What would us Jews ever do without President Charlottesville? It’s amazing to me that we even survived almost 5,800 years before he took up shop in the Oval Office. We are so lucky we have him to look out for us, to tell us who hates us and who doesn’t, whom we should fear and whom we should embrace. When he bear hugged that American flag, all I could think was that I wish he could be hugging the Jewish people, all of us together, at the same time. Oh, and Ivanka’s Jewish now, which is just the icing on the cake at the Viennese table that is Trump’s overstuffed, sweet love for us.
Who could ever doubt Trump’s love after a rally full of neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us” led him to declare that there were “very fine people on both sides” of that rally—a statement he’s even this week still lying about (Aaron Blake at The Washington Post did a terrific job debunking the most recent round of lies). Bear in mind, that chant derives from exactly the same content—namely the idea that Jews supposedly want to bring in lots of brown immigrants to “replace” the white Christian majority in the United States—that motivated the terrorist who murdered 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as the one who attacked a synagogue in Poway, California, murdering Lori Gilbert Kaye. That white nationalist terrorist wrote: “[Latinos] and [blacks] are useful puppets for the Jew in terms of replacing Whites.” Very fine sentiments indeed.
Although I don’t speak Yiddish all that well, I’ve managed to learn a few phrases over the years from family members. I’ll use one of my favorites here to discuss how much Jews actually do benefit from and need the care provided us by Donald Trump. We need it like we need a loch in kop. Here’s a translation: “Literally a hole in the head, refers to things one definitely does not need.”
This provides some of the background for what the Man Who Lost The Popular Vote did this week. As I mentioned earlier, he told Jews who hates us. Specifically, he told us that Democrats Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan “hate Israel & all Jewish people.” Not only that, Trump added “there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.” He shared these insights because the two congresswomen—whom he has attacked in hateful, racist terms numerous times in recent weeks—had been planning an official visit to Israel. Trump tweeted that if Israel allowed Omar and Tlaib to make such a visit it would show “great weakness.”
Trump seems to think that attacking these women of color, whom he hopes (as his own tweets make clear) to make the face of the Democratic Party in 2020, will help him stay out of jail—and, secondarily, in the White House—for another four years. So he saw their planned visit to Israel as another opportunity to go after them. But he did not limit his activities on this matter to his Twitter account. As Reuters reported:
Israel had initially chosen to allow the visit. A source who took part in consultations Netanyahu held with Cabinet members and advisers on Wednesday told Reuters that Israel backtracked due to pressure from Trump. The pressure was reported by the Axios news site on Saturday but denied by the White House.
“In a discussion held two weeks ago all the officials were in favor of letting them in but, after Trump’s pressure, they reversed the decision,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
For its part, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had stated flatly only a month ago that "out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel." President Individual 1 made sure Israel had to walk that one back.
On Friday morning news broke that Israel would allow Rep. Tlaib to come to Israel specifically to see her elderly grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, in what was termed a “humanitarian visit.” Tlaib apparently promised to not “promote boycotts against Israel.” However, after facing criticism from supporters of the BDS boycott, Tlaib then announced that she had "decided to not travel to Palestine and Israel at this time. Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions meant to humiliate me would break my grandmother's heart.” Trump couldn’t resist pouring out even more bile late on Friday.
In all of these shifting developments, one thing is crystal clear. The president of the United States interfered directly in a decision by Israel, and essentially got our ally to switch its position on a matter of significant diplomatic and political importance. He told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu what to do, and Netanyahu did it. Boy, Trump sure does love Israel. AIPAC, on the other hand, which virtually always moves in lock-step with the Israeli government, broke with Trump and Israel on this decision. As Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, the liberal counterpart to AIPAC, wrote:
To be sure, I haven’t always agreed with everything Omar and Tlaib have said when it comes to Jews and/or Israel. I’ve both criticized Rep. Omar, and subsequently praised her for changing the kind of language she uses when she offers what are legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy. Rep. Tlaib’s position is more problematic, in that she, unlike Omar, rejects a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (after coming out in favor of it during her primary race in 2018 and earning the endorsement of J Street, which it subsequently withdrew following her change in position). Thus, Tlaib rejects the idea of a national homeland for Jews, something the history of this world has made clear is a necessity, and which the United Nations endorsed specifically when it created two states, one Jewish and one Arab, out of British Palestine in 1947. Additionally, both Omar and Tlaib support BDS.
Despite these disagreements, myself and, more importantly, congressional Democrats who have raised concerns in the past on these matters have rallied around their two colleagues—the only two Muslim-American
s women ever to have served in Congress. They have soundly condemned Trump’s statements and interference, along with the decision by Israel to go along with him on blocking the two congresswomen’s official visit. As Alana Abramson wrote in Time, what happened to Omar and Tlaib has “resulted in the most unified show of force House Democrats have shown on this issue since January.”
Here’s Nancy Pelosi’s official response:
As one who loves Israel, I am deeply saddened by the news that Israel has decided to prevent Members of Congress from entering the country...Israel’s denial of entry to Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar is a sign of weakness, and beneath the dignity of the great State of Israel. The President’s statements about the Congresswomen are a sign of ignorance and disrespect, and beneath the dignity of the Office of the President.
On a related topic, how about the fact that Trump decided to tell the democratically elected government of Israel who it should and should not let come into its country, yet somehow can’t bring himself to say much of anything to the unelected, authoritarian government of China as it faces off against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. President Trade Wars Are Easy To Win couldn’t muster any support for the protestors—a number of whom were waving the American flag and singing our national anthem—and their push for freedom and a government by, for, and of, the people. All he did was to offer praise for China’s President Xi, saying “I really have a lot of confidence in [him],” and adding that if the protestors could meet with Xi, “things could be worked out pretty easily.” Trump also characterized Xi as “a good man in a ‘tough business.’” Netanyahu, on the other hand, is a man who simply must snap to attention and do what the Orange Julius Caesar tells him. Democracy got no respect and no dignity from Trump when it came to either China or Israel.
When the 2020 elections roll around, American Jews need to do even better than we did in 2016, when we delivered our votes to Hillary Clinton by a three-to-one margin, and better still than we did in the 2018 midterms, when Jews voted for Democratic candidates over Republicans by an almost five-to-one margin. Trump thinks that by lying and slandering Representatives Omar and Tlaib he will ingratiate himself with Jewish voters. That’s not going to happen because we know the truth.
The truth is that Donald Trump does not have the best interests of the Jewish people at heart. Furthermore, he is not helping the State of Israel in its quest to build a secure homeland in the Middle East—something that will require compromise on all sides and a recognition of the rights of Palestinians to a state of their own roughly corresponding to the 1967 borders.
But it’s much worse than that. Trump aids, abets, and, yes, directly peddles hate of the worst kind, hate that puts Jews, not to mention immigrants and all Latinos, in the crosshairs of white nationalist racists. He is not our friend. The best thing he could do for American Jews, and for the country we love, would be to simply resign and go away.
Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas).