Abe Foxman gave the Jewish Daily Forward an interview in which he minimized the racial threats posed by the incoming Trump administration:
““The view from here,” he said, quoting the hawkish Ariel Sharon after he became prime minister of Israel and surprised the world by withdrawing from Gaza, “is not the view from there.”
Outside the walls of Foxman’s retreat, much of the country was following the controversial post-election statements, activities and appointments of President-elect Donald Trump following an election campaign considered unprecedented in modern times for the bigotry, lies and threats Trump introduced into it.
Foxman made no effort to lighten the gravity of this. But the campaign, he said, was part and parcel of larger changes enveloping the world we are living in, thanks to digital technology, the internet and social media.
“The election didn’t create anti-Semitism and bigotry,” he said. “It just enabled what was always there. What we’re seeing now is that the sewer covers are off, and it’s coming out of the sewers. That’s part of the changing perceptions caused by the internet and social media.”
For all that, Foxman said, “I’m optimistic,” at least about Trump. Notwithstanding his campaign, “I think the president-elect has begun the process” of making clear he will govern on behalf of all the American people, Foxman said.”
I’m glad Foxman, himself, hasn’t yet sampled the ill-winds of change that have begun blowing through this nation, and hope he never will. That said, those of us who are more easily recognizable in communities all throughout the nation have already begun to be subjected to the hate that is now freely and openly expressed by white supremacists and their sympathizers, and the kind of reductionism expressed by Foxman is rather puzzling. Such statements disappoint and dishearten at a time when advocacy groups and the opposing party should be gearing up to form the most forceful opposition yet. But such signs, sadly, just aren’t there, as the opposition party is still engaged in recriminations against its own.
Few are the observers who’ve noted, in Donald J. Trump, a propensity for pragmatism of the kind that is unencumbered by self-interest, and for good reason. Trump’s choices, beginning with leaving it up to his VP-elect to head the transition team, and then nominating the most racist, most radical of choices to head the most sensitive posts, leave very little to the imagination, insofar as the policy proposals to come.
Comparing Trump to the late Ariel Sharon, as Foxman did, is incomprehensible as there couldn’t be any falser equivalency between two men. Trump and Sharon are diametrically-opposed in their life experience and philosophies. Whatever one may think of Sharon’s policies, he was well-educated, principled, and served his nation over his entire lifetime, whereas Trump has never served the interests of the public in the role of a civil servant, and avoided the draft. Sharon was a national leader with decades of leadership experience. Trump is at the start of his leadership path and has yet to demonstrate any ability to lead.
What basis does Foxman have to apply the famous Sharon quote, “The view from here is not the view from there?” Trump has yet to take his oath of office, provided the electoral college certifies him as president. He hasn’t yet experienced the “view from there.” Trump won’t have that perspective until he’s been in office for at least some time and, given his temperament, there is no assurance that he is even capable of the introspection necessary to come to the kinds of conclusions Sharon arrived at, after decades of leadership of one form or another.
Trump had no qualms in winning by using the worst in American society to advance his ambitions. He won the presidency by making use of the ugliest aspects of American society: fear and hate. Martin Luther King most aptly described the behavior of men like Trump:
“I want you to follow me through here because this is very important to see the roots of racism and the denial of the right to vote. Through their control of mass media, they revised the doctrine of white supremacy. They saturated the thinking of the poor white masses with it, (Yes) thus clouding their minds to the real issue involved in the Populist Movement.“
Trump, for all of his ties to the Jewish world, did not relent in his use of anti-Jewish hate in order to ascend to power. It mattered not one whit to him that his favorite child is a Jew now, or that her children, his grandchildren, are Jews. Judaism doesn’t matter to his Jewish son-in-law, who counseled him all throughout the campaign and continues to play a major role in Trump’s new career as a politician. As the owner and operator of a major newspaper, who better than Jared Kushner to have clear perspective on the dangers posed by the revival of white supremacy in this nation? What, if anything, does he tell his father-in-law about it?
Foxman is dead wrong about Trump, and he puts all minorities, not only Jews, in more danger by engaging in this kind of reductionism. Trump poses a serious threat and minimizing it only gives white supremacy legitimacy. The KKK is rising again, marching in our streets without shame or fear. It is the rise of Trump that gives them this renewed confidence, and he has done nothing to dampen it in any way.
Foxman retired 18 months ago. He would do well to keep silent and leave it to the next generation to assess and deal with the danger posed by Trump and his henchmen.