One day prior to the 2016 election, the Trump presidential campaign released an ad that inveighed against “levels of power in Washington” and “global special interests.” Appearing on-screen were images of George Soros, Janet Yellon and Lloyd Blankfein – all Jewish. This came on the heels of another Trump ad featuring Hillary Clinton, a pile of cash and a star of David, itself lifted from a white supremacist web site. The ad was quickly altered, with a red circle replacing the star.
It would be quite a stretch to consider Donald Trump a rabid antisemite, since he has a Jewish daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. However, it is clear he harbors corrosively stereotypical sentiments involving Jews, with his references to Israel as “your country” during a meeting with Jews, or his offhand remark on Jews’ facility with money during an AIPAC conference, or his denunciation of liberal Jews as disloyal to Israel. It would also be quite a stretch to call his senior advisor Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, an antisemite either, even though he has given high praise for The Camp of the Saints, a virulently white supremacist novel espousing the “Great Replacement Theory,” and has forwarded quite a few pieces from various white supremacist websites.
It is certainly not a stretch to consider Miller, or Trump – who famously told the Proud Boys to “stand by” – a white supremacist. The evidence is just too voluminous and damning. Such is the “Jew-washing” that has helped to enable white supremacist sentiment to reenter the political mainstream, whipping up a chill wind that has gotten Jews, Blacks and Latinos gunned down in houses of worship and supermarkets by avowed adherents of this virulently racist and antisemitic “theory.” Dennis Prager has often referred to Jews as the “canary in a coal mine.” That is, when Jews start facing oppression, that is a sure sign that the sociopolitical air is highly toxic. But now that Jews are often embraced by elements of the white supremacist movement, and some Jews are increasingly part of that movement, many dismiss the accusation of white supremacism. The numbers, however, don’t lie. According to the Anti-Defamation League (which suspected child trafficker Rep. Matt Gaetz denounced as “a racist organization”), twice as many were murdered in the last decade by white supremacists than all other extremist movements combined.
The “Great Replacement Theory” is now having a moment, even though that “theory” leaves behind a tsunami of bloodshed. And a large number of G.O.P. politicians have jumped on the hate train. Here are some examples:
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House: “radical left wants to get rid of the rest of us … and would love to drown traditional, classic Americans with as many people as they can who know nothing of American history, nothing of American tradition, nothing of the rule of law.”
J.D. Vance, Yale-educated author of Hillbilly Elegy and G.O.P. nominee for the U.S. Senate: “(Democrats) have decided that they can’t win re-election in 2024 unless they bring a large number of new voters to replace the voters that are already here”.
Eric Schmitt, G.O.P. candidate for the U.S. Senate: (Democrats are) “fundamentally trying to change this country through illegal immigration”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, the 3rd-ranking G.O.P House leader, in a recent ad put out by her campaign two days after the Buffalo terror act in her own home state : “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION,”
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, who according to a recent New York Times report espoused the “Great Replacement Theory” over 400 times: “I know that the left and all the little gatekeepers on Twitter become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots with new people, more obedient voters from the third world. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening actually.”
Laura Ingraham, another Fox News commentator: “(Democrats) want to replace you, the American voters, with newly amnestied citizens and an ever increasing number of chain migrants.”
This is but a small sample of Republicans and their increasingly extremist media cheerleaders who have embraced the Great Replacement Theory in some form.
The Passover Haggadah quotes Deuteronomy in saying the Egyptians oppressed us with hard labor, or “B’farekh.” A rabbinic midrash cautions us not to read it thus, but rather as “b’feh rakh,” or a “soft mouth” – that is, with sanitized rhetoric. Rich Lowry and the noted Jewish commentator Ben Shapiro provide just that, claiming that the 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, written by Ruy Teixeira and Ron Judis, envisions an America “in which white America is supplanted by multiracial, multiethnic America.”
Now even Andrew Sullivan, a columnist whom I often admire, is getting in on the game, saying this: “No, these people do not represent a secret conspiracy — let alone a Jewish one — to dilute the “whiteness” of America. There is nothing secret about it at all.” (emphasis added) In his article he cherry-picks and distorts quotes in order to proffer the lie that Democrats are engineering immigration policy in order to cement their hold on a majority of Americans, and not due to virtue or principle.
This is how a violent and hateful ideology gets sanitized into what seems at first glance to be a reasonable political position. From “Jews won’t replace us” we get “Dems have been trying to alter the, er, color of the American electorate for its own political gain. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, himself avoided the opportunity to denounce the “Great Replacement Theory” immediately after the Buffalo terror attack, clearly an act of self-preservation. Certainly he has learned that about half of Republicans espouse some form of this “theory.”
Fortunately, a good number of Republicans are pushing back, including Reps. Adam Kinzinger, Liz Cheney, and even the firebrand Ann Coulter (who refers to those embracing this “theory” as “nut jobs”), and many others. And if you are a conservative, or a Republican, you need to as well. There was a time when Democrats, and particularly unions, strongly opposed immigration and Republicans supported it. Jews need to speak out and tell their leaders to stop repeating this filth, even in sanitized form, and to start denouncing it unequivocally.
Our tradition is abundantly clear on how to treat immigrants, irrespective of the political implications. The Torah mandate compassion for the “stranger” no less than 36 times; that we should treat them like citizens, that we should “love them like” ourselves. Repeatedly we are reminded that we know what it’s like to be a stranger, “having yourselves been strangers in Egypt.” Now it seems our nation of immigrants has forgotten that we were once strangers in this land, and since before the founding of our republic there have been strong suspicions expressed against Germans, Irish, Italians and of course Jews, among others. The only group here that has a legitimate beef against immigrants are the indigenous populations, who were indeed replaced by way of smallpox, genocide and forced cultural disenfranchisement.
There is a strong policy argument in favor of immigration. Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans, and undocumented immigrants even less so. The replacement rate of native-born Americans is a paltry 1.8 per couple, well below the needed replacement rate of 2.1. Immigrants, who tend to be younger than the native-born population, make up for this erosion in our population, thereby keeping the Medicare and Social Security trust funds solvent. Immigrants, including the undocumented, tend to take jobs native-born Americans are not willing to take, and provide a net positive tax advantage of $80,000 per immigrant over their lifetimes, according to the conservative Cato Institute. Even undocumented immigrants are neither a net gain or loss in tax revenue, as they pay sales tax and even contribute Social Security taxes they will likely never be able to draw from. Immigrants to this country have won from a third to nearly half of all Nobel prizes in chemistry and physics awarded to Americans in the 21st Century. Immigrants comprise 30% of small business growth. By every metric, immigration enriches America both fiscally and culturally, and opposition to immigration is in effect anti-American.
If you are an American-born Jew, chances are your ancestors were undocumented immigrants. Prior to 1924, one did not need a visa to come to this country. You just stepped off a boat and were processed. This matter is personal to me. My grandfather was unable to get a visa to come to America, was in Rotterdam when it was leveled by the Nazis, and nearly died in Bergen-Belsen. 80% of my family were murdered. They could have been saved, but xenophobia got them killed. Our oppressively restrictive and racist immigration policies, including the reprehensible and unnecessary “Remain in Mexico” and Title 42, relegate asylum seekers to live in filth, be subject to violence and rape, while white Ukrainian immigrants are given the red carpet.
And if you think as a Jew, you won’t be swept up in this tsunami of hate, then you aren’t paying attention to history, or even recent events. Anti-immigrant sentiment is deeply intertwined with white supremacism and its virulent antisemitism, and if you don’t act now, it will get you too.
It is said the early-bird catches the worm. Now the worm is getting so large it might eat the distracted, credulous bird. Don’t let that happen. Shavua Tov.