Former Trump campaign data strategist Matt Braynard and progressive strategist Igor Volsky went head to head on Hill.TV over a kerfuffle that ensued when the president’s son, Eric Trump, said on Fox News on Wednesday that famed journalist Bob Woodward made "three extra shekels" with sales of his book that assails the Trump administration. Braynard said on Thursday, "It's an ancient biblical term, 'shekel.'" Braynard is the executive director of Look Ahead America. Speaking to Hill.TV's Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on "Rising," Braynard said, "It does not belong to Israel, and it predates that state." He noted that Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner are Jewish. "His father is by far the most pro-Jew, pro-Israel president in history, and Woodward isn't a Jew."
"Don't you think people look through the fact that you can write a sensational, nonsense book, CNN will definitely have you on there because they love to trash the president," Eric Trump said on Wednesday’s "Fox & Friends." He added, "It will mean you sell three extra books, you make three extra shekels."
Volsky, the progressive differed with Braynard’s assessment: "As someone who had to flee anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, who experienced anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, who still experiences anti-Semitism every time I do certain TV networks, I know what anti-Semitism sounds like, and this is what it sounds like." Volsky is the executive director of Guns Down America, which promotes restrictions on the Second Amendment.
"Is that the level of anti-Semitism that caused you to leave the Soviet Union? A reference to shekels?" Braynard asked Volsky. "You know, you're right. He is less anti-Semitic than the people I faced in the Soviet Union. Thank God," Volsky responded. "The biblical reference that you cited suggests a certain caricature about Jews that they own all the resources, that they own all the money," Volsky said. "That's what he's referring to. That's what the Trump campaign used and manipulated throughout the campaign time and time again to appeal to white nationalists and to get them to vote."
"The intent of this terminology is by no means anti-Semitic," Braynard said, noting that Eric Trump "grew up in New York, where there's a rich Hebrew culture. The term "shekels" has been used by racists to describe money supposedly tainted by Jews. "To throw that term out in New York is not an anti-Semitic thing, it's just a local vernacular thing," he added. "This is really disgusting, so you try to paint this man as being anti-Semitic."
Separately, Jonathan S. Tobin of the Jewish News Syndicate and National Review dismissed charges of anti-Semitism leveled at Eric Trump. Writing at Haaretz, Tobin also dismissed accusations of anti-Semitism leveled at President Donald Trump:
“When coupled with his clear tilt toward Israel, and embrace of Jewish family members like the Kushners, the case for Trump’s anti-Semitism - as opposed to the other legitimate criticisms that can be made against him and his administration - breaks down.
“It may be that the tiny band of neo-Nazi anti-Semites are somehow encouraged by mentions of shekels or re-tweeted images of frogs. But it’s just as obvious that anti-Semites have no influence over Trump’s policies.
“The attempt to connect the dots between these incidents in order to prove that the Trumps are anti-Semites, rather than merely figures who are deplored for a host of other reasons, may make sense to their opponents - but it is far from conclusive.”
On Wednesday evening, author/journalist Bob Woodward told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in response to Eric Trump: “I just hope no one would talk like that, frankly.” He added, “I think that just doesn’t fit. I’m sorry.”
“Anyone talks like that, whether it’s a dog whistle or whatever the intent is, it’s not, part of the point of this book is that we need to have a serious debate about serious issues. And to use invective and this attack rhetoric, whatever it might be, it sets us back.” Last week, Woodward released his book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which includes anonymous criticisms by supposed White House officials.
Bill Kristol, one of the most vocal critics of President Trump who serves as editor-at-large of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, posted a Twitter poll asking if Eric Trump is "too stupid to know he's being anti-Semitic," with the options "yes," "no" and "not mutually exclusive."
As of Wednesday evening, more than 20,000 people had voted in the poll, with "yes" and "not mutually exclusive" at 44 and 45 percent, respectively.
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.