Trump’s Jewish Supporters Must Condemn, Disavow Him

Jonathan S. Tobin

By Jonathan S. Tobin

If pro-Israel Republicans think former President Donald Trump will apologize or make amends in any way for choosing to have a public dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort home with two notorious antisemites, they haven’t been paying attention to how he has conducted his public career.

And if they think they can weather this controversy by trying to divert attention from what he’s done by pointing to the way their Democrat opponents tolerate and even support antisemitism on the left, they’re equally delusional.

Trump’s dinner date with Kanye West and Nick Fuentes constitutes a turning point for his Jewish supporters and Republicans in general. Up until now, almost all of the attempts by Democrats to accuse him of antisemitism or of encouraging Jew-hatred have been highly partisan charges that didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

After all, Trump didn’t actually say the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 were “very fine people” or anything like that. Nor are his complaints about Jewish voters not rewarding him for his historic support for Israel antisemitic, as those who twist his entirely factual comments into a charge of dual loyalty have tried to assert. He not only consistently condemned antisemitism but did far more to combat it on American college campuses than any other president.

Combine all that with his close family ties to Jews, the case for damning Trump as an antisemite or an ally of antisemites simply didn’t hold water. And no one who wasn’t already convinced that he was the spawn of the devil believed a word of it.

But after the Mar-a-Lago dinner, it’s no longer possible to ignore the issue. And it’s incumbent on those who have staunchly defended him until now to do the hard thing and concede that he has now done something they wouldn’t forgive or forget if it had been a Democratic president or former one who did it.

To their credit, the Zionist Organization of America, which gave Trump its highest award at its New York City dinner earlier this month, did “deplore” his remarks. His former lawyer, David Friedman, who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2017-2021, also tweeted his dismay, and called for his former boss to disavow West and Fuentes.

But the problem here is not just that Trump has granted an unwarranted legitimacy to both West and the even more vile Fuentes. It’s that we all know that Trump will never walk this back or make the sort of apology that could help to ameliorate the harm he’s done.
Trump doesn’t believe in apologies.

Part of this stems from a savvy appreciation of how to deal with gaffes or kerfuffles that, in most cases, he made deliberately in order to gain attention or simply to generate outrage among media and political-establishment foes.

In this case, however, there can be no moving beyond an incident about which he can’t pretend he wasn’t aware of the consequences. Nor can it be put down as just another instance of liberals trying to enforce political correctness with cancel-culture tactics.

To those who might say the dinner is no big deal, the context here is everything. Trump may know West and had hosted him in the White House. But, as questionable as his outreach to the mentally unstable rapper/fashion mogul who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder was then, it’s indefensible now.

Trump should have steered clear of any public connection with such a toxic and destructive personality under any circumstances. But this isn’t a routine month for Trump; he just announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

And he has spent a disproportionate amount of time since then seeking to shore up Jewish support, as was indicated by his last-minute decision to make a virtual appearance at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference only days before his tête-à-tête with the two antisemites.

It’s one thing for him to gripe about Jews who don’t prioritize Israel’s security voting for Democrats, rather than him or any Republican. It’s quite another to do so while associating with a celebrity who is using his influence with the public to mainstream antisemitism.
Nor do Trump’s excuses about not knowing who Fuentes was excuse his meeting. As pundit Ben Shapiro tweeted, the best way to avoid a meeting with an antisemite whom you don’t know is to avoid contact with one whom you do.

Moreover, it’s not as if Trump is unfamiliar with some of the controversies in which Fuentes and his extremist followers (called “Groypers”) have been involved. Fuentes was the focus of controversy in 2019, when conservative pundit Michelle Malkin’s support for the YouTube personality/Holocaust denier led the Young America Foundation — a group founded by conservative icon William F. Buckley — to cut ties with her.

The meeting will help Fuentes, a participant in both the 2017 Charlottesville disgrace and “Stop the Steal” rally on Jan. 6, 2021, in his effort to work his way into the mainstream. It will also encourage West to continue with his efforts to speak out on public affairs, rather than seek treatment for his problems.

What this means is that, barring the unlikely event of a full apology and condemnation of West and Fuentes from Trump, no Jewish conservative or Republican can possibly support him again. His accomplishments as president earned him gratitude, but not a lifetime get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to actions that aid antisemites.

Nor should the censure of Trump be diluted by the typical whataboutism of citing the bad behavior of Democrats.

What’s worse is the likelihood that some of Trump’s devoted supporters will now, as they invariably do, not only dismiss the meeting with West and Fuentes as unimportant, but also dispute the pair’s culpability as spreaders of hate.

That is something that will not only add fuel to the fire of the already growing problem of antisemitism. It will also likely become part of the debate about Trump’s presidential campaign, as his true believers bash Jews who support his GOP rivals as ingrates.

Like it or not, Trump has almost certainly ensured that tolerance for antisemites on the far-right will become an issue in the 2024 Republican primaries.

What is also clear is that there is no longer a reasonable argument to be made for continued support for Trump based on his stand on Jewish issues. Understanding this is going to be hard for many Jews who have become deeply invested in him and in burnishing his legacy. But unless he miraculously learns how to admit fault, anyone who clings to him can’t pretend to be serious about opposing antisemitism.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate).


  1. As a Trump supporter I was shocked at the ex-president’s invitation to these blatant Jew-haters to come to dinner at Mar-A-Lago. That invitation lent both of these haters a degree of acceptance that neither of them deserve and they both will use to advance their evil agenda. I was hoping that Trump would disavow or at least provide some rationale for wat he did but it looks like that’s not going to happen. Did his kids and grandkids O.K. this dinner with those who despise them too?

  2. To Mr. Tobin and Mr. Heitner- Trump has done absolutely nothing new since his 2016 campaign. The base he panders to has always been less educated white Christian nationalists. Your continued delusional support of his earlier days is laughable. And any criticism or change of heart now is way too little too late. 100% reminds me of the line in the movie Casablanca when Louis says in Rick’s Cafe “I’m shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.” And Mr. Tobin- Trump did support anti-Semites in Charlottesville when he said there were good people on both sides. The “good peole” on one side were chanting “Jews won’t take our jobs.” Minutes after he won election in 2016 painted swastikas went up on walss in parts of Philadelphia. Those people knew exactly who and what they had voted for. Must have been smarter than you.

  3. Besides the invitation, what about Trump’s comment (paraphrase) that Israel not being loyal to biggest supporters is losing a lot of support in Congress???

    How is criticizing his lack of condemnation of West & Fuentes’ Anti-Semitism disloyal?

    It is almost throwing his prev support back in Israel’s face over what is tantamount on Israel’s part to self defense against the idea of West & Fuentes’ Anti-Semitism.

    Supporters don’t call those who received support disloyal for criticism that the supporter ignored deadly insult.


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