WASHINGTON — The Trump campaign fired back at the Anti-Defamation League on Sunday, rejecting charges made earlier in the day by the anti-hate watchdog that the GOP nominee’s closing campaign ad carried anti-Semitic overtones.
The two-minute ad, first aired Friday, features audio from Trump’s West Palm Beach speech in mid-October, which was at the time also criticized by the ADL for “rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur antisemitism.”
Trump’s original speech was also panned for its striking similarities to the notorious anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” an anti-Semitic forgery that has fueled anti-Jewish violence for over a century.
The video in question appears to go even further, illustrating Trump’s accusation of a conspiracy against the American people with images of prominent Jews with philanthropist investor George Soros, Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish, appearing onscreen as Trump inveighs against “levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests” — both considered anti-Semitic dog-whistles.
ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement Sunday that “whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” adding that it “needs to stop.”
“All candidates need to be especially responsible and bid for votes by offering sincere ideas and policy proposals, not by conjuring painful stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories,” he said.
In response Sunday, one of Trump’s top Israel advisers said the ADL “should focus on real anti-Semitism and hatred, and not try to find any where none exist,” and accused the group of injecting itself into the partisan political fray.
“I am offended and concerned that an institution such as the ADL would involve itself in partisan politics instead of focusing on its important mission,” Jason Dov Greenblatt (no relation) told The Forward, adding that “Mr. Trump and his campaign have laid out important ideas, a vision and critical policies for our country. The suggestion that the ad is anything else is completely false and uncalled for.”
“Mr. Trump’s message and all of the behavior that I have witnessed over the two decades that I have known him have consistently been pro-Jewish and pro-Israel and accusations otherwise are completely off-base,” he said.
Another of Trump’s Israel advisers, David Friedman, challenged the notion that the criticism leveled at Soros in the ad amounted to anti-Semitism.
“The ADL and the far Left have truly gone mad when they label a critic of George Soros anti-Semitic,” he said in an email to The Times of Israel. “Mr. Soros, whose name is not recognizably Jewish and who has done nothing to positively identify with the Jewish people, has been behind countless efforts to vilify the State of Israel and encourage punitive sanctions against the Jewish State.”
“Only the Trump campaign has had the courage to call out Mr. Soros and his allies for their disgraceful behavior,” he added. “And what has been the Left’s response? To turn the world on its head and accuse Trump of anti-Semitism, solely because he has criticized an Israel-basher who nominally is of the Jewish faith. When will this insanity stop?”
Trump and his campaign have vociferously denied charges of anti-Semitism, and some have tried to distance themselves from anti-Semitic elements within his backers, though the candidate has resisted those efforts.
The Trump campaign and the ADL have had a few tussles over the past year. In July, the group criticized Trump for not speaking out more forcefully against his anti-Semitic supporters after he tweeted out a graphic of rival Hillary Clinton with what appeared to be a Star of David containing the tagline: “Most corrupt candidate ever.”
In September, the ADL called out Donald Trump Jr. for making what it called a “Holocaust joke” after he referenced the gas chambers during a radio interview. And in April, the Jewish civil rights group urged the Trump campaign to reconsider the use of the “America First” slogan, citing its “anti-Semitic use in the months before Pearl Harbor by a group of prominent Americans seeking to keep the nation out of World War II.”
During the height of the primary campaign, Trump delayed disavowing the support of white supremacist David Duke. And the candidate has failed to condemn the anti-Semitic vitriol directed by supporters against journalists who have written critically of Trump, including New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman and GQ writer Julia Ioffe.
In his defense, Trump and his supporters cite the fact that his daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren are Jewish (Ivanka Trump underwent an Orthodox conversion before she married Jared Kushner in 2009), that Trump was the grand marshal of the 2004 Salute to Israel Parade and that he has many Jewish friends.