With the election of Donald Trump, Israel can expect a far warmer relationship with the White House in the coming four-eight years than in the previous eight. This could mean great diplomatic and economic benefits including moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, tearing up the hated Iran nuclear deal and even adding more money to the $38 billion defence deal Israel recently concluded with President Obama.
The view of a Trump presidency is rather different for the Jews of the United States. While Israeli politicians were ecstatic about the election result American Jews were sitting shiva. As per usual over 70% of American Jews voted Democrat.
Nothing could hi-light the differences between Israeli Jews and their brothers and sisters in the United States more than the reactions to the victory of Donald Trump.
Israel’s ambassador to the USA, Ron Dermer, exposed the fault line in his address to the press after meeting the President elect when he said;
Israel has no doubt that President-elect Trump is a true friend of Israel…We look forward to working with the Trump administration, with all of the members of the Trump administration, including Steve Bannon, and making the US-Israel alliance stronger than ever.
Dermer’s praise for Steve Bannon was bizarre. Bannon’s Breitbart website promotes a host of alt right, white supremacist conspiracy theories. The Anti Defamation League (ADL) said Bannon was “hostile to core American values.”
Breitbart has run columns, written by Jews from the alt right movement, that would probably be called antisemitic if they were written by anyone else. Take for example a column by Matthew Tyrmandmaking the accusation that the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum “attempts to impose a globalist world view upon citizenries that reject it” He added that “Hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned,” Ironically the same kind of thing has been seen in extreme left circles for sometime attacking Zionists and Zionism. Bannon is about to become the White House chief strategist and senior counsel to the President of the United States of America.
It isn’t just Bannon whose views many Jews (and others) find problematic; The ADL has been strident in its criticism of the President elect himself and of some of his picks for important positions. The CEO of the ADL Jonathan Greenblatt directly accused the Trump campaign of antisemitism earlier this month saying;
— ADL (@ADL_National) November 6, 2016
In fact the ADL statement on antisemitism came rather late in the game. The Trump campaign was dogged by allegations of antisemitism throughout and often even seemed to be courting antisemites. The most high profile example was the endorsement of Trump by former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Clan and well known antisemite and racist David Duke. He has been a supporter of Trump’s campaign every step of the way. Below is just one of his antisemitic tweets;
Great Pick! – Gen. Flynn’s retweet shows he knows that the Saudis, ISIS & the Jewish-NeoCons are the real enemies – NOT Assad & NOT Russia! pic.twitter.com/Z9D9CHHXeQ — David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) November 18, 2016
The Trump Campaign was slow to distance itself from Duke and it hasn’t distanced itself from many others. David Neiwert and Sarah Posner investigated Far Right support for President elect Trump last month, they said that;
Since Trump officially announced his bid in June 2015 he has drawn effusive praise and formal backing from some of the country’s most virulent neo-Nazis, white supremacists, militia supporters, and other extremist leaders. They include the head of the American Nazi Party, three former Ku Klux Klansmen, four people involved in a recent armed standoff against federal authorities at an Oregon wildlife refuge, and at least 15 individuals affiliated with organizations described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate groups.
Trump has disavowed none of them.
On its own these links with antisemities would be bad enough but they pale in comparison to the comments Trump and his senior staff have made about plans for a Muslim registry. The mere fact that a man elected to the White House called for this to happen while campaigning is a cause for concern to say the least.
When diplomats visit Israel the first place they go to is the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem. The first step Hitler took on his path to murdering the Jews and so many others was rhetoric. It was hyperbolic and it was directed against the Jewish minority and against the establishment. This lesson is taught to anyone learning about the Holocaust and one would expect ministers in the Israeli government to recognise it when the see it.
It is therefore somewhat disconcerting that the Israeli ambassador, the Minister for Education and many others leaped so wholeheartedly into the arms of a populist politician whose rhetoric has inspired so many Nazis, nationalists and antisemites. After telling the world for 60 years about the Holocaust Israeli leaders should be taking the lead in ensuring that such populist, verbose attacks on minorities in the USA are condemned. Instead Education Minister Naphtali Bennet said that;
“The era of a Palestinian state is over…Trump’s victory is an opportunity for Israel to immediately retract the notion of a Palestinian state in the center of the country, which would hurt our security and just cause,” Bennett said. “This is the position of the president-elect, as written in his platform, and it should be our policy, plain and simple.”
Out going President Obama claimed that Muslims are the new Jews in a speech in Washington DC in February of this year. He is wrong. Jews constitute a tiny minority in the world, pre 1948 had no state to speak for them and no diplomatic voice to represent their concerns. Islam is the world’s second largest religion, there are 50 Muslim majority countries on the planet. They are not in a position of weakness in the same way as the Jews of Europe were before the Holocaust.
However in the USA they are a minority that are being singled out by their President and we know that this is how it begins. First Jews in Germany were singled out, then came the Nuremberg Laws and on and on into oblivion. This shouldn’t be overlooked due to the promise of an embassy being moved from one place to another or the ripping up of a deal with Iran or any other incentive.
The Vice President elect Mike Pence stood before AIPAC in 2009 and said that;
Israel’s enemies are our enemies; Israel’s cause is our cause. If this world knows nothing else, let it know this: America stands with Israel.
But Israel’s cause is also the protection of world Jewry from persecution and the Trump team have emboldened enemies of the Jewish people in the United States as well as all those who hate minorities. They have baited Muslims and left all minorities petrified as to what the future holds.
American Jews have bravely drawn their battle lines clearly and emphatically through the ADL, through their voting record and through their communal organisations. If the state of Israel continues to back the Trump administration so enthusiastically even while it goes ahead with its registry of Muslims it is simply going to break with a scared, vulnerable US Jewish community.
While Israelis bask in having an American embassy in Jerusalem Jews in America will wonder what on earth the point was of spending so long backing a state of Israel and when it was that the state lost its way so terribly.