Saturday, April 13, 2019

Trump And Jewish Americans


The last time I was in a synagogue was in 2016 in St Petersburg when I went to see if I could reconnect with my grandfather's spirit, who had spent his last night in his native Russia there before fleeing to America as a young boy in 1905. Nice building but my grandfather's spirit wasn't there. He wasn't very religious and his spirit would be more likely to be hanging out in a socialist workers club. He identified as a Jew, as do I, proudly so, if not religiously. I have to admit that a week ago, I was incensed with Adelson's Kapo Klub Konclave in Las Vegas, incensed enough to write about it: A Very Large Percentage Of American Jews Are Smart And Humane-- And Don't Vote For Republicans. Take that, Kapo-scum!

I wasn't the only one offended. Yesterday I got my first-ever e-mail from the Jewish Democratic Council of America. They acknowledged the "wild applause" Trump got, the red MAGA yarmulkes the Kapos were wearing and that the coverage of the event could "leave some with the impression that Republicans are making inroads with Jewish voters." As I mentioned in my own post, that's not the reality Jewish voters are telling. My piece was mostly historical. There's is more up-to-the-moment.
Trump’s presidency has contributed to a stunning loss of Jewish support for Republicans, which plummeted from 33 percent in the 2014 midterms to 17 percent in the 2018 elections. Between 2016 and 2018, the numbers dropped by seven points, demonstrating that Jews are leaving the GOP because of Trump.

Trump’s presidency has caused Jews to abandon the Republican Party because his rhetoric and policies are contrary to our Jewish values. The Democratic Party has been-- and will remain-- the political home of the Jewish community because Democrats share our commitment to Israel and other domestic policy priorities stemming from our Jewish values. Jews also reject Trump’s attempt to turn Israel and anti-Semitism into political wedge issues, which has been dangerous for Israel and Jews. But don’t take our word for it-- the polling numbers speak for themselves.

At the RJC Shabbat political rally, Trump referred to Benjamin Netanyahu as "our" prime minister. This was the second time in just a few months he had made a dual loyalty accusation about American Jews and Israel. And as usual, Republicans who are so quick to condemn anti-Semitism from the opposite side of the aisle remained silent when Trump engages in the same bigoted ignorance.

It’s unacceptable that Trump and other Republicans have engaged in anti-Semitism, but it is also unacceptable that they only seem to care about anti-Semitism when it suits their partisan purposes. This opportunistic Republican tactic is not just hypocritical, it’s dangerous and makes the following clear-- Trump and the GOP are using Israel and anti-Semitism as political wedge issues in order to score political points, and we won’t let them get away with it.
Halie Soifer, a former senior national security advisor in the Obama administration, is the executive director of Jewish Democratic Council and yesterday she wrote a post for Medium, The Danger of Politicizing and Personalizing the U.S.-Israel Relationship, to deal with Trump's troubling role in the Israeli election which, she warns, "is endangering the future of U.S.-Israel ties."

Netanyahu, alas was the choice of what a friend of mine there called a "more apathetic electorate than our own." Despite Trump’s "astonishing recent reference to Netanyahu as the prime minister of all Jews," wrote Soifer, "he is not, and we Jews are not a universal political monolith. Polling demonstrates that while 92 percent of American Jewish voters identify as 'pro-Israel,' 59 percent are critical of policies of the current Israeli government. Just as one can be both an American patriot and detractor of Trump, there is no inherent contradiction between support for Israel and disagreement with Netanyahu’s politics. Trump has attempted to reframe this dynamic by politicizing and personalizing the U.S.-Israel relationship, and those who care about Israel on both sides of the aisle should reject it."

Trump put his thumb in the scale of Israel’s democracy in the lead-up to its election. He literally and figuratively embraced Netanyahu, including in the Oval Office. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights at a time when no one was questioning Israeli control of this strategically critical area. He designated the insidious Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization less than twenty-four hours before Israeli polls opened. Whether you agree with the policy or not, the timing and strategy is clear--  these were political calculations on the part of Trump aimed to influence the Israeli election.

Trump’s interference in Israel’s democracy is un-American. Just as we reject foreign intervention in our election, the U.S. president should not play any role influencing the decision of the Israeli electorate. Results demonstrate that Trump’s maneuvering had an impact. Trump gave Netanyahu the slight edge he needed to secure a narrow right-wing victory over his more centrist opponents. One can only assume that Trump’s objective in doing so was driven by domestic politics given his ongoing attempts to use Israel as a political wedge issue to score points for himself and Republicans.

The U.S.-Israel relationship has endured more than seven decades in Republican and Democratic administrations. By identifying support for Israel so closely with support for Netanyahu, Trump risks turning the U.S.-Israel relationship into another partisan personality issue. Leaders of both the U.S. and Israel will come and go, and this relationship must continue to stand the test of time. As with so many issues, Trump threatens to undermine the long-term trajectory of the U.S.-Israel relationship by making it all about him.

While Trump’s policies may have helped Netanyahu in this election, it’s not helping Republicans. Despite Trump’s recent claims of Jews fleeing the Democratic Party, polling demonstrates the opposite. Trump’s presidency has contributed to a stunning loss of support for Republicans among Jewish voters, which plummeted from 33% in the 2014 midterms to 17% in the 2018 elections. This is because Trump’s policies on a wide range of domestic policy issues are antithetical to Jewish values and have contributed to an unprecedented rise in anti-Semitism.

According to a poll of Jewish voters conducted in October 2018, at least 70% of American Jews disapprove of Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism, which is not surprising given his dismal record. In 2017, he equated white supremacists marching in Charlottesville with those peacefully protesting them. In 2018, he self-identified as a “nationalist”--  a term historically used in association with Nazism--  and refused to denounce white nationalism. Nearly three-quarters of American Jews say Trump’s comments and policies were responsible for inspiring last year’s horrific massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. According to FBI statistics, there has been a 37 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Jews in the past two years, and Jews are the most frequently targeted religious group by a margin of nearly three-to-one.

Trump continues to deeply offend Jewish Americans with his policies and his words. When addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) last week, he implicitly accused Americans of dual loyalty to Israel. Only a few months earlier, Trump told Americans at the White House Hanukkah Party that he had great affection for “your country,” again implying that American Jews had an allegiance to a foreign country. At an RJC event in December 2015, Trump asserted that Jews would not support him because he didn’t want their money and Jews “want to control their politicians.” Republicans strongly denounced these anti-Semitic tropes when invoked earlier this year by Democratic congresswomen, but responded with a deafening silence when the president has said the very same things on more than one occasion.

President Trump’s Republican supporters have been willing to overlook his treatment of Jews as political pawns, stunning hypocrisy on anti-Semitism, and political exploitation of U.S. policy toward Israel. Those of us who value strong U.S.-Israel ties must resist Trump’s politicking. At stake is the risk of turning our historically bipartisan alliance into one based on political expediency and calculation. Americans must hold Trump responsible for the anti-Semitism, bigotry and hatred he has sown, and resist his political manipulation of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

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At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Republicans who are so quick to condemn anti-Semitism from the opposite side of the aisle remained silent when Trump engages in the same bigoted ignorance."

That's because the GOP raised the Mommy Party to be nice, sit quietly, and to not speak unless they have something nice to say about their Daddy Party.

At 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Democratic Party has been-- and will remain-- the political home of the Jewish community because Democrats share our commitment to Israel and other domestic policy priorities stemming from our Jewish values."

Unless "Jewish values" are greed and indifference to everyone, they are also among the dumbest motherfuckers in the history of earth.

Can someone illustrate just what is meant by "Jewish values" so that I can decide whether they are evil or they are stupid? I am not Jewish so I have no first-hand knowledge.

Based only on the recent election of bibi, I'm leaning toward evil. Of course, it still could be both.


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