Geopolitics

Trump Conflict Of Interest On Display In Argentina Resort

Eric Trump with his father
Eric Trump with his father

PUNTA DEL ESTE — From this Argentine beach resort, it was business as usual this week for the Trump family empire. But the appearance of Eric Trump, the second-born son of the next U.S. President, to promote the family company's new luxury flats in Argentina was also another flash of the unresolved questions about major conflicts of interest that Donald Trump is facing.

The Buenos Aires-based daily Clarin published an interview Friday with the 33-year-old Trump, who denied his father has used his election to promote his businesses. Eric Trump also declared that he would be seeking other opportunities around Latin America, which when combined with North America, was a "bigger market than China."

Eric Trump and his older brother, Donald Trump Jr., were expected to focus largely on the family business, even though both have sit in on policy meetings during the transition period. Among the most cited examples of potential conflicts of interest was the report in November that when Argentine President Mauricio Macri phoned to congratulate Trump on his election, the billionaire asked the Argentine leader to help remove obstacles to building a Trump Tower in Buenos Aires.

In his interview with Clarin, Eric Trump denied that his father and Macri had spoken about a Trump Tower in the capital as reported, though the project was clearly no secret. A hypothetical Trump project in the capital could be either of condos or a hotel, he said, adding that he was certain locals would like it, as shown by the number of wealthy Argentines and Brazilians who had bought units in Trump towers elsewhere in the world.

The Trump Tower in Punta Del Este — Photo: Eric Trump/Twitter

Macri, like Trump, hails from a business background and has vowed to stamp out corruption and curb the ramshackle welfare state. He is also very much interested in boosting ties with the United States, given its crucial importance as an export market for Argentine commodities and farming products. But their mutual interest in boosting business both formally and informally, is what may prove a problem in terms of transparency.

Ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration, Donald Trump is facing increasing calls to sell off his family assets to avoid conflicts between his business interests and public duties.

On Monday, a letter signed by several prominent Trump supporters urged the incoming president to clearly resolve these conflicts. Conservative activist John Pudner, who signed the letter, told NPR that he had voted for Trump with the understanding that he would clean up Washington. "He made such a theme of things like the revolving door and the ways in which decisions can be influenced, not for the public good," Pudner said. "If you have the presidency and people are going to question every week, "Why is he making this decision? Is there some business angle on it?" I just think it undercuts so much of the reason that people did support him."

A news conference to address conflicts of interest, which was initially postponed, is planned for Jan. 11, though it could reportedly be delayed again depending upon the advice of Trump's lawyers.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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