Concerning Trump and anti-Semitism: Scribes offer blitz of views on whether he is or is not

The daily maelstrom that is the Donald Trump administration has left journalists across the religious and political spectrum gasping for air. There is so much real news -- don't get me started on the "fake news" dystopia -- that even a 24-7 news cycle is unable to keep pace.

So being only human, I've had to prioritize which issues I pay close attention to in an effort to keep my head from exploding. Not surprisingly, my priority issues are the ones I think impact me most directly.

These would include the future of the environment and climate change policy, White House attacks on the integrity of the press, health care, religious liberty for all, the economy and class divisions and the increase of anti-Semitic acts -- including a continuing rash of bomb threats -- and the president's reaction to them.

Meanwhile, the headlines just keep on coming. 

Sure enough, just prior to this post going live, the president commented on the bomb threats and other anti-Semitism incidents that have manifested of late. Click here for the latest.

The debates will continue. To say the least, the elite media, the American Jewish press and Israeli media have been all over the anti-Semitism issue.

I've read and viewed numerous reports that I thought handled it quite adequately and fairly. As you might expect, it's an explosive topic for any Jew who publicly identifies as such, as I do, and has family history connected directly to anti-Semitism at its very worst -- the Holocaust and Muslim terrorism against Israeli and non-Israeli Jews.

As a former wire service reporter (United Press International in New York and San Francisco during the 1960s), I retain a fondness for a well-crafted round-up on a complicated subject -- such as the charges from some Jews (and others) that President Trump harbors anti-Semitic inclinations. Of course, others say he at least looks the other way when such inclinations appear to surface in his associates and supporters.

 

Here's one Associated Press report from Godbeat veteran Rachel Zoll that ran last week.

It's a fine example of the wire's adherence to what used to be prized as "objective reporting," but which I prefer to call fair, fact-based journalism. She managed to include last week's developments relating to Israel and Trump's designated ambassador to Israel, all in about 950 words. 

I assume most GetReligion readers are familiar with the particulars, but if you aren't or need a quick refresher, please read Zoll's piece.

Now allow me to slip into journalism professor mode for a few paragraphs.

Mainstream, hard news journalists are expected to separate fact from opinion. If that's you, how do you reach some conclusion about whether or not the president and/or some of his key aides are anti-Semites, absent some huge smoking gun?

It's easy with a Hitler,  a David Duke. Their paper trails are clear -- as is this screed from a neo-Nazi publication (covered by The Forward).

But Trump insists he's not -- though, staying true to form, he's not above saying that in an absurd manner.

Plus, his administration includes a bevy of Jews, many Jews on the political right support him and -- as he keeps reminding us -- his convert daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, are Modern Orthodox in their Jewish religious observance. (On Monday, Ivanka -- but not her father -- did tweet a call for "religious tolerance." Later in the day, the presidential press office also issued a similar statement. But neither specifically mentioned anti-Semitism, as the president did Tuesday morning.)

So how does a news reporter decide whether Trump (leaving aside for now his entourage and any of supporters) is an anti-Semite?

You can't, of course, unless you're able to read his mind (which nobody I know is capable of) or have first hand knowledge of a time when he clearly acted so (which I don't, and probably you as well). Instead, we quote the opinions of others who, for one reason or another, we deem to be expertly informed on the matter.

It's called journalism 101.

But you may turn to the avalanche of analysis and opinion that's out there on this issue and every other aspect of the president's temperament and policies. Just make sure to balance your reading between those of varying opinions. When so many people are screaming, it's hard to know which voices to trust.

Here are a few analysis/opinion pieces I've found indicative of the range that's available. If you've read any you particularly appreciated please let me know in the comment section below.

This piece from The Times of Israel concludes that whether or not Trump is an anti-Semite matters less than how his actions power or disempower anti-Semitism. The author is a well-known left-wing Jewish activist.

This one from a prominent conservative Jewish writer published in National Review argues that Trump's actions around the issue by no means warrant his critics' Hitler comparisons. The writer, who strongly opposed Trump during the primary season and is still a critic of his governing style, also warns that left-wing anti-Semitism must not be overlooked.

Here's one more piece from the right, specifically the Daily Caller, in which the writer says asking Trump to denounce anti-Semitism is "insulting" and as conniving as would be asking the president when he stopped beating his wife.

To keep it even, here's my last example from, the liberal side. It's from The Atlantic and attacks Trump for acting personally aggrieved -- as if he's the victim -- by the anti-Semitism issue rather than responding to how he might assuage the fears of those who are the actual victims of anti-Semitism, which is to say, Jews.

That's more than enough to chew on. Besides, this issue surely won't go away -- certainly not as long as anti-Semitism persists in the United States, which I expect to be a long time.  Look for oodles more stories and columns to become available by the hour. Remember, journalists, to seek out transcripts and original texts (or in this White House, tweets).

Oh, and I'm sorry to disappoint you if you were hoping I'd unequivocally say whether I think Trump and some of his friends are anti-Semites, a damning charge, in my opinion, that's not to be bandied about lightly.

Truth is, I think he's an equal-opportunity amoral (or perhaps immoral) manipulator who is willing to throw any one (his immediate family aside), or any group to the wolves if he thinks it might momentarily advance his all-consuming interest, which is himself.

Jews are just one such group. Unfortunately, there are also many others. 

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