This week President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., shared Tweets online that highlighted anti-Semitic and other discriminatory posts purportedly made by Jacob Blake Sr., father of Jacob Blake, the victim of recent police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In doing so, the President’s son attacked Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, but he also invoked claims of anti-Semitism in a provocative and inciting manner.
The question isn’t why – it’s will the the Black and Jewish communities fall for it?
The social media posts by Trump Jr., posted on Wednesday and Thursday, were retweets of the Reagan Battalion, a social media account that claims to be “your source for news, information, and commentary, from a conservative perspective. The initial Tweet, which purports to show screen captures from the account of Jacob Blake Sr., states:
“Some FB posts by Jacob Blake, the guy @JoeBiden is planning to meet with. He’s a vicious antisemite. If the investigation finds that his son’s shooting was unjustified those responsible should be held accountable, but there is no excuse for Biden to meet with a Jew hater.”
A subsequent Tweet by Reagan Battalion clarified:
“To be clear: These posts were posted by Jacob Blake Sr. dad of Jacob Blake Jr. who was shot. The son is not responsible for his dad’s posts. The guy who posted those disgusting antisemitic posts should not get to meet with a candidate running for President of the United States.”
Trump Jr. retweeted both Tweets, as well as an article on the same topic by Brietbart.
During his visit to Kenosha on Thursday, Biden did meet with members of Jacob Blake’s family at the Milwaukee airport, including Blake’s parents and siblings. Blake’s attorneys also joined the meeting. Biden’s visit comes after President Trump’s visit to Kenosha earlier in the week. During his visit, Trump did not meet with Blake’s family.
Trump Jr.’s Tweets, and the corresponding conservative outcry about Jacob Blake Senior’s offensive social media posts, are only the most recent effort to paint Biden, as well as the broader Democratic party, as being unwilling to challenge anti-Semitism on the left. Interestingly enough, however, both Trump Jr., as well as his father, have often refused to address anti-Semitism coming from the right and far-right, including among right-wing militias and conspiracy theorists, such as the QAnon movement that has frequently trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes and attacks against Jewish individuals such as George Soros. President Trump and his son’s seeming willingness to turn a blind eye of anti-Semitism by his supporters and even his donors make his stands against anti-Semitism on the left even more suspect.
So, if Trump Jr. isn’t an even-handed critic of anti-Semites, what is his motivation now to take up the mantle of defending the Jewish people?
Plain and simple, it’s about enflaming division and conflict.
No doubt the past several months of national reflection and civil unrest forced difficult conversation about race and privilege to the forefront of the nation’s attention, and the conversations about Black-Jewish relations are been equally difficult. Despite a long history of working together on momentous efforts such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, there remain substantial fault lines between the communities, particularly with respect to issues of privilege that accompany the substantial part of the Jewish community that is white. Recent accusations of both racism anti-Semitism between the two groups have sparked confrontation, understanding and reconciliation.
But what Donald Trump, Jr. and others are doing by calling out Jacob Blake, Sr.’s purported posts isn’t about a deep appreciation or defense of the Jewish people. It’s about playing politics. Of course, anti-Semitic posts are wrong, as are all hateful comments intended to denigrate others. But Trump Jr. Tweets aren’t meant to castigate and educate Blake Sr., they are intended to draw Jewish and Black leaders into deeper conflict and finger pointing.
They must not fall for it.
Now, more than ever, it is time for the Black and Jewish communities to come together and recommit themselves to shared efforts to heal the nation, to pursue justice and equality for the Black community, and safety and security for the Jewish community as well as for all Americans. And when there are conflicts — and there will inevitably be challenges that communities must confront together — it is up to the leadership of the communities themselves to navigate them. It is not the role of sons of politically divisive leaders.
America has big issues to address, including the ways it must heal the wounds that have been inflicted on the nation’s sense of common cause and civility over the past four years. Hateful rhetoric will not advance that cause, but nor will exploiting that rhetoric for political gain.
If Donald Trump, Jr. wanted to divide the Black and Jewish communities with his Tweets, the only answer is to come even closer together and strengthen the nation they both inhabit.
Now THAT would be something to tweet about.