Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, was celebrated over the weekend. In the cases of Donald Trump and entrepreneur Elon Musk, it was celebrated with grossly antisemitic social media posts. The two men took significantly different approaches to antisemitism, with Trump reposting on Truth Social a direct and sustained attack on “liberal Jews,” while Musk tweeted an extreme version of a classic antisemitic dog whistle.
These attacks don’t happen in isolation. Antisemitic incidents rose in 2022 in the U.S., following a global rise in such incidents in 2021, which subsequently abated in many other countries but not here.
Trump didn’t bother with pretending he was doing anything but talking about Jewish people, posting a graphic offering “a reminder for liberal Jews who voted to destroy America & Israel because you believed false narratives! Let’s hope you learned from your mistake & make better choices moving forward!” As a capper, it added, “Happy New Year!” before listing all the supposed positives liberal Jews had overlooked when they didn’t vote for Trump. Since it’s unlikely Trump read the fine print on the graphic, it’s not worth looking too deeply into the politics on display, but suffice it to say, the argument is thoroughly in line with the antisemitic premise that Jewish people in the U.S. are, or should be, more concerned with Israel than with the U.S. When it comes to Trump, the important thing is that he chose to mark Rosh Hashanah with an antisemitic attack suggesting that Jews who didn’t vote for him were voting to “destroy America & Israel.”
Around 70% of Jewish people in the U.S. are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, apparently the subject of ongoing rage for Trump. Jews have been strongly Democratic for a century, Peter Dreier and Steven Windmueller note at TPM Cafe, and this affiliation is based on a number of important issues—yet Trump takes it personally, all while courting and defending antisemites, like the Nazis who marched in Charlottesville in 2017. And we can’t forget that he himself airs one antisemitic message after another, as Dreier and Windmueller write:
In a speech in October 2016, Trump claimed that “Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.” He didn’t need to use the word “Jew” to evoke the sort of global banking cabal familiar to anyone who has read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the anti-Semitic forgery that has fueled anti-Jewish violence for over a century. Trump’s comments were not an off-hand remark. The speech was designed to fire up his white nationalist supporters. Trump’s frequent references at campaign rallies and during the debates to Sidney Blumenthal, George Soros, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz — Jewish supporters of Hillary Clinton — were also no accident.
In Trump’s final 2016 campaign video, a clear appeal to anti-Semitism, he warned of “those who control the levers of power in Washington” and of “global special interests” who “partner with these people who don’t have your good in mind,” while pictures flashed of Hillary Clinton and three Jews: Soros, then-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
Musk’s Rosh Hashanah message drew on exactly that type of dog whistle. “The Soros organization appears to want nothing less than the destruction of western civilization,” Musk tweeted. Musk’s tweet came while he’s engaged in a running battle with the Anti-Defamation League, which he has accused of destroying ad revenue on the social media platform he bought for $44 billion. And he has threatened to sue the organization for defamation. But the ADL is far from the only observer noting a rise in antisemitic tweets since Musk’s takeover. According to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a human rights nonprofit:
In total, analysts detected 325,739 English-language antisemitic tweets in the 9 months from June 2022 to February 2023, with the weekly average number of antisemitic tweets increasing by 106% (from 6,204 to 12,762), when comparing the three months before and after Musk’s acquisition.
Musk’s blatant antisemitism is no surprise in the context of what he’s overseen and promoted, and the accounts he’s reinstated. Like Trump, though, Musk blames Jewish people for seeing and calling out the bigotry he promotes, taking it not as a gut check but as an excuse to be more antisemitic. With some of the loudest voices using the biggest platforms to attack Jewish people, no wonder antisemitic incidents are on the rise.