Just hours before the debate, the Jewish Democratic Council of America released an ad, Hate Doesn’t Stop Itself, It Must Be Stopped. In the debate, of course, Trump refused to denounce white supremacists, instead winking at the Proud Boys with his “stand by” directive.
Nevertheless, elements of the organized Jewish community criticized comparing hate in Trump’s America to early-1930s German and Nazis. In the Forward, Halie Soifer, executive director of the JDC, explains:
In a baffling and unfortunate development, some of the major Jewish American organizations came out against our ad. The American Jewish Committee claimed it was an “offensive” distraction “from the urgent need to fight Jew hatred” that trivializes the memory of the Holocaust’s victims. @USJewishDems, take down this ad immediately.
And the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, insisted that references to Hitler have “no place in the presidential race.”
So it was ironic to say the least when, just hours after the ad’s release, the President validated our message at the first presidential debate by refusing to condemn white supremacy. After all, his ugly comments during the debate are hardly the first time Trump has flirted with white nationalists….
It’s sad that despite all this, the ADL and the AJC felt the need to criticize our ad, which was so heartily vindicated just hours later. We recognize that parallels between today and the 1930s are grim and chilling, but they are real. We cannot wish them away, and Trump continues to remind us of the extreme danger of his words, as the AJC and ADL both confirmed in their condemnations of his debate performance last night….
We are proud to speak truth to power, even when it’s difficult. And the truth is that the hatred emboldened by President Trump is an insidious danger to our community and our democracy, and that is why we are doing everything we can to elect Joe Biden and restore the soul of our nation in 34 days.
To our fellow Jewish organizations, we would like to say that the time for equivocation is over. This is no time to back away from the truth.
Readers of this blog may know that during this presidency, I have posted regular references to Nazi Germany, but often as historic observations and not pointed directly at any particular current political situation. Although I have, I admit, frequently posted the question “Are we scared yet?” and a caution about thinking that “it can’t happen here.”
The JDC is right. The time for equivocation is over. In the face of obvious evil, whatever fancy talk they mouth and whatever cloak of rationalizations they wear, apologists become aiders and abettors. Those who claim to know history should go back to their studies. Only the self-deluded and the self-interested turn a blind eye. We should be scared because it can happen anywhere.