By Jason Moscovitch
The recent rising intensity in tone and content from the president of the United States about the State of Israel can’t possibly go to a good place – even if the words are supportive. The divisiveness of the president in using Israel for his own domestic political reasons is why nothing good will come of it.
But when the proven pro-Israel president, the president who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, launched a loyalty grenade into the American election cycle, it was the act of a crass and politically unsophisticated despot.When President Donald Trump takes the few visceral anti-Israel voices in the Democratic Party to say American Jews can’t vote Democratic without being “disloyal,” as so many commentators have noted, those words conjure up old and ugly antisemitic boogiemen and women from the past. It proves, how, when it comes to antisemitism, the past and the present can so easily blend into one. Most thinking Jews never forget that.
Despots don’t measure their words. Despots dispose of subtlety as if it were poison. Despots laugh at political compromise, and sometimes at necessary political nuance and ambiguity. The problem is, if there ever was a country that needs subtlety, compromise, nuance and ambiguity, it is the State of Israel. So, thank you President Trump for your help.
In this High Holy Day period you can imagine the renewed tension that will exist in U.S. synagogues when the subject of Israel comes up, if it comes up. Can you imagine the reluctance of rabbis to mention the state of affairs in the Holy Land? Tension is running high in all Jewish communities across the U.S. Bluntly put, not all American Jews support Israel’s perceived hardline views as their president does.
Traditionally, most American Jews support the Democratic Party although there has always been a good number of Jews who support the Republican Party. The stereotype that all Jews support the Democratic Party in the United States is as misguided as the long-held view in Canada that Jews vote Liberal. Increasingly, not all Jews think the same, pray the same, or vote the same.
And on both sides of the border, support for Israel is not the only consideration when Jews cast their ballots. If that were the case, every Jewish vote would have gone to former prime minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party, which we know didn’t happen.
What Trump has done fits the pattern of his taking down long held ways of doing politics. This time Israel and Jewish voters are made targets as the president wings his way through another outrage to get attention and, he thinks, political advantage.
Talking about Jewish voters being disloyal to Israel, to America, or to both, is such a disgusting outrage that you have to wonder if it is just a bad dream. But it’s not – not when Trump is the most powerful leader in the world.
Trump’s support of Israel is good to have – but it is necessary to note there is not another world leader who supports what he is doing or saying about Israel. Israel is so alone in the world, and when the United States has a president who is often over the top on Israeli matters, the question for the medium and long term is whether Trump is causing more harm than good.
Since the birth of the State of Israel in 1948, every Rosh Hashanah has seen Israel in a state of war with most of its neighbours, and this year, 71 years later, there is not a glitter of hope that peace is anywhere on the horizon. The difference this year is the unworthy spectacle of Trump stirring the pot so ferociously.
There are those who think Trump says what needs to be said. The problem is that so much time has passed without resolution and, rightly or wrongly, the fires of frustration with Israel burn around the world.
The reality is how there is so much difficulty for Israel in the world and while Trump may think he is helping, there is no evidence of that.
Perhaps, on this Rosh Hashanah, we need to face the sad reality that our loud and powerful friend is not making anyone feel any better.