British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (L) and US President Donald Trump greet before a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski        (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump defends racist attacks on congresswomen
04:57 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Halie Soifer serves as executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, an advocacy organization founded in 2017, which aims to help Democrats win control of the House, Senate and Oval Office in future elections by mobilizing the Jewish vote. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

The past 24 hours have cemented President Donald Trump’s reputation as America’s “racist in chief.” After tweeting a hateful diatribe about how four Democratic congresswomen of color should “go back” to where they came from, the President attempted to justify his racism with accusations that these members of Congress are anti-Israel. On Monday morning, he tweeted that these lawmakers “have made Israel feel abandoned by the U.S.” and cited South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who called them all “anti-America” and “anti-Semitic.”

Halie Soifer

Many Jewish Americans reject the President’s transparent attempt to divert the country’s attention from his own moral failings, just as we reject his attempts to politicize Israel and the rise of anti-Semitism. The President should recognize that Jews see his 280-characters of hate for what they are – an utter lack of character on his part and a betrayal of the values that truly make America great. Jews have experienced the devastating consequences of hatred and intolerance throughout history and do not want to be used as political pawns in Trump’s Twitter feed.

If the President thought he would win over Jewish support by pandering via tweet, he’s wrong. Seventy-one percent of Jewish voters disapprove of the job he’s doing, according to a recent poll conducted by Greenberg Research. The same poll demonstrates that – of every policy issue – Jewish voters most strongly disapprove of the President’s immigration policies, which appear driven by the xenophobia apparent in his first tweet on Sunday.

And despite his feigning concern about anti-Semitism, nearly three-quarters of Jews feel less secure than they did two years ago and the majority of Jews attribute their rising insecurity to Trump’s policies. More specifically, many are concerned about Trump encouraging right-wing extremism and Republicans tolerating white nationalism within their ranks. In fact, according to a March Gallup poll, more than 70% of Jews continue to disapprove of Trump and only 16% now identify as Republicans.

Ironically, on Monday – the very day the Trump administration is hosting a summit focused on the rise of anti-Semitism – the President has clearly failed to recognize that bias against one racial or religious group can lead to bias against others. The Summit on Combatting Anti-Semitism held Monday at the Department of Justice should have focused on how the President’s own words and policies have contributed to the near historic levels of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. Jewish voters know this, which is why nearly 60% of them find President Trump at least partially to blame for the recent synagogue shootings perpetrated by white supremacists in Pittsburgh and Poway.

Nearly two years ago, Trump faced a similar inflection point in his presidency. Following a violent clash at a Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump defended “very fine people on both sides” of the demonstration and equated white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us” with those peacefully protesting them. Similar to this moment, the President’s bigotry was laid bare for the world to see – his instinct was to defend neo-Nazis who had just killed an innocent protester.

After receiving public criticism for his appalling statement, Trump deflected, claiming that his intent was to defend those protesting the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The President failed to recognize that it doesn’t matter if he was defending the statue or the neo-Nazis in front of it – for all intents and purposes, they are one in the same because the statue symbolizes their bigotry and hate.

On Monday, the President once again pointed the finger elsewhere when criticized. Instead of recognizing the danger of his own words, Trump vilified the subjects of his original racist screed. Even if one disagrees with any of these members of Congress on Israel or any other policy issue – as many (including me) have in the past – there is no justification for racist attacks against them.

Stay up to date...

  • Sign up for our new newsletter.
  • Join us on Twitter and Facebook

    As we teach our children, two wrongs do not make a right, and leadership requires admitting when you have made a mistake. Unfortunately, Trump is uniquely incapable of identifying his own flaws, and he has never sought to correct them. As usual, the President has doubled down amid a controversy that he created – blaming others and exacerbating the original offense.

    Those who are committed to American values must publicly recognize the incredible danger of the commander-in-chief using his platform of power to espouse hate. And those who remain silent should hold their heads in shame. Most Republicans have been silent in the face of the President’s appalling rhetoric – and this makes them complicit in Trump’s attempt to divide our country along racial, religious and ethnic lines. As a leader of a major Jewish organization, I refuse to join in this complicity and know that the overwhelming majority of Jews will strongly reject America’s racist in chief in 2020.