Republican Leader in Israel Hails Robert E. Lee as 'Great Man,' Blames 'Leftist Thugs' for Charlottesville Violence

Head of Republicans Abroad in Israel Marc Zell says counterprotesters at white supremacist rally represent the 'ugly face of progressivism' in the U.S.

President Donald Trump speaks about the situation in Charlottesville, Va., in Bedminster, N.J., August 12, 2017.
President Donald Trump speaks about the situation in Charlottesville, Va., in Bedminster, N.J., August 12, 2017.Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

U.S. President Donald Trump’s supporters in Israel continue to loyally and strongly support him following Saturday's neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In contrast to widespread condemnation of the president for fanning the flames of hatred with divisive rhetoric and policies, and for his failure to unequivocally condemn white nationalist violence, Trump’s supporters present a diametrically different point of view.

“Trying to blame the President for these events is ridiculous," said Marc Zell, head of Republicans Abroad in Israel. "The president supports the United States and the freedom of all Americans. Even before the events escalated, he called for calm and restraint on all sides – in contradiction to [Trump’s predecessor, Barack] Obama, who fanned racial tensions.”

Going on the offensive, Zell said that he holds “leftist thugs,” local authorities and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union responsible for Saturday's events.

“I am, of course, no supporter of Nazis or white supremacists. But this very tragic event could have been avoided," he said. "It was clear to all that the leftist thugs would come out to provoke and escalate the events. These thugs are the ugly face of progressivism around the country. They are looking to shut down free speech.”

Zell continued, “Mayor Michael Signer and [Virginia] Governor Terry McAuliffe, who are both Democrats, are the ones who control the police. They could’ve prevented all this bloodshed.” Noting that both Signer and McAuliffe have been critical of Trump, Zell reiterated, “Those local authorities have much to take responsibility for and to apologize for.”

Zell also said that the car-ramming attack, in which 20-year-old James Alex Fields plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing one, “must be investigated. I am confident that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the newly appointed director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, will conduct a proper investigation. And I will not be surprised if they find that the incident was deliberately provoked by the left.”

Noting that the demonstration was a response to the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, Zell said that this is “a left-wing idea that says that history can be rewritten. It can’t. Lee was part of the Civil War, he was a great man and he is revered by many. Both the North and the South had terrible sides to them, but you can’t remove a statue because it offends some people. That’s left-wing violence.”

Although he condemned the “left” for attempting to shut down free speech, Zell also blamed the ACLU, which “should know, as we all do, that the right to free speech is not a limitless freedom. They should not be supporting these kinds of demonstrations.”

While Trump’s reluctance to denounce white supremacists and his comments about violence “on many sides” have been highly criticized in the media, Zell said that Trump’s statement was accurate. "Yes, we are seeing the right-wing violence. But we are also seeing the violence of progressives across the country. Neither side has a monopoly on violence,” he said.

In a similar vein, Nimrod Zuta, the self-appointed head of Trump Blue & White, a loosely organized group that broke away from the official Republicans Overseas Israel, also condemned the “left-wing extremists” and former President Obama. The movement's Facebook page has over 50,000 followers.

“The events in Charlottesville are the natural outcome of identity politics, as played by the left," said Zuta. "It was the left that began connecting everything to sexual preference, or color of your skin or whatever identity people choose. When whites become a minority, then, just like the Black Panthers, they, too, are going to get into their identity as whites and demand their place. So we have the extremists on the left against the extremists on the right. And both of them are anti-Semites and pro-Palestinian.”

However, “this isn’t connected to Trump, and it isn’t his responsibility," Zuta continued. "He is doing what he should do – leading America for the majority of Americans.”

Leah, a teacher from North America who moved to Israel several years ago, has spoken several times about her opinion of Trump with Haaretz, on condition that only her first name be used “because my family doesn’t agree with me and I don’t want to cause unhappiness.” Interviewed in May, during Trump’s visit to Israel, she said, “I had such hope for Trump! But I don’t think Israel can count on him, because I don’t think he really knows what he’s doing.”

Yet now, Leah said that Trump’s comments convinced her that “he really does understand the American people. America can’t tolerate the Nazi’s marching – of course not. But it can’t tolerate the left’s violence, either. And Trump has the courage to say that, to condemn both sides. He is being very presidential, calling for calm, and that makes me feel that America is in good hands."

Michael Cohen, an accountant who came to Israel several decades ago also said in May that he was “on the fence” with regard to Trump.

“Yes, I did have my doubts at that time,” said Cohen today. “But not anymore. The left is trying to present Trump as a racist. He isn’t. He is against the extremists on both sides – against the Nazis who are marching and the left that is trying to blame the President. This isn’t America. We need President Trump to make America great again, just like he promised to do.”

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