Not a Great Beginning for Jews

Not a Great Beginning for Jews

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

After one week with a new President-elect it appears that Jews in America already may have reason to be concerned as they survey the forthcoming Trump years. Both the increase in hate crimes and the appointment of Stephen Bannon as one of the two key members of the White House staff ought to give Jews serious pause as they observe what is happening in America.

Hate crimes have risen in the U.S. according to the just released 2015 FBI statistics by 7%. Those committed specifically against Jews have risen by 9%; against Blacks by 7.6%, and against Muslims by 67%!  There is extensive anecdotal reporting that even over the past week since the election–to say nothing of the past several months–there has continued to be an increase in publicly reported bias crimes committed against Muslim, Jews, LGBT’s, and Blacks. Regardless of how one would like to explain this behavior, it ought to be extremely unsettling for all Americans. What Jews particularly ought to know from history is that when other minorities are attacked, hate crimes tolerated, and bias incidents committed, it never ends well for Jews.)

The one force who has so far failed to address this issue during his campaign as well as since has been Trump himself.  In fact, during his campaign he had repeated opportunities to address this trend. There is reason to suggest that rather than single out the hate criminals, Trump’s passivity may well have fueled and encouraged the growth and persistence of this behavior among his more outspoken followers. When or even whether Trump will call out these actions for what they are remains to be seen, as it would require him to directly chastise many of those who formed part of his voting base; meanwhile, his silence is deafening.  

In a similar way the appointment of Stephen Bannon to the position of Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor raises all kinds of concern for many of these same groups. Bannon, Trump’s final campaign CEO and the former CEO of Breitbart News, has a reputation for being a gunslinger for the alt-right. His form of conservative ideology has thrown many in the Republican Party into a total dither. Now that he has been elevated to a position of extraordinary influence in the President-elect’s small circle, women, gays, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and other groups have become rightfully alarmed at what type of agenda the Trump Administration will truly develop. 

The fact that Bannon reportedly has accepted an invitation to attend Sunday night’s annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) should not suddenly relieve any anxiety from American Jews. Alan Dershowitz’s column in today’s Haaretz suggesting that Bannon may be a bigot but not an anti-Semite also needs to be considered—despite Dershowitz’ strong argumentation—against the fact that he will be sharing the dais with Bannon at the same ZOA dinner where Dershowitz himself will be an honoree. At a minimum Bannon ought to raise enough flags to make Jews and all Americans extremely concerned about his character and the influence his views will have in the Trump White House.

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