Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gave a speech last week in West Palm Beach, Florida, attacking his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, whom he put at the center of a vast global conspiracy to strip America of its wealth and sovereignty.
And he did so using language a number of observers labeled as anti-Semitic.
"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," Trump said.
The sentence touched on a number of prominent conspiracy theories, but it was the phrase "international banks" that truly rankled observers, as it's long been a code word used by anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists to mean Jews.
The phrase evokes the centuries-old stereotype of the "International Jewish Conspiracy."
That's a grab bag of supposed plots carried out by Jews over the years, involving everything from poisoning the wells of Christian villages in the Middle Ages to controlling the international arms trade and money supply now.
A cadre of wealthy "international bankers" meeting in secret with a crooked politician to advance their sinister aims is perfectly in line with anti-Semitic canards of the past and plays directly to the vocal base of Trump supporters known as the "alt-right."
Most anti-Semitism of the past centered around the "blood libel."
That's the nonsensical accusation that Jews kidnapped and murdered Christian children and used their blood in rituals.
The blood libel is still occasionally invoked today, but the canard Trump referenced is a more modern one and one that's pervasive on social media: supposed Jewish control of banks and financial institutions.
Trump himself hasn't specifically attacked Jews, but the tone of his campaign echoes numerous anti-Semitic tropes of the past. And this was far from the first time Trump has been accused of anti-Semitism.
- Trump has used the slogan "America First," a direct parallel to the nativist and deeply anti-Jewish nationalist movement led by Charles Lindbergh in the late 1930s.
- Trump has frequently used variations of the phrase, "One people, one God, under one flag" – a term that a number of pundits have pointed out comes perilously close to Adolf Hitler's slogan, "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer" (One people, one empire, one leader).
Then there was the scandal around his retweet of an anti-Hillary Clinton meme taken from a white supremacist message board.
The retweet featured a six-pointed red star on a field of cash – a clear reference to the "international banking" conspiracy.
Trump surrogates tried to play it off as a "sheriff's star," but the connotation was familiar to long-time observers of anti-Semitism.
Finally, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency found a number of clear similarities between Trump's Florida speech and "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a fake early-20th-century Russian text purporting to be a plan for Jewish global domination, which has been used as a justification for anti-Semitic violence for more than a century.
Trump's Florida speech railed against the media in language that clearly evokes the "Protocols'" fabled "Jewish conspirators" almost to the letter:
"The corporate media in our country is no longer involved in journalism, they are a political special interest, no different than any other. …
"The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are very well known."
Compare that with this passage from "The Protocols":
"Through the Press, we have gained the power to influence while remaining ourselves in the shade: thanks to the Press we have got the gold in our hands, notwithstanding that we have had to gather it out of the oceans of blood and tears."
The Trump camp has denied even a hint of anti-Semitism and usually either points to Trump's having a Jewish son-in-law or simply turns the accusation around against the accuser. When Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noticed the similiarity between Trump's language and traditional anti-Semitic slurs, he wasn't shy in going public about it:
Trump's chief legal officer issued a scathing rebuke of Greenblatt's charges, telling the JTA:
"Jonathan Greenblatt is trying to connect the hatred and bigotry of some despicable individuals with the movement to Make America Great Again that Mr. Trump is leading. Note that, in his recent comments, Jonathan Greenblatt did not dispute Mr. Trump's description that Secretary Clinton is at the heart of a global power structure that has stripped the United States of its wealth to line the pockets of corporate and political interests."
Trump can code his language as deeply as he wants, but it's clear that he's playing to very old fears of Jews and Judaism and hoping he can stoke them into an electoral victory.
ATTN: reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on this story and will update it when we receive a response.