President Trump Was Right the First Time

By | 2017-08-18T13:32:35+00:00 August 16th, 2017|
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President Trump was roundly criticized over the weekend for failing to call out neo-nazis and the Ku Klux Klan by name in his first statement about Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville. Many members of his own party, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Orrin Hatch of Utah, indicated the president should have said more.

Yet the fact that the planned rally turned into a very two-sided violent melee is undeniable.

Let’s look at the statement the president made:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society.

The triggering phrase in those remarks was “on many sides.” Why, the critics demand, didn’t the president immediately condemn the neo-nazis and the KKK by name?

Just days earlier, a friend and colleague criticized a particular organization as being extremely weak, unable to make a public comment on any issue “except to condemn Hitler.” The problem with condemning Nazis is that it is simply too easy. The only ones who don’t regard Nazis as evil are other Nazis.

The question which we should now be asking is: given that the president did indeed condemn these groups two days later, why has he not condemned Black Lives Matter and Antifa by name? This is a serious question.

Which one of these four groups agitated for violence against police, which manifested itself in shootings of law enforcement officers in Texas and Louisiana? Which one of these groups directly threatens free speech on college campuses, forcibly preventing students from hearing opposing views?

I don’t know about you, but I would consider policies and procedures that facilitate the disproportionate murder of young black men to be racist. And although every police force must police itself and remove racism from within its ranks, BLM agitation against police has not only led directly to murders of police officers, but has also facilitated the murders of thousands of young black men.

In Baltimore, the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015 led to riots and the arrest of six police officers (three of whom were black) for following what was standard procedure at the time. This led to police being afraid to do the aggressive policing necessary to get illegal guns off the street before they are used.

The results can only be described as horrific: 2015 was the most murderous year per-capita in Baltimore’s history, with 2016 coming in second. This year is on track to exceed both. And in all three years, young black men have been hugely overrepresented among the victims. A 10-month-old baby nearly died in her car, which remained locked following the murder of her 26-year-old father in May—until a police officer heard her cry.

The fact that the officer was white shouldn’t even deserve mention. The killing fields of Baltimore are a white supremacist’s dreamland, thanks to BLM.

But we don’t like to talk that way. We like to imagine that BLM is a civil rights organization solving a real problem. And this is hardly the only example of particular causes serving as convenient cover for hate and violence.

If we are going to tear down hateful monuments, we should not start with statues of Robert E. Lee, whom most historians consider to be no more racist than many Northerners of his day. We should start with the Arch of Titus in Rome, celebrating that emperor’s military victories. After all, the arch focuses specifically upon the plunder of Jerusalem, and the desecration of the treasures of its Holy Temple. It is an indisputable celebration of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

But that’s exactly why it should not be removed. We need to remember our history, in order to avoid repeating it.

Which one of the following statements has incited more murders in 2017: “Heil Hitler,” or “Free Palestine”?

Again, the answer is obvious. Everyone knows that Hitler is a Nazi. But all too many people forget that “Palestine” is the name given to the land of Judea by the same hateful invaders who built that arch, in an attempt to sever the connection between the land and those whose home it truly is. Forget that Palestine is a name intimately associated with barbarism and ethnic cleansing; forget that it was nothing more than a distant province to its Arab rulers, none of whom possessed it within the past 500 years (save for a brief period of Egyptian control in the 1830s), and you can make “Palestine liberation” sound like a civil rights movement, too.

Yet there are dozens of unquestioned occupations around the world, in places like Tibet, Chechnya, and even Northern Ireland. But only one call for “justice” is used to justify atrocities against civilians.

There is hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. It is easy to recognize the hate of 50 years ago; it takes discernment to recognize the hate of today. President Trump should have named all of the hate groups involved, or none. He was right the first time.

About the Author:

Rabbi Yaakov Menken
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest Rabbinic public policy organization in America.