As support for Israel diminishes among American Jews so does the attraction of the Republican Party for all but the very religious, the very conservative and the very hawkish. Three in four Jews voted against Donald Trump in November, which is consistent with voting patterns for the past three decades.
American Jews are increasingly turning away from an Israel under the heavy-handed influence of the ultra-religious establishment and an extreme right-wing government that has closely aligned itself with Trump and the GOP.
Younger and more progressive Jews are too young to remember when the survival of the Jewish state was threatened by hostile and powerful neighbors; today they see a muscular, nuclear regional superpower that likes to throw its weight around.
A new study released by The Ruderman Family Foundation in January is consistent with earlier surveys showing Israel sinking as a priority for American Jewish voters. Israel no longer ranks among their five most important issues.
As the GOP defines itself as the more pro-Israel party and aligns itself more closely with the Israeli Right, it is reaching out to Orthodox Jews and wealthy Jewish contributors but mostly to Evangelical Christians, whose fervent support for the Jewish state is often mingled with apocalyptic prophecies of a terrible fate for its Jewish inhabitants.
Republicans have been unable to make inroads among mainstream Jewish voters and that is likely to get much worse, thanks to Trump, who is wildly out of step with their fundamental social and moral values.
After initially suggesting the latest wave of antisemitic incidents may have been a false-flag operation by Jews seeking “to make others look bad,” according to some who spoke with him, Trump lamely and belatedly denounced it.
Sadly, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is quick to condemn antisemitism everywhere else in the world, was obviously afraid of offending his mercurial good buddy in the Oval Office whose political base includes many neo-Nazis, antisemites, white supremacists and assorted racists and bigots.
In response to an Israeli reporter’s question at their joint news conference on February 15 about the recent antisemitic incidents, Netanyahu said nothing, and Trump responded by boasting about his electoral vote count and Jewish family members and that he will stop “racism.”
Nowhere was there a promise of tough federal action to combat hate crimes or a repudiation of the bigoted forces unleashed by Trump’s campaign and presidency.
Trump, with Netanyahu’s help, is hugely responsible for keeping American Jews firmly in the Democratic Party for years to come.
A look at what the Trump administration is doing in the areas of health care, the environment, education, civil liberties, immigration, voting rights, religious tolerance and women’s and gender rights makes that clear.
This week’s congressional attempt to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act is just the latest example, and it comes as Trump unveils his new Muslim ban.
Trump represents hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, intolerance and xenophobia – the antithesis of traditional Jewish values. His anti-immigrant, anti-minority, anti-Muslim messages tell Jews: you could be next.
He is a pathological liar who, with no evidence whatsoever, accuses president Barack Obama of tapping his phones, tries to link Sen. Ted Cruz’s father to Lee Harvey Oswald, exaggerated crowd sizes at his inauguration and insisted millions of illegal aliens voted for his opponent. He’s also the delusional tweeter who said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey rejoicing over the 9/11 attacks, suggested foul play in the deaths of Vince Foster and Antonin Scalia, had several conflicting stories about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and invents statistics on murder rates, unemployment, trade deficits and his own net worth.
Declaring the media an enemy of the American people, he is threatening basic freedoms of speech and press, something more attuned with autocrats like Putin than with American values. He may talk about the failing media, but he is boosting circulation and energizing investigative reporting around the country.
Human rights are so unimportant in this administration that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ducked the publication of his agency’s annual report on the subject, something traditionally presided over in person by his predecessors. This year’s roll-out was left to an anonymous “senior official” by telephone.
Women’s rights are even lower on his list of priorities – this is, after all, a president who boasted of groping women and has made just a few token appointments. And his administration is slashing aid for women’s health issues here and abroad.
Jews will remain in the Democratic column for years to come because Republicans like speaker Paul Ryan want to privatize Social Security and cut funding for Medicaid and Medicare, raise the retirement age and cut benefits.
He has removed restrictions on selling guns to people with mental health issues and intends to remove gun-free zones around schools.
Trump’s America First theme is reminiscent of a period of widespread antisemitism and xenophobia that alarms many Jewish voters. It goes much deeper than his Muslim ban to a hostility toward immigrants and minorities. When he says he’s the “least racist person,” people just ask, “Are you kidding?” On the left of the Democratic Party there is a growing hostility toward the current government of Israel and its policies, which are seen as pro-settler and anti-Palestinian statehood. But that shift is more than offset by Jewish fears about the radical domestic policies and racist allies of the new administration.
The recent candidacy of Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim member of Congress, for chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee brought out some charges of antisemitism from far right extremists like the Zionist Organization of America, because of past criticism of Israel. But his record in Congress has been positive, and his having lost the leadership race (he was then made deputy chair) is unlikely to have any impact on Jewish loyalty to the party.
Donald Trump remains the best recruiter the Democrats have in the Jewish community.