Urge American Jewish population to reject Donald Trump
For nearly a month, the shock of Donald Trump’s victory has left many American Jewish communities asking themselves the following question: Where do we go from here? The vast majority of our community strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy. In light of his victory, though, some groups have floated the possibility of compromise, of “giving him a chance,” a strategy which largely rests upon the theory that a Trump presidency will be good for Israel. Indeed, a Dec. 2 Newsweek opinion piece suggested that Trump has taken more pro-Israel stances than those of President Obama and that Trump’s presidency could offer “an ever closer bond between the two countries … beneficial to both parties. … [Thus,] we should judge our new president on his actions in Office and not on the tone of his campaign.”
In that same vein, groups like the Zionist Organization of America have taken to defending some of Trump’s more controversial staffing announcements, including that of former Breitbart tzar Steve Bannon as chief strategist in Trump’s White House. These groups seem to believe that even though Bannon and his former publication have associated with white nationalist groups, they are still pro-Israel, so at least there is some silver lining. This attitude fails on both a practical and moral level: compromise with Trump cannot be an option.
The idea of what it means to be pro-Israel is up for debate, to say the least. The organizations that have begun looking for “silver linings” are supposedly nonpartisan neoconservative organizations; this follows the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s decision during the primary season to invite Trump to speak at its policy conference as if he were any other candidate, thereby contributing to the normalization of his candidacy. These organizations support the Likud Party — of which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is chairman — but by no means is that the only way in which members of the American Jewish community express their support for Israel.
Even focusing on Israel, though, constitutes a dangerous distraction. It is certainly important for the American Jewish community to have an ongoing relationship with Israel and an active role in U.S.-Israel relations, but it still is the case that sometimes someone can be both a right-wing Zionist and anti-Semitic at the same time.They’re not mutually exclusive.The indisputable anti-Semitic elements of Trump’s campaign and the spike in hate crimes against Jews in the weeks following his election demonstrate this. According to a Nov. 15 Forward article, Todd Gitlin, a sociologist at Columbia University, posits that “anti-Semitism and right-wing Zionism are varieties of ultra nationalism … both presume that the embattled righteous ones need to bristle at, wall off, and punish the damned outsiders.”
Since Trump’s election, as reported in a Nov. 30 Washington Post article, swastikas have been graffitied on school properties all across my home county of Montgomery County, Maryland. Quince Orchard High School and Westland Middle School — ten minutes away from my home synagogue, Temple Shalom — are among the locations vandalized.
This is only a small sample of what has taken place in a community that supposedly embraces its religious pluralism. Nationwide, according to a Nov. 29 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, “in the ten days following the election, there were almost 900 reports of harassment and intimidation from across the nation.”
To be clear, Trump’s condemnation of this violence carries zero weight whatsoever: First, he staged an actively racist campaign; second, he repeatedly published neo-Nazi imagery on his Twitter account; third, his campaign’s closing television advertisement was chillingly evocative of themes present in “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” In order to win, Trump did not need to take anti-Semitism seriously; he did not need to listen to us, choosing instead to run a campaign that elevated the political power of white nationalism and neo-Nazism. When these groups comprise a sizable portion of Trump’s political constituency, currying favor with the Trump administration will get us absolutely nowhere.
There is a graver harm still to normalizing a relationship between the American Jewish community and the incoming Trump Administration: the message it sends to other historically oppressed groups within American society. At the point where Trump has suggested his administration might open up a Muslim registry in America — an abhorrent, flamboyantly unconstitutional idea that sounds terrifyingly similar to the 1930s — doing anything other than standing in solidarity with American Muslims at this time would be an act of moral bankruptcy.
There is no compromise — not today, not tomorrow, not next year. There is only resistance. It is the Jewish thing to do; it is the American thing to do. Only through fighting against Trump as one will we push back against the message that one cannot be Jewish and American at the same time. Negotiating with Trump or finding “areas of compromise” only validates the alt-right’s structurally anti-Semitic philosophy. Emma Green of the Atlantic writes that the alt-right “promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots … [making it clear] that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.”
The question we all are left with is, where do any of us even begin? We must stand behind our Muslim friends and neighbors both politically and personally. This is not just about donating money to advocacy organizations or lobbying against the political injustices to come. Although both are admirable, those actions will not be enough. It is about literally taking this into our own hands. If a mosque or Muslim community center near us is graffitied, we must show up the next day and help remove the paint. If bigots come the day after and graffiti again, we must show up again. The rise in hate crimes in response to Trump’s candidacy and subsequent victory — including, according to a Nov. 14 New York Times article, a 67-percent jump in hate crimes against Muslims over the past year, such as “assaults, bombings, threats, and property destruction” — demonstrates the danger not only of his actual policies but also the hatred his election has validated.