Trump’s victory and the questions it raises for Jews

  • TrumpOption1
Donald Trump was voted the next US president, sweeping to victory and jolting a Jewish community made increasingly anxious as his rough-edged nativist rhetoric emboldened the far right and brought into the light a strain of anti-Semitic invective not heard in decades.
by JTA STAFF REPORTERS | Nov 10, 2016

Trump called on all Americans to “heal the wounds of our nation” and to “come together as one united people”, during his victory speech shortly before 03:00 local time on Wednesday at the New York Hilton Midtown, blocks from his iconic Trump Tower, and surrounded by family, including his Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who helped guide Trump’s unlikely path to victory.

In his victory speech, the real estate developer turned reality star turned insurgent politician asserted that he would be a “president for all Americans”, and: “We will deal fairly with everyone - all people and all countries.”

He said he had congratulated opponent Hillary Clinton and her family on a “very hard-fought campaign,” and told his supporters: “We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”

The mainstream pro-Israel community will likely take solace from Trump’s pivot away from his cool stance on many of its issues during the primaries to a more full-throated support of defence assistance to Israel and investing in the defence alliance.

As the Republican nominee, Trump aligned with right-wing Israel advocacy in supporting a retreat from US insistence on a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pledging to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Other Jewish groups will be rattled by the election as the world’s most powerful leader is a man who appealed to an anti-immigrant strain among voters. Critics noted that in speeches and in a campaign commercial, Trump embraced the notion of a secretive power cabal that to many observers echoed classic anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews.

Trump’s insular posture on foreign policy was also likely to stoke concerns, despite his pro-Israel pronouncements, particularly his apparent closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is allied with the Assad regime in Syria, an implacable enemy of Israel.

Trump said good things about Israel but also played up conspiracy theories embraced by anti-Semites. The question is: Can they be tweaked apart?

Trump won all-important Florida, by a hair’s breadth. Campaigning hard for the state, he sought the support of its substantial Jewish community, in part by pivoting from relative coolness to Israel at the outset of his campaign to aligning with a right-wing pro-Israel posture by its end: Bashing the Iran nuclear deal, swearing to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, retreating from emphasising a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We will stand strong, we have to stand strong with the State of Israel in their fight against Islamic terrorists,” Trump told a rally Monday morning in Sarasota where he bashed President Barack Obama’s record on Israel.

Three weeks earlier, in the same state, West Palm Beach, Trump in a speech indicted Clinton as part of a secret conspiracy involving international banks seeking global control - codes straight out of the anti-Semitic canon.

“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors,” he said.

Last week Friday, he ran a final statement video ad, featuring excerpts of the speech - and this time attaching to it three famous Jewish faces (although he once again did not mention the word “Jew” or name Jews as a class).

The speech and ad culminated a campaign pocked with similar dog whistles, including Trump’s use on Twitter of images that originated on anti-Semitic websites. In debates and speeches, he several times invoked the names of little-known Jewish advisers to Clinton as emblematic of nefariousness.

Anti-Semites on the alt-right eagerly perked up at what sounded to their ears as whistles.

It’s tempting to liken this dilemma to that faced by Jews under President Richard Nixon, who was obsessed with what he believed to be the conspiracies against him by American Jews, but who adored their Israeli cousins. (And who also had trusted Jewish advisers, including his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.) Jews survived Nixon, and still thank him for the massive airlift of arms during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

But it’s different with Trump. Whatever Nixon’s weirdness about Jews, it did not permeate his campaigns; it became evident years later, as tapes he recorded became public, peppered with anti-Jewish epithets.

Moreover, Nixon was a relative liberal when it came to other minorities. It is true that under him the Republican Party pursued a “Southern strategy”, sending coded messages to white racists. But his policies, including desegregation and investing in the rise of a black middle class, would seem progressive today.

Trump, by contrast, has hardly been coded in his messages he sends about other minorities, especially Hispanics and Muslims, but blacks as well. And there’s also the matter of his record of misogynistic comments.

That presents a host of dilemmas for Jews, conceivably forcing them to weigh their American identity, forged through a close association with the civil rights and feminist movements, and their loyalty to Israel.

Cosying up to Trump as a means of keeping Israel on his good side would likely be seen as a betrayal among considerable swathes of the Hispanic, African American and Muslim communities, constituencies Jewish and pro-Israel organisations in recent years have been eager to cultivate.

Trump seems to understand - at least in his more recent speeches - the importance that much of the Jewish community attaches to Israel as their homeland.

Trump also wants to pull up the drawbridge, to insulate America against the wider world, that would likely diminish US influence.

The centrist pro-Israel community, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has for decades cast assistance to Israel as inextricable from the robust US foreign presence overseas.

Invest in US influence in the Middle East, in Europe, in Africa, the thinking went, and Israel, as a close ally, could only benefit; America could, and did, leverage its considerable influence in those arenas to benefit Israel.

What holds back the expansion of the boycott Israel movement? What drew a broad array of nations to sanction Iran? The willingness to leverage US influence in the global arena, coupled with the willingness to expend US largesse. Diminish influence, and leverage fades as well; there is no stick without carrots.

The formula advanced by Trump - and by the Republican Party, which at its convention embraced closeness with Israel while retreating from overseas engagement - is that America will keep Israel close, whatever the vicissitudes of its relationships with other countries.

That raises tough questions for Israel, which chafes at the notion that it must rely on a great power to survive. It also casts American Jews as a protected class, able to seek favours for its homeland, while other ethnic minorities are cut off - not a status much of the American Jewish community would embrace gladly.

Trump tapped into real frustrations with an American economy that, even as it grew, robbed the middle class of guarantees it once took for granted: College educations for the kids, pensions that lasted until death, a lifetime free of debt.

He also tapped into visceral fears among the portion of the middle class that is white, traditionalist and Christian, that the country looked like it less and less; that privileges that white middle class Christians had never acknowledged - the protection of the police without considering what it cost marginalised communities, a culture with icons that were as white as they were, first dibs at jobs - were falling away.

That was a class that was to a great degree invisible to Jews, who are largely liberal, and who are confined to coastal enclaves.

Like the rest of the country, Jewish Americans must now contend with this population: Who are they? What are their legitimate grievances? What are the things they seek to preserve that are abhorrent to Jews?

How do we reconcile these things? (JTA)

 

2 Comments

  1. 2 Shmuel Lasker 10 Nov
    So the Jewish Report cannot seem to distinguish the so-called anti-Semitic and dangerous far-right from the equally dangerous,anti-Semitic and lunatic far-left,which the Socialist Party USA is.
  2. 1 Community Claser 14 Nov
    Hopefully the president-elect donald trump wise could lead to all the American people during his rule. And Hillary Clinton's political opponents during the administration can fully support donald trump.

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