The flags of Israel and Canada.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two weeks ago, Barbra Streisand announced to great fanfare that if Donald Trump wins the US presidential election, she’ll move to Canada or Australia.
Threatening to emigrate, usually to Canada, if the Republican candidate wins is a quadrennial phenomenon among liberals – both celebrity and not – who want to express their horror at the prospect of a Democratic loss in November.
But the phenomenon gets complicated – and deserves serious scrutiny – when the would-be migrant – whether Streisand, Lena Dunham, or one of many Facebook commenters – is an American Jew.
Because Jews already have a home ready to welcome them if they no longer feel comfortable where they’re living, and it’s not Canada.
In fact, Israel’s very raison d’être is to serve as a haven for Diaspora Jews who feel they must emigrate.
The Republican nominee may be a demagogue, but a Trump regime is unlikely to involve serious anti-Semitism.
But trouble is possible.
Jews don’t tend to flourish under demagogues, but even so the anti-Semites already emboldened by Trump may be a greater threat than anything his administration does. And if things get tough for American Jews they need to know Israel stands as a ready refuge.
Obviously, Streisand and Dunham are engaging in flights of rhetoric when they announce plans to move north. People making these threats almost never actually follow through. (Only one prominent American – a Jew in fact – made good on a promise to emigrate if a Republican won the presidency: politico Pierre Salinger moved to France after the 2000 election.) But by not even mentioning Israel they “other” the Jewish state – as a faraway place with a foreign tongue and alien values. Balderdash. Modern transportation has shrunk the world; Israel works hard to help immigrants learn Hebrew; English is widely spoken in most of the country; and American ideals of democracy, freedom, equality and diversity have broad expression – sometimes more so than in the United States.
Certainly, Canada is a beautiful country with warm-hearted people proud of a multicultural history – and it has (mostly) embraced its Jewish population.
But it’s not home. It’s not even the ersatz United States the Streisands and Dunhams seem to think it is. If Jewish history has taught us anything, it’s that we should never get comfortable anywhere, because lands we thought loved us can turn on us. But the existential situation of the Jews is not what it was during the expulsion from Spain, the pogroms in Russia, and the November Pogrom (“Kristallnacht”).
Because we now have an escape hatch, a safety valve, a permanent safety net. And talk to any Israeli – they’re proud to be ready to receive any Jew who needs them.
So enough with the “I’ll move to Canada” babble. If thousands of American Jews – nay, millions of American Jews – need a refuge, the people of Israel stand ready. And they deserve a little gratitude.Follow the author on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or email him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.