Could A Trump Presidency Be Pro-Israel And White Nationalist At The Same Time? Donald Trump promises to be the most aggressively pro-Israel president ever. His embrace of an adviser whose media enterprise is tainted by anti-Semitism allegations has some Jewish leaders concerned.
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Could A Trump Presidency Be Pro-Israel And White Nationalist At The Same Time?

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Could A Trump Presidency Be Pro-Israel And White Nationalist At The Same Time?

Could A Trump Presidency Be Pro-Israel And White Nationalist At The Same Time?

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. In just under two months, Donald Trump will take the oath of office, and there's no shortage of speculation about what sort of president he will be. Here's one example. He could either be a strongly pro-Israel president or someone seen by American Jews as accommodating anti-Semitism, or maybe both at the same time, as NPR's Tom Gjelten explains.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: Donald Trump's major speech before a Jewish audience was last March when he assured The American Israel Public Affairs Committee that he was a lifelong supporter and true friend of Israel. One promise in that speech got Trump a thunderous reception.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.

(APPLAUSE)

GJELTEN: Previous presidents have made that promise but haven't kept it. Trump insists he'll be the exception. One of his closest advisers, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is himself an Orthodox Jew. For those reasons, some American Jews have a positive impression of Trump. Rabbi Mark Dratch is executive vice president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America.

MARK DRATCH: The general sense is that he has a love of the state of Israel, that he understands the security needs of the state of Israel, he understands the special relationship that exists between the United States and Israel.

GJELTEN: And yet, Dratch says his group worries about the people around Donald Trump.

DRATCH: The campaign and statements and tweets have opened the door for those with anti-Semitic for anti-minority or anti-black or anti-Muslim feelings express themselves in ways that we have not seen for quite a while in this country.

GJELTEN: This is the challenge for Trump - being strongly pro-Israel may not be enough to assure American Jews his presidency will be good for them. For one thing, Jews are themselves a minority. Sentiments against immigrants or Muslims or other minorities, whether by Trump or his key supporters, can make Jews nervous. Jamie Kirchick is a columnist for Tablet magazine, which focuses on Jewish issues.

JAMIE KIRCHICK: When you have a demagogic movement that targets people because of their race or ethnicity or whatever, it's only a matter of time before they come to the Jews. They might not be coming to the Jews now, but they will get around them eventually.

GJELTEN: Then there's the issue of what Trump does not say, like when journalist Julia Ioffe wrote an article critical of Melania Trump and got subjected to a barrage of attacks on her as a Jew. Asked about those anti-Semitic slurs, Trump said only that Ioffe had written an inaccurate article. To Jane Eisner, that sounded like he was excusing the anti-Semitic attacks. Eisner is editor-in-chief of the Jewish newspaper the Forward.

JANE EISNER: By doing that, he has encouraged a far-right fringe - and I hope it's just a fringe - to feel empowered and to do the nasty things that they do in his name.

GJELTEN: Lots of attention right now is on Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News executive serving as Trump's strategic adviser. Under his leadership, Breitbart has published antifeminist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant articles and won a reputation as being allied with those nationalists who favor white European values here. He's also pro-Israel, an outspoken Zionist, but the Tablet's Jamie Kirchick says white nationalists see Israel as organized along ethnic lines. For that reason, he says, they can be pro-Israel and still anti-minority here in the United States.

KIRCHICK: They see Israel as an ethno-nationalist state, and they want to mimic that in the United States. That's what they like.

GJELTEN: The Zionist Organization of America held a big awards dinner last night. The group's leaders insist that Trump and Bannon are not anti-Semites, and they cite their pro-israel positions as evidence. The group's leader tells NPR Bannon asked to attend the dinner. In the end, however, he did not show up. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

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