The victims of the Squirrel Hill Massacre lie buried, but their deaths continue to reverberate, laying bare the growing divide among American Jews just days before the midterm elections.
Sunday night, Morton Klein, the head of the hard-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) speaking at the group’s annual dinner called it “political blasphemy” to place any onus for the 11 Jews murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue on the president or his heated rhetoric.
In 2016, it was George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein on the receiving end of the Trump campaign’s closing ad attacking Hillary Clinton. Now, Trump is attacking Soros (again), Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.
At best, the fact that New York’s Jewish voters appeared poised to go Democratic in the congressional midterms by a margin of better than 3-to-1 was irrelevant to Klein and company; at worst, it made those Jews a target of scorn. The ballroom at the Marriott Marquis was Trump Country.
Not surprisingly, the dinner was big on Israel and Donald Trump and in that order.
Hats bearing the logo of the “United States Embassy, Jerusalem, Israel,” festooned the dinner tables. Fittingly, Trump family and administration members were the evening’s highlighters.
Kimberly Guilfoyle, Don Jr.’s current girlfriend and former Fox News talking head, emceed the event, joined by John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, Rick Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, and Fox’s Mark Levin. For good measure, Bolton, Grenell and Levin each received a video shout-out from Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.
Still, there was no escaping Pittsburgh. Danny Dannon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, termed the shooting “barbaric” and compared it to Kristallnacht. Bolton and Grenell also offered forceful denunciations.
The political heavy lifting, however, would be left to Levin, who attacked the Anti-Defamation League and branded as lies its statistics evidencing a rise in anti-Semitic incidents coinciding with Trump’s candidacy.
Dannon, too, settled scores and threw a couple of jabs, returning to the UN Security Council resolution that called East Jerusalem occupied Palestinian territory that President Obama chose not to have the U.S. veto in his final days in office. Dannon contrasted that with the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
Dannon also implicitly needled the mainline American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) by saying that the ZOA was now the go-to organization in the U.S. for the Israeli government.
Bolton then echoed his boss in terming the Iran Deal the “worst diplomatic deal in history,” adding that America cannot rely on handshakes between elites. He did not, however, explain how the apparent rapprochement between the U.S. and North Korea under Trump was any more substantial than the Iran Deal had been.
To the applause of the crowd, Bolton added, “Gone are the days that the U.S. sold out allies.” Please tell that to Canada.
Founded by Louis Brandeis, the late Supreme Court justice, ZOA, more recently a beneficiary of Republican mega-donor and Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson’s largesse, stood staunchly behind Trump and Steve Bannon during the 2016 campaign.
The dinner also doubled as Exile Island for the refugees of Trump World, albeit one with a hot meal and multiple courses. Sean Spicer, the Mooch’s predecessor who after bizarrely saying that Syria’s Bashaar al-Assad was worse than Hitler, then tried to explain himself by talking about “Holocaust centers”? Check. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the banished National Security Council staffer? Check. Monica Crowley, the would-be national security staffer who withdrew from consideration under a hailstorm of plagiarism allegations? Check. The gang was all there; the band back together for a night.
The breach within the American Jewish Community is not disappearing anytime soon. The reality is that the president delivered on his promises to move the embassy to Jerusalem and to tear up the Iran Deal struck by Obama. The reality also is that Donald Trump has a difficult time putting distance between himself and white nationalists, and takes unvarnished pride in turning up his rhetoric. Race baiting is a new normal.
Like a Rorschach test, the warring segments of American Jewry will see what they want to see, with the midterms looming as another flashpoint. Division is now the operative coin of the realm.