US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters aboard Air Force One.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Melanie Phillips is right to suggest that everyone in the Jewish world should calm down and avoid reacting hysterically to every policy pronouncement, phone call, visit, remark or tweet by President Donald Trump (“How the monstering of Donald Trump has confused the Jews,” The Jerusalem Post, March 18).
This is equally true for Trump’s critics and his supporters – those Jews on different sides of the US political fence but who often seem to overlap in predicting nothing short of the death of the republic if their side doesn’t prevail.
On Israel, the initial pro-Trump euphoria on the Right over what they perceived as a green light for unlimited settlement construction in Judea and Samaria seems as misguided as the depression on the Left over what they saw as the death of the two-state solution.
Concerning antisemitism, just as there is no evidence to date to buttress the alarmist view that Trump has ushered in an unprecedented wave of antisemitism, it seems naive to completely dismiss legitimate fears over the question of what the enthusiastic embrace of Trump by some within the extreme Right will portend for American Jews.
It is on this issue that Phillips errs.
While it is true, as she writes, that the “urgent wish of the people to defend the identity, culture and democratic accountability of Western nations” is often unfairly vilified as racism, conservative Jewish opposition to Trump is not, as she suggests, based the imputation of racism to defenders of Western values and nationalism.
Rather, much of the pushback against Trump by those Jews ideologically predisposed to support Republicans is animated by the reluctance of some of the president’s supporters to distance themselves from a relatively small minority of far-right activists whose idea of nationalism is based not on shared political values but on shared skin color.
This loose grouping, who self-identify as the “altright,” differ on many issues but – as even staunchly conservative, pro-Israel publications like National Review have made clear – reject liberal democracy and unite around toxic notions of “white identity” based on the scientifically discredited view that the races are biologically different. Most that identify with this movement are also, of course – as many Jewish journalists abused on Twitter can attest to – openly hostile to Jews.
So, while anti-Trump conservative Jews reject the anti-Trump hysteria on the Left, along with unserious suggestions that he is personally antisemitic, they also are rightly concerned that an element within the president’s political alliance rejects fundamental classical liberal values, and rallies around a morally odious belief in white supremacism.
Though Phillips is right to defend the defenders of nationalism and Western values, it’s urgent in the context of the debates over the next four years that we carefully distinguish between true conservatives who fight to protect the moral and political culture of the US and Europe, and those on the far Right who exploit very real fears over the ascendancy of moral relativism and political correctness to champion a regressive vision based on fear, intolerance and race.The author holds a degree in political science and history from Temple University and made aliya in 2009.