Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin: Is It Anti-Semitic to Accuse the Jewish Stephen Miller of Being a White Nationalist?

Stephen Miller

One of the wisest things I ever read in the Talmud is this: “Just as it is a mitzvah to say what must be said, so, too, it is a mitzvah not to say what cannot be heeded.”

That might apply to Rep. Ilhan Omar.

The woman just keeps putting her foot into her mouth — most often, about the Jews.

Except….

Rep. Ilhan Omar called White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller a “white nationalist,” amid a string of tweets decrying the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration reform policies.

To quote JTA:

Omar targeted Miller, who is Jewish, just days after President Donald Trump said that the country could not take in any more refugees. “Our country is full, can’t come, I’m sorry,” Trump said during a speech Saturday in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual meeting. Also in recent days, video from May 2018 resurfaced in which Trump described people trying to come into the country as “animals.”

A Republican consultant, Jeff Ballabon, accused Rep. Omar of “targeting Jews.”

Sorry.

That’s not going to fly here.

We are in the middle of an unprecedented national spectacle. The Republican party has snuggled up to the Jewish community. It has claimed exclusivity in its love for Israel. President Trump told the members of the Republican Jewish Coalition that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “your prime minister” — which is bizarre, in so far as:

  • Last time I looked, the members of the Coalition live in the United States, making it impossible for Bibi to be “their” prime minister.
  • While Trump might assume that the members of the Coalition have a particular fondness for Bibi, he cannot accurately say that about the overwhelming majority of American Jews.

And now, the Republican Party is weaponizing accusations of antisemitism.

Even and especially where it does not exist.

Frankly, I think that we throw words around a little bit too easily.

It reminds me of when I was in my teens and early twenties. Everyone called Richard Nixon a “fascist” and a “Nazi.” He wasn’t, and the rhetoric was inappropriate.

The same is true with “white nationalist.” There was a time when we reserved such designations for men and women in hoods and sheets, and their ilk. Now, of course, they are more likely to show up in chinos and knit shirts.

In any case, I don’t believe that name calling is the most appropriate way of dealing with these issues.

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Source: Religion News Service