So is Trump a philo-Semite or an anti-Semite? The answer is both. The principle that explains his seemingly contradictory outlook toward Jews is simple: Trump believes all the anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews. But he sees those traits as admirable.
To Trump, the belief that Jews are foreign interlopers who use their wealth to serve their own clannish interests is not a negative — as it is for traditional anti-Semites — but rather a positive. He wants Jews to be his attorneys and manage his money, so that he, too, can be rich. He wants them in his political corner, so that he, too, can be powerful. He wants to buy politicians, just like they do. As a man who has always stood solely for his own naked self-interest, Trump does not see the anti-Semitic conception of the self-interested Jew as a complaint, but rather a compliment. He prioritizes his needs ahead of the national interest, and so he sees the idea that Jews might do the same with themselves or with Israel as entirely natural. He is the human embodiment of the Onion article “Affable anti-Semite Thinks The Jews Are Doing Super Job With The Media.”
This understanding also helps explain the most confusing aspect of Trump’s most recent anti-Semitic outburst. The president claimed that Democratic Jews are “disloyal” to Israel. But this is an inversion of the traditional dual loyalty trope, which charges that Jews are more loyal to their fellow Jews or Israel than to their home countries. Trump, by contrast, was arguing that Democratic Jews were insufficiently devoted to other Jews or to Israel — that they were not strong enough dual loyalists. In other words, he criticized American Jews for not conforming to the anti-Semitic stereotype. That’s because, as we’ve seen, he thinks such stereotypes are praiseworthy.