of white supremacists whom Trump has been cultivating and misleading by creating a false image of American greatness.
One result of encouraging white supremacy by Trump’s campaign slogans, has been a nationwide assault on Jewish institutions, from Jewish Centers to Jewish cemeteries. Another has been the increase of attacks on Muslim institutions and individuals. Two American-born young Muslim women wearing Muslim traditional clothes were approached the other day by a white man in my neighborhood in Pompano Beach, Florida, who told them that soon Trump will expel them “back to their country.”
Clearly, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, and white supremacy are all one. They all feed on one another, and all it takes—has we have seen in Germany under Hitler—is one demagogue who appeals to people’s basest instincts to turn an entire nation from the path of reason and compassion to the road of racism and belligerence which can overnight change America from what President George H. Bush referred to as a “kind and compassionate society” to a heartless autocratic state whose fate should be easy to predict.