U.S President Donald Trump is a hero now for Muslim-haters who, in some countries, might even be the majority. He is being lauded by the hard-right in America, extolled as a man’s man in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, glorified as a god among racist parties in Europe and enjoys wall-to-wall support from his groupies in Israel, who are now being led, unabashedly, by Benjamin Netanyahu.
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On Saturday, the Israeli prime minister applauded Trump’s decision to set up a wall with Mexico, with the disputable claim, phrased in Trump-style syntax, “I built a wall along Israel's southern border. It stopped all illegal immigration. Great success. Great idea.” Netanyahu’s intervention on a topic that is in sharp political dispute in the U.S. is questionable enough, but the timing of his decision to identify so strongly with Trump, just after the president issued his executive order on Syrian refugees and Muslim immigrants - a move viewed widely as a declaration of hate against Muslims - is a reckless gamble. For no discernible rhyme, reason or political imperative, Netanyahu has placed himself - and Israel, by extension - solidly behind a morally dubious move and a leader who could soon become the world’s most hated.
Trump’s spokespersons claim that the move is aimed at countering threats to U.S. national security, but that’s an obvious ruse. The U.S. already conducts the world’s most stringent screening for refugees. To this day, not one Syrian refugee or immigrant from any of the seven blacklisted countries has engaged in terrorist activities - while those who did attack America, including the terrorists who carried out the September 11 attacks, came from countries that were not included in Trump’s list, either because they’re too vital to U.S. interests or too lucrative for Trump’s business empire.
On the other hand, the damage that Trump’s move may cause, directly or indirectly, in the short term or in the long, is undeniable. The reports of refugees stuck on their way to the U.S. or in American airports, along with the shocking announcement by the Department of Homeland Security that green-card holders who are abroad will be barred from rejoining their families or their jobs, place a disturbing human face on the bureaucratic jargon of Friday's executive order. Much of Muslim public opinion is likely to be outraged by Trump’s actions - and they will be aided and abetted by hostile governments and jihadist groups eager to stoke the flames of hate. Friendly regimes, in places such as Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, will be under pressure to distance themselves from Washington. Preachers of radical Islam will be able to use the photo of Trump signing the order as proof of their age-old claim that America and the West are on a crusade against Islam. ISIS, which has been on the defensive for the past year and, according to some experts, on the verge of collapse, has been handed a propaganda victory and a new slogan for attracting new recruits.
Trump’s decision is bound to increase polarization between left and right, between liberals and some, but not all, conservatives. What supporters of the move will portray as a defensive imperative, its opponents will view as institutional discrimination and an assault on values. “Tears are running down the cheeks of the Statue of Liberty,” Senator Chuck Schumer said. The famous line of American-Jewish poet Emma Lazarus' The New Colossus “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” which is engraved in stone at the footsteps of Lady Liberty, will now need an asterisk that clarifies “*Unless they happen to be Muslim.”
Trump’s decision is also bound to increase tensions in the American Jewish community, between the right wing that has adopted and compounded their Israeli counterparts’ anti-Muslim narrative and the more centrist and moderate elements - including most of the Jewish establishment - that remains loyal to the community’s traditional liberal values. Most Jews still view themselves as a vulnerable minority, just like Muslims. Most are deeply committed to the values of immigration and sanctuary. Most still carry the traumatized memories of their parents and grandparents of an America that locked its gates for Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis. Netanyahu’s imprudent encouragement of Trump, along with the overzealous welcome that Trump has received from the Israeli government, further expand the growing divide between the Jewish State and the world’s biggest Jewish diaspora.
One wonders of course about the silence of the GOP chickens, who were quick to blast Trump’s offer to ban Muslims when his prospects to become the party’s presidential candidate looked slim but who are now laying low out of fear and expediency. First and foremost of these is House Speaker Paul Ryan who was rightfully enshrined for a few hours on Saturday on the Wikipedia page for spineless invertebrates. Photos of Likud lawmakers who have been similarly struck dumb when asked about Netanyahu’s corruption charges and other shady shenanigans also deserve a place of honor in the same gallery of cowards. They and their patrons, Trump and Netanyahu, are the proverbial birds of a feather that mock us together.