For decades, it seemed that the visuals of Nazi propaganda — replete with hunch-backed, leering, long-nosed Chasidic Jews — had vanished. Then came the internet.
Virulently anti-Semitic imagery has made its way into the presidential campaign, materializing, for instance, in Julia Ioffe’s inbox and social media feeds after the Jewish reporter wrote a profile in GQ of Melania Trump, who found the article unflattering.
Now, members of the Jewish world who pay close attention to hate speech — anti-Semitic and otherwise — are posing an unsettling question: Will Donald Trump make America hate again? For some, the answer is that he already has.
“Trump’s rhetoric resonates with white supremacists,” said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the Center on Extremism, a branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
“They’ve been essentially energized about Trump’s candidacy, and they’ve been very vocal about their support of Trump and his policies on immigration and globalism,” Mendelson said.
In February, the ADL published a list of 10 prominent white supremacists who actively support Trump. Then, in April, it urged the candidate to drop the phrase “America First” as a campaign slogan, pointing out it had been used by Charles Lindbergh, a prominent Nazi sympathizer, in the 1940s.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another prominent Jewish organization monitoring hate speech, has stopped short of calling out Trump by name.
But in an emailed statement to the Jewish Journal, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, wrote, “No political candidate for high office of any sort should allow hate groups and bigots to pollute their campaign by peddling their hatred.”
Trump’s tough stance on immigrants, paired with his anti-establishment ethos, seems to have made him the most palatable candidate in decades for white supremacists, who otherwise have been slowly fading into the country’s political fringe.
William Johnson, who was named on the ADL list, explained that Trump’s promise to put American interests first speaks to the concerns of white nationalists (he rejects the term “white supremacist,” calling it “the worst swear word out there”).
As the chairman of the anti-immigrant American Freedom Party, Johnson favors the creation of a white ethno-state.
A corporate lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, Johnson became entangled in the Trump campaign last month when he applied to become a California delegate to the Republican convention, and his name was accidentally included in the list of Trump convention delegates sent to the California secretary of state.
“Virtually all of the white nationalist movement is behind Donald Trump,” Johnson said in an interview with the Journal at the time.
In a second interview with the Journal, Johnson said the support stems from the fact that every other major presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has promoted a globalist agenda of open borders and multiculturalism.
“They’re all promoting the globalist platform that Donald Trump is now tearing apart,” he said.
He added that many members of his community are also tacitly rooting for Bernie Sanders because of his anti-establishment stance.
In the interview, Johnson drew a line between white nationalists who see Jews as benign, saying Ashkenazis “would probably be considered white,” and those who see them as problematic non-whites. Johnson said he belongs to the first camp.
On the other side of that split is David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.
Last month, Duke praised Trump on his radio show for exposing “Jewish supremacists who control our country.”
“Many people are upset with the Zionist elite,” Duke wrote in an email to the Journal, describing himself as “a Gentile who loves his own people as much as Jews love their own people.”
Duke declined to comment further.
Mendelson, the ADL researcher, questioned the existence of a clean divide between white supremacists who hate Jews and those who don’t.
“I look at many of those folks as ecumenical haters,” she said. “You can’t parse out their hatred for Jews, because really their hatred extends across the spectrum.”
While some haters are willing to speak out in public, she said, many “might not do so boldly in their workplace or on the street corner or at that rally.” Instead, they take to the internet.
“I’ve talked with many who agree with my opinions on Jewish influence, but it’s a very tricky subject to talk about in public,” a 22-year-old engineer from Houston, who declined to be named for this story, wrote in a private message on Twitter.
Posting under the handle @NationalismRise, the engineer has described a target of his ire as a “filthy kike,” tweeted pictures of swastikas and referred to The New York Times as the “Jew York Times.” He describes himself as a Trump supporter and a member of the alt-right movement, a fringe group of ultra-nationalist ideologies that challenges mainstream conservatism.
Asked why he believes Trump will stand up to Jewish political interests, he said, “The proof is in the pudding.”
“The amount of hate & vitriol aimed at Trump from Jewish members of the media & high finance has been constant for the last year,” he wrote.
He echoed Johnson’s sentiment that Trump would do away with the pervasive globalism of America’s foreign policy: “I believe his America First foreign policy and criticism of the neoconservative movement implies he will be much less likely to carry water for Israel.”
While Ioffe may have been the first high-profile case of a journalist finding herself on the business end of a stream of Trump-inspired, anti-Semitic Twitter invective, she is not the last.
After retweeting a Washington Post essay that called Trump “perilous to the republic,” New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman saw his feed flooded with Jew-bashing messages and images, including a cartoon of Weisman in a gas chamber with a yellow star on his lapel and a Nazified Donald Trump standing guard.
In a Times op-ed, Weisman castigated Trump for failing to rein in his supporters. He also took aim at the Republican Jewish Coalition for failing to single out Trump in a May 24 statement condemning anti-Semitic attacks on journalists, “whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters.”
“In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment,” Weisman wrote. “Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.”