During Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump took the time to honor the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.
Despite Trump’s kind words, they mean nothing if they are not followed up by action.
Trump has expressed repeated behavior of condoning anti-Semitic remarks as well as perpetuating conspiracies espoused by the very shooter who committed that egregious act.
“We must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed,” Trump said in his address. “With one voice, we must confront this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs.”
The president should be eager to follow his own advice.
Arguably Trump’s most memorable line from his presidency took place after the vile display in Charlottesville, Virginia in which Neo-Nazis and other alt-right individuals clashed with counter-protesters.
Trump’s response to the demonstration and murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer was that there were “good people on both sides.”
This display was horrifying to the same Jewish-Americans he was expressing sympathy for on Tuesday.
Trump may not hold these anti-Semitic beliefs himself. After all, his son-in-law is of Jewish descent and his grandchildren are Jewish by faith, but that doesn’t mean that he “confront(s) this hatred anywhere and everywhere it occurs,” as he said in his speech.
The very man who committed the atrocity in Pittsburgh, leaving 11 senior citizens dead, cited one of his reasons for committing the act with his delusion that the mythical Jewish Cabal was responsible for the formation of the caravan of immigrants that were approaching our southern border late last year.
The president bought into this very conspiracy. When asked whether George Soros, a left-wing billionaire financier of Jewish descent, funded the caravan, the president responded, “I don’t know who (funded the caravan), but I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of people say ‘yes.’”
He has also blamed Soros for allegedly hiring actors to protest the nomination of his Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.
These conspiracy theories surrounding Soros are grown from a deeply anti-Semitic place. The mythos of the Jewish Cabal, a non-existent alliance of Jews who are said to collectively run the world including the banks, the media and the apparent navigation of Latin American refugees have been around for centuries.
The Soros conspiracy theory is just a revamped version of this age-old bigoted belief.
While we should all be encouraged by a denouncement of antisemitism, it is important that we put Trump’s comments in context.
Now, the president must follow his own advice and actually confront anti-Semitic hatred.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.