As a Jew who travels extensively, I have found that being open about my Jewishness can be lonely. By refusing to make compromises on things like wearing a kippah in public in countries like France, the UK, Germany and New Zealand, more and more stares come my way in a world where antisemitism is growing and Israel is vilified. Even the American Jewish community is feeling more and more isolated, as antisemites now openly walk the halls of Congress, and parties that have previously been stalwart foes of antisemitism like the Democrats, cannot muster the moral courage to condemn Jew-hatred specifically and unequivocally.
It was for that reason that I sat in awe this weekend and watched as the president of the United States – and just two hours later the vice president – spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition and vowed their unalloyed support of the Jewish people and Israel, and their determination to fight enemies of the Jewish people to the bone.
Hearing the most powerful man on Earth acknowledge the rise of Jew-hatred all over the globe, and his declaration of war against it, helped to greatly assuage Jewish feelings of isolation and abandonment. US President Donald Trump told us that we’re not in this fight alone. There will be no modern Masada. There is no Fortress Israel. The most powerful nation on Earth is by Israel’s side.
Much has been made of Trump’s failure to fully condemn neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Far less has been mentioned of how the president has made up for it in spades, becoming easily the most pro-Israel president in history – and someone who brought the America-Israel relationship to unimaginable heights.
Trump fulfilled his campaign promises to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move our embassy. Now he has also recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Israelis and many Orthodox Jews recognize his contributions to the safety and security of Israel, yet most American Jews remain hostile toward him. I have seen Jews liken him to Hitler, and refer to him as an uncommon racist and an abomination to values.
These are often the same people who supported president Obama’s catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal, where $150 billion was given to Ayatollah Khameini – a real Hitler aspirant. They are so desperate for peace agreements that they are prepared to sacrifice Jerusalem to the Palestinians and the Golan Heights to the Syrians.
There is little I can say to those who still fail to recognize how disastrous the nuclear deal was, given our knowledge of Iran’s continued steps toward developing a nuclear bomb, their ongoing sponsorship of terrorism, their development of ballistic missiles, and their destabilizing actions in the Middle East that threaten the US and Israel. Obama assured us that making a deal with Iran and paying them tens of billions of dollars would suddenly cause the mullahs to reverse their hatred of the West and genocidal intentions toward Israel. Proponents of the agreement still won’t admit that Obama’s calculations on this issue wouldn’t have passed a first-grade math test.
Many of these Jews are also mired in the fantasies created by the Oslo agreements: that a two-state solution is possible and that there is a Palestinian peace partner. Even Yitzhak Rabin was not prepared to give the Palestinians a state – and that was at a time when there was still some hope the Palestinians would agree to a settlement which would recognize the existence of a Jewish state beside a Palestinian one. Now, most Israelis recognize that this is impossible in the near future, if ever. The never-ending barrage of rockets from Gaza following Israel’s evacuation has shown the folly of the land-for-peace formula, as well as those Jewish leaders who humiliated themselves and betrayed Israel by cozying up to Hamas’s foremost funder, the emir of Qatar.
BUT WHILE the world turns virulently against Israel, and a tsunami of antisemitism is unleashed around the globe, America has a president who will not feed Palestinian fantasies of dividing Jerusalem. America has a president who has made clear that the US will not subsidize Palestinian terrorism and obstructionism. America has a president who recognizes that the route to peace is not one-sided pressure on Israel, and that the Palestinians must agree to recognize and live in peace beside the Jewish state. And America has a president who understands that radical Islam is a threat to Western civilization and is unafraid to say so, unlike Obama’s comical “violent extremism,” which was an affront to both its victims and common sense.
The critics of Trump on grounds of character forget that public achievement always trumps private action.
In Christianity, character is what matters most – that is, whether a person is righteous and will be saved. Judaism, however, takes an action-based approach to leadership – you look at what a man or woman does as opposed to how they comport themselves in their personal life. Christianity focuses on personal salvation and whether sinners are going to heaven; Jews are concerned about world redemption and perfecting the world, even on the part of imperfect actors.
It is not that character is unimportant, but Jews focus on themselves and character refinement exclusively for 10 days out of 365 – during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The rest of the year, perfecting the world around us – even as we ourselves remain highly flawed – is the focus.
Bill Clinton’s failure as president was not the Monica Lewinsky affair, but rather a refusal to intervene in the Rwandan genocide, where 900,000 poor Africans were hacked to death while the president refused to meet even once with his senior staff to prevent it. Likewise, Obama’s shame in never once attacking Assad for gassing Arab Muslim children will haunt his legacy forever, even as he himself remains a man whose personal life may be beyond reproach.
The relative importance of character is reflected in the Bible, where flawed human beings engaged in questionable behavior, and yet they are remembered for their actions that influenced the future of the Jewish people. We do not ignore that Jacob favored Joseph, bringing rank dysfunction into his family; or that David had a relationship with Bathsheba; or that Moses disobeyed God and was denied entrance to the Holy Land. However, without Jacob, there would be no Jewish people. Without Moses, there would be no Jewish liberation and no Jewish faith. And without David, there would be no Jerusalem, no Jewish sovereignty, and no Jewish state.
America’s leaders have all been flawed, but we remember them more for their deeds than their character. Think about Thomas Jefferson and his relationship with Sally Hemings. Our third president fathered at least six children with his slave, yet we remember him as the author, quite literally, of our independence. Similarly, we do not think of Franklin D. Roosevelt as the man who died in Warm Springs, Georgia, with his mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd by his side in a rendezvous arranged by his daughter, Anna – but as the man who defeated Hitler. We do not remember Kennedy’s infidelities canceling out his courage in staring down the Soviets in the Cuban Missile Crisis, starting us on our path to the moon, and giving voice to America as a beacon of democracy.
This is not to say that Donald Trump should be immune from criticism. But he must be given credit for striking the tyrant Assad, pushing back against Iranian genocidal aspirations and, most of all, standing with the Jewish people while the rest of the world once again falls prey to the world’s oldest hatred.The writer is the author of 32 books, including The Israel Warrior. The Washington Post and Newsweek call him ‘the most famous rabbi in America.’ Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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