By Joseph Aaron
You know, there are two ways you can disagree with someone. There’s the way of the mensch and the way of the anti-mensch.
Of my many gripes with Trump, the one I feel most strongly about is how much coarser, how much meaner he has made our society. Because he calls anyone he disagrees with, anyone who ever says anything at all critical of him, the vilest of names, unleashes a tweetstorm of hatred toward them, I believe he has made our country a less civil one, has set an example that when you don’t like someone or something someone has said, you are entitled to attack them in the most hurtful, hateful way possible. After all, that’s what the president does.
I saw clearly the two ways to disagree recently after my recent column in which I referred to Harry Truman as an anti-Semite. Which is a fact, facts being something that seem to matter less and less in the age of Trump.
I got a lot of reaction to that column, but two responses stuck in my mind. One was from someone named Joe, who very politely and nicely told me he was surprised to hear me call Truman an anti-Semite, said he didn’t think that was so, noted that Truman had a Jewish business partner, recognized the new State of Israel 11 minutes after it was declared, and so could I clarify to him why I wrote what I wrote. It was a cordial note, one that said he didn’t think I was correct but said he was open to understanding where I was coming from. In other words, Joe disagreed as a mensch.
And then we had Dr. Ira, who left a flaming voicemail saying what I wrote was outrageous, that I am not a journalist, I am not a writer, should not be allowed to have a column in this newspaper, that I was wrong and stupid. In other words, Dr. Ira disagreed as an anti-mensch. The Trump way. Trump talks about the “failing New York Times,” Dr. Ira labels me the non-journalist Joe.
Well, Dr. Ira, though you didn’t ask for facts, know you are right and I am wrong and that’s the end of it, I thought I would let you know why I said what I said. I doubt you will listen, but I think Joe will appreciate the facts, since he said he was open to understanding.
Let’s start with the fact that yes, Truman was in business for about 10 years with a Jew, Eddie Jacobson, running a haberdashery. Did you know, Dr. Ira, that Truman referred to Jacobson as his “Jew clerk,” and that in the 10 years they were partners, Truman did not once invite Jacobson to his home for dinner. We know these things from Prof. Michael Cohen’s 1991 comprehensive study, ‘Truman and Israel.’ Cohen also points out that Truman privately described New York City as a ‘kike town,’ wrote to his wife, Bess, about someone in a poker game who had ‘screamed like a Jewish merchant’ and that in June 1945, Truman wrote in a private memorandum: “The Jews claim God Almighty picked them out for special privilege. Well I’m sure He had better judgment.” Cohen notes other such anti-Semitic remarks.
Now my guess is that Dr. Ira will dismiss all that, saying who is Michael Cohen to know these things. Okay, well how about if we quote Truman directly, in his own words.
Several years ago, the National Archives released a diary kept by Truman in his own hand that was discovered on the shelves of the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. “The Jews, I find, are very, very selfish,” Truman wrote in July 1947, 10 months before the British mandate in Palestine expired and Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence.
“They care not how many Estonians, Latvians, Finns, Poles, Yugoslavs or Greeks get murdered or mistreated as D[isplaced] P[ersons] as long as the Jews get special treatment.”
He continued: “Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political neither Hitler nor Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment to the underdog.” Yes, he wrote Jews could be crueler than Hitler.
His remarks about Jews were prompted by a discussion with Henry Morgenthau, a former treasury secretary, about the plight of Holocaust survivors, apparently the passengers of the S.S. Exodus, whom the British had turned away from Palestine’s shores and sent back to Europe. Morgenthau hoped Truman would press the British on the matter.
“He’d no business whatever to call me,” Truman wrote. “The Jews have no sense of proportion nor do they have any judgement on world affairs. Henry brought a thousand Jews to New York on a supposedly temporary basis and they stayed.”
Truman’s attitude was consistent with what happened when a Missouri rabbi wrote to then-Senator Truman in 1943 to urge Congressional action to rescue refugees. Truman coldly replied: “I do not think it is the business of Senators who are not on the Foreign Relations Committee to dabble in matters which affect our relations with the Allies at this time …it is of vital importance that the Jewish Congregations be patient and support wholeheartedly the foreign policy of our government.”
There is more of Truman’s disdain for the Jews I could quote, but I think I’ve shown why I called Truman an anti-Semite. My guess is that Joe will appreciate reading the facts I’ve just laid out. Joe is a mensch, after all. My guess is Dr. Ira will think I’m still not a journalist or a writer.
Here’s the thing. I’m talking about this not because I want to pick on Truman, since he did recognize the new State of Israel, and for that, Jews should be very grateful. I bring it up not because of that long ago history, but because we are seeing too many Jews today who act like an anti-mensch, betraying Jewish values in the service of Trump.
Jews like Alan Dershowitz, who seems so eager to stay in the spotlight, so eager to be invited to the White House for dinner, that he recently criticized special counsel Robert Mueller for empanelling a grand jury in Washington.
While it is almost universally believed that Mueller is the straightest of arrows, a man who has devoted his life to public service, a former FBI director committed to justice and the truth, Dershowitz blasted Mueller for convening a grand jury in Washington, saying it stacks the deck against Trump because of the ‘ethnic and racial composition’ of the area. Meaning there are a lot of blacks living in DC.
That is racism, and that is not something that should come out of any Jewish mouth, Jews knowing better than most what happens when you start accusing an ethnic group of not being able to be fair, of caring only about itself and so unable to serve the public good. Dershowitz, a prominent Jew, is saying blacks can’t be impartial jurors.
I was watching an interview recently with Sen. Al Franken. He explained that his father was a Republican, but that he became a Democrat when many Republicans did not support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Franken remembers watching TV with his dad and watching scenes from the south of policemen spraying black protestors with water cannons and setting dogs against them.
“No Jew can be for that,” his father said. “No Jew can be for that.”
And no Jew can be for what Jew Stephen Miller is for. Did you see that press conference at which Miller defended Trump’s evil plan to cut legal immigration in half? There stood Miller, a 31 year old Jewish pisher, saying the poem by Emma Lazarus, a Jew, on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty urging ”give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” was no longer relevant.
Trump only wants immigrants who are ‘useful,’ who speak English, have high tech and other skills, have the funds to support themselves. To hell with everyone else.
That Trump is for that is one thing, that a Jew like Stephen Miller can go out there and publicly defend that hard heartedness, that cruelty, can dismiss out of hand the notion that this nation stands for compassion, is a welcoming refuge to those fleeing persecution and hardship, that we only want people who are ‘good for the economy’ is beyond a desecration of everything Judaism stands for. As that brilliant comedian John Oliver put it, Miller is “one of the most revolting human beings I have ever seen.”
I take this all very personally. My father’s mother, father, and sister, virtually all his relatives, were murdered in the concentration camps. He was all of 16 when he was liberated, all alone. My mother’s family, thank G-d, survived the hell of a labor camp in Siberia, but after the war, were stateless, penniless and on their own.
Neither my mother, my father, my grandmother or grandfather spoke a word of English. They had no relatives in this country. My grandfather had been a blacksmith in Siberia. Meaning none of them met any of the criteria now being set by Trump for entry into this country. Under Miller’s thinking, the door to this country would have been slammed in their faces. Too bad, you aren’t of ‘use’ to us and so we don’t care about that leftist snowflake stuff about taking in the huddled masses, providing safe haven, being a refuge.
Thank G-d, Trump was not president after the Holocaust, and please G-d, he won’t be president much longer. But while he is president, how much will meanness flourish, how much will coldness and coarseness reign, how much damage will be done to American values. Look at how Alan Dershowitz is so eager to please that he slanders our justice system and defames blacks, see how Stephen Miller defends a policy that would cut legal immigration in half and make immigration not about welcoming those in need, with nowhere to go, but being only for those who can give us something. Look at the damage they are doing to Jewish values.
When Jews like Dershowitz and Miller can act as they do, I fear for this country and I fear for the Jewish people. Especially because my guess is that Dr. Ira is just fine with them, seeing as how they are fellow members of the anti-mensch club.