Right From Wrong: What Trump doesn’t understand about Jews

By
August 22, 2019 22:07
Right From Wrong: What Trump doesn’t understand about Jews

U.S. President Donald Trump . (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

In fairness to US President Donald Trump, he is not alone in his bafflement at the behavior and political beliefs of the bulk of American Jewry. But as has been the case with previous of his often indelicate gut reactions to current events, his statement this week about Jews and the Democratic Party was distorted by his enemies and blown way out of proportion.

The scandal erupted when Trump responded to the vile press conference held on August 19 by antisemitic freshman congressional Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan), whose plan to visit Israel and “Palestine” earlier this month – on a mission to bash the Jewish state – was thwarted. Their sojourn, organized by the radical Palestinian NGO Miftah, not only supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, but has praised suicide bombers as “sacrificing their lives for the cause.” You know, the cause of killing Jews. Oh, and some of its members have written pieces claiming that Israelis drink the blood and steal the organs of innocent Palestinian children, the usual blood-libel stuff that the Democratic Party of old never would have tolerated, let alone ignore to placate members of its ranks.

Initially the Israeli government was going to grant visas to Omar and Tlaib despite a law enacted in 2017 to bar BDS activists from entering the country. After Trump expressed displeasure with the decision, however, Israel backtracked. This was much to the chagrin of many Jews in Israel and abroad, of course, who feared that banning the disgusting duo – shockingly defended by fellow Democrats – would give Israel’s detractors additional ammunition in their war against the Jewish state.

So when Tlaib claimed she needed to come to the falsely named “occupied West Bank” to visit her ill grandmother, Israel relented. BDS legislation or no, the Israeli Interior Ministry would honor her request on humanitarian grounds.

But, milking her victimhood – the most valuable commodity a Democrat can have these days – to the max, Tlaib snubbed the offer. No ailing granny was going to prevent her from exploiting the episode for political gain.

When asked by reporters why she opted out of the trip, Tlaib, weeping with pathos, offered a nauseating little explanation.

“Through tears, at three o’clock in the morning,” she said, “we all decided as a family that I could not go until I was a free, American, United States congresswoman, coming there not only to see my grandmother, but to talk to Palestinian and Israeli organizations that believed that my grandmother deserved human dignity as much as anyone else does.”

ONE SHUDDERS to imagine what kind of press conference she would have given had she actually made the pilgrimage to the Palestinian Authority. It most certainly wouldn’t have included horror at the PA’s persecution of women and gays, for example.

Ditto for Omar, who said that Israel’s move to prevent the visit – during which the BDS-promoting pair was slated to meet with Palestinians, Arab Members of Knesset and radical left-wing Israeli groups – was “not compatible” with being a democracy or a US ally. And then she suggested that America sever its financial aid to that naughty ally. 

Under the circumstances, Trump’s response made perfect sense.

“Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this, even three years ago, of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people – I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation,” he said. “Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone that they’re defending these two people over the State of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a great lack of knowledge or a great disloyalty.”

Jumping disingenuously on the word “disloyalty” – which is antisemitic when employed as a slur to accuse US Jews of caring more about Israel than they do about their own country – anti-Trump Jews around the world went into a calculated frenzy.

Nothing new there. Such Jews have been trying to pin the antisemitism label on Trump since his election, blaming him for everything from the Charlottesville riots to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting to “white supremacist” Twitter trolls.

These are the same Jews who have the gall to liken illegal immigrants storming the Mexico border to Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. These are the very Jews who similarly slam Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Contrary to the outcry on the part of his critics, Trump was not accusing Jews of being disloyal to America, but rather to themselves.

In his bull-in-a-china-shop way, he was inadvertently repeating the aphorism coined in the 1950s by social critic Milton Himmelfarb: “Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans.”

In other words, Trump was expressing shock and disappointment that Jews would willingly betray their own interests. In his eyes, this means that they must be ignorant of the direction in which the party they overwhelmingly support has been going. If not, they appear to be purposely sabotaging US relations with the single state established in their ancestral homeland to protect their people and serve as America’s buffer against hostile, anti-democratic forces in the volatile, strategically important region.

THOUGH TRUMP’S disillusionment may be understandable, it indicates that he doesn’t know much about Jews. This is peculiar, considering the massive amount of time he has spent around them throughout his life as a New York real estate guy and Hollywood reality TV star.

Here is what he doesn’t grasp: Only a handful of non-Orthodox Jews vote Republican; the rest pray at the altar of the Democratic Party, no matter what, even when the party turns against Israel. 

This apparent oddity spurred my father, Norman Podhoretz – a lifelong liberal Democrat who became a conservative Republican – to write an entire book examining the phenomenon.

In Why Are Jews Liberals? he concludes: “[C]ontemporary liberalism demands that, unlike any other people, Jews must justify the space they take up on this Earth. Furthermore, they must do so not, as they are commanded in the Bible, by loving God with all their hearts and all their souls and all their might, but rather by clinging with the same intensity to certain currently fashionable conceptions of what constitutes progress and how to define justice – even if these conceptions are highly questionable, and even if, as most blatantly in the case of Israel, obedience to them could be tantamount to committing suicide. In this way, the Torah of liberalism puts itself radically at odds with the very [thing] that comes closer than any other (certainly than tikkun olam) [roughly “making the world a better place”] to encapsulating the essence of the Torah of Judaism, and the observance of which for more than three thousand years is probably the single best explanation of the mystery of Jewish survival: ‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may live.’”

The good news for those of us who fear a Democratic victory in 2020 is that Trump’s base is not deterred by his brash comments. On the contrary, his fans feel invigorated by the president’s unapologetic policies and unwavering friendship toward Israel.

And since most Jews didn’t vote for him last time, nor will they next year, the hysteria about his “disloyalty” comments – which were aimed as a wake-up call to an electoral sector that wants to stay asleep – will have little effect, other than to make it more difficult for American-Jewish Trump supporters to chat at water coolers, attend cocktail parties or sit down to family meals without being ridiculed ruthlessly.

Trump is not likely to learn any lessons from the latest uproar. But, then, neither are his rivals.


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