In his final appeal to American voters, Donald Trump is now blasting the airways in key states with a two-minute long campaign ad full of promises for a better future — and laced with unmistakable anti-Semitic dog whistles.
The theme of Trump’s ad is taking back America from the political establishment that has taken hold of the nation, branding himself as the outsider champion of everyday Americans struggling against mighty forces out to exploit the country.
But beyond the use of terms such as “global power structure” that is seen by some in the extreme right as a codeword for Jewish power, it is the visual images in Trump’s ad that have made some Jewish activists feel uneasy.
As Josh Marshall detailed in Talking Points Memo, Trump’s ad leaves no room for doubt on who exactly are those “global powers” that are ruining America:
“The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO,” he writes, detailing the way Jewish images in the video are coordinated with certain themes:
“The Trump narration immediately preceding Soros and Yellen proceeds as follows: ‘The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington [start Soros] and for the global [start Yellen] special interests [stop Yellen]. They partner with these people [start Clinton] who don’t have your good in mind.’
For Blankfein: ‘It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the [start Blankein] pockets of a handful of large corporations [stop Blankfein] and political entities.’”
Jewish leaders insist this is not a case of them being over-sensitive.
The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that “whether intentional or not” the use of these images and rhetoric “needs to stop.” He called on all sides to avoid “conjuring painful stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories.”
This #Trump ad touches on images and rhetoric that anti-Semites have used for ages https://t.co/fKjHU3Bsy5pic.twitter.com/itMxVUpS2R— ADL (@ADL_National) November 6, 2016
Al Franken, who is Jewish and a Democratic senator, likened the ad to the oft-debunked and viciously anti-Semitic “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The National Jewish Democratic Council accused Trump of “casual use of anti-Semitic memes and stereotypes” in his campaign and argued that the latest ad proves this is a “strategic choice” on behalf of the Republican candidate.
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism denounce Trump for using “contemptuous and historically anti-Semitic tropes.”
“References to ‘the establishment’ and a ‘global power structure,’ juxtaposed over images of Jewish public figures, create thinly-veiled allusions to centuries-old anti-Semitic propaganda,” Pesner said in a press release.
The Trump campaign, through Jason Greenblatt, who is co-chairman of Donald J. Trump’s Israel Advisory Committee, responded:
The ADL should focus on real anti-Semitism and hatred, and not try to find any where none exist. I am offended and concerned that an institution such as the ADL would involve itself in partisan politics instead of focusing on its important mission. Mr. Trump and his campaign have laid out important ideas, a vision and critical policies for our country. The suggestion that the ad is anything else is completely false and uncalled for. Mr. Trump’s message and all of the behavior that I have witnessed over the two decades that I have known him have consistently been pro-Jewish and pro-Israel and accusations otherwise are completely off-base.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, which has backed Trump even though few of its board members have supported him financially, made no mention of the controversy in a weekend email blast to supporters urging them to back Trump and the entire GOP ticket.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.