Donald Trump is attacking both Jews and the left with one clean blowRoundup
tags: Jewish history, antisemitism, Trump
Kate Aronoff is a writer based in New York City.
On Thursday, Donald Trump signed an executive order that defines Judaism as a nationality. In the process, he also effectively defined some 7.5 million American Jews as dual nationals, with dual loyalties. This is an anti-semitic trope with a long, ugly history. It was precisely that kind of logic which helped unleash the murderous pogroms that my great grandfather fled in Eastern Europe.
Ostensibly, Trump’s order was a ploy to crack down on the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement on college campuses. It will enable the Department of Education to ban the protest movement--a solidarity call from Palestinian civil society to bring an help end the Israeli occupation there--as legally discriminatory under civil rights law, ironically. It’s a throwback of the worst kind to have an attack on Jews and one on the left so clearly intertwined.
When my great grandfather arrived in the United States, he moved around a bit before eventually opening a shoe store and settling into a comfortable middle class life in a relatively sleepy stretch of Southern New Jersey. But many others who left Europe for the US during the same period landed and made their lives in cities like New York, where Yiddish-language papers like the Forvarts became organs of working class life. Socialist Jewish labor organizers in unions like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union led strikes and changed laws, improving living standards for people around the country subject to low wages and long hours, and helping define the relationship between capital and labor in America more broadly. In the US and abroad, this kind of activism was a threat to big business, which joined forces with virulent strains of right-wing nationalism to define Jewish life as inherently foreign, and inherently dangerous.
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