WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump campaign has released a campaign ad promising to defeat an international global power structure featuring several prominent Jews in the financial world.
The ad, the final Trump campaign ad before voters go to the polls Tuesday, has been criticized on liberal news websites and Democrats for what they describe as its use of antisemitic tropes.
“The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election,” Trump says at the beginning of the ad. “For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”
As he talks about the “levers of power in Washington” and the “global special interests,” images of billionaire George Soros, a Jewish hedge fund tycoon, philanthropist, and a major backer of liberal causes, and Janet Yellen, the Jewish chairman of the Federal Reserve, appear on the video.
In addition, an image of the Jewish CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, also appears when Trump talks about the “global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
The speech from which the two-minute ad was excerpted, and which Trump is shown delivering as the ad winds to a close, was given at a rally last month in West Palm Beach, Florida. That speech had already been condemned for what critics described as drawing on antisemitic conspiracy theories about the global control of Jewish bankers and its echoes of the 19th century anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
Neither Trump’s original speech nor the recent ad make any specific mention of Jews. Trump’s campaign and his defenders have rejected claims that the candidate or the campaign are engaging in antisemitism. Defenders note Trump’s support for Israel, his employment of Jews and the fact that his daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism before marrying a Jewish man, Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, rumors circulated on the internet at the start of the weekend that Trump is considering appointing his campaign finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, as Treasury Secretary. Mnuchin was formerly a partner at Goldman Sachs, and previously worked at Soros Fund Management in its Private Equity division.
The ad also attacks Hillary Clinton, her husband former President Bill Clinton, current President Barack Obama, Congress and other world leaders as “corrupt” and a “machine.”
The Anti-Defamation League criticized the imagery in the ad and called for a halt to antisemitic rhetoric in the final days of the campaign.
“Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that antisemites have used for ages,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “This needs to stop. In the final days before the election, tensions are extremely high. It’s a time when all candidates need to be especially responsible and bid for votes by offering sincere ideas and policy proposals, not by conjuring painful stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories,”
The campaign has tweeted and retweeted images echoing anti-Semitic themes throughout the election season, including a July 2 tweet depicting Clinton, against a pile of cash and a six-pointed star, as the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” The tweet was deleted the same day, but Trump was furious at his staff for deleting it, and at accusations that the tweet was anti-Semitic, although the image originated on an anti-Semitic website.
In an interview, Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said the ad was “almost a replay, a modern interpretation, of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” the notorious Russian forgery alleging mass Jewish control of Jewish affairs and used for decades to stoke antisemitic violence.
Pesner said it was no longer possible to attribute such signals in the Trump campaign to ignorance, noting the multiple controversies.
“Once, done in ignorance, you could say it’s an opportunity for education,” he said. “This pattern of behavior, the amplification of antisemitic tropes on twitter, the failure to condemn antisemitism in his rallies, what does this all add up to?”
In a response to the ADL statement, the Trump campaign issued a statement from Jason Greenblatt, a longtime lawyer for Trump’s real estate business and a top Jewish surrogate.
“The ADL should focus on real antisemitism and hatred, and not try to find any where none exist,” Greenblatt said. “I am offended and concerned that an institution such as the ADL would involve itself in partisan politics instead of focusing on its important mission. Mr. Trump and his campaign have laid out important ideas, a vision and critical policies for our country. The suggestion that the ad is anything else is completely false and uncalled for. Mr. Trump’s message and all of the behavior that I have witnessed over the two decades that I have known him have consistently been pro-Jewish and pro-Israel and accusations otherwise are completely off-base.”
Replying on Twitter to Jason Greenblatt’s statement, Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL CEO, said his organization “doesn’t take sides in elections. For 100 plus years, we have called out #Antisemitism when we see it– no matter who’s behind it.”
Another top Trump lawyer and Jewish surrogate, David Friedman, said it was absurd to point to the inclusion of Soros, a billionaire hedge funder and backer of liberal causes whose sharp criticism of Israel in the past has placed him at odds with the centrist pro-Israel community, as a marker of anti-Semitism.
“Mr. Soros, whose name is not recognizably Jewish and who has done nothing to positively identify with the Jewish people, has been behind countless efforts to vilify the State of Israel and encourage punitive sanctions against the Jewish State,” Friedman said in an email to JTA. “Only the Trump campaign has had the courage to call out Mr. Soros and his allies for their disgraceful behavior.”
The National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement that: “Trump’s casual use of antisemitic memes and stereotypes in this campaign has been shocking and dangerous. What has becoming increasingly clear as the election is coming to a close, especially with this latest ad, is that Trump has made a strategic choice to continue employing themes long used by anti-Semites.”
“If this is how Trump campaigns, when still faced with the possibility of turning off swing voters, imagine what a Trump White House would look like. Every undecided voter — especially in the Jewish community, but not only in the Jewish community — must take a close look at this ad and internalize what it means,” the NJDC statement concluded.
Bend the Arc, a social justice action group that has targeted Trump through an affiliated political action committee, said the ad should spur other Jewish groups to denounce the candidate.
“It has long since proved pointless to demand an apology from Donald Trump,” the group’s PAC, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, said in a statement. “But it is not too late for Jewish organizations, such as the Republican Jewish Coalition, who have supported or tolerated Trump’s candidacy to get on the right side of history. Trump’s campaign has been deeply antithetical to Jewish values since it began, and the continued silence of these institutions is an unacceptable assent to hate.”
J Street, a liberal Jewish Middle East policy group backed by Soros since its inception, also condemned the ad. “It is hard to miss the implication that a cabal of wealthy and powerful Jews is an enemy that the people of the United States must defeat,” J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben Ami, said in a statement. “Trafficking in antisemitic tropes is just one aspect of the appalling bigotry that has characterized the Trump campaign and that makes clear Trump is unfit to be President.” J Street also has an affiliated PAC that this year has backed Democrats in congressional campaigns.
Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., appearing Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union, told host Jake Tapper that when he saw the ad “I thought this was something of a German Shepherd whistle, a dog whistle,” he said, “to sort of a certain group in the United States”
Franken, who is Jewish, said the ad “clearly had a sort of Elders of Zion feel to it” and called it “an appeal to some of the worst elements in our country as a closing argument.”