Opinion

A Tale of Trump and Darkness

The question that Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora should ask themselves today is where they stand in the face of the darkness.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a Bollywood-themed charity concert put on by the Republican Hindu Coalition in Edison, New Jersey, U.S. October 15, 2016.
Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

Even if statistician Nate Silver is right and Donald Trump really will lose big-time in the presidential election – the darkness is already here. The very fact that a xenophobic bully who humiliates women and expels immigrants could garner the support of over one-third of Americans proves that the darkness is here. The very fact that a reality show celebrity who brags about the fact that he can shoot at people on Fifth Avenue and grab women by their genitals got as far as he did proves that the darkness is here.

The very fact that the Republican Party was unable to shake off a political clown and Hillary Clinton found it difficult to beat a demagogue from the sewers proves that the darkness is here. Even if the Sons of Light win big-time on November 8, the Sons of Darkness will still be with us. Because the worst and most insane election campaign experienced by the United States in the past 150 years has proven to all of us that darkness has become an integral part of our lives.

America is not alone. In the upcoming election in liberal Holland the far right has a good chance of receiving one-quarter to one-third of the votes. In the upcoming election in enlightened France, the far right has a good chance of winning unprecedented support. Poland has returned to reactionary conservatism. Hungary has returned to radical ultranationalism. Russia is ruled by a despot who enjoys a halo of semi-fascist machismo. Even in Great Britain populism often assumes the black colors of hatred of the other, and exemplary Scandinavia is seeing the rise of new-old forces that give one the shivers.

The phenomenon is worldwide. Liberal democracy finds itself in a profound crisis, and enlightenment is under attack. Due to the inability of elected governments to function in an acceptable manner, many people are frustrated. Due to the inability of the new capitalism to provide a minimum of social justice, many people are angry. Due to the inability of globalization to protect national and cultural identities, many people are afraid.

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The frustration, anger and fear are channeled into a public arena that has undergone processes of vulgarization and dumbing down. That has given rise to a neo-primitive political situation, in which neo-barbarian forces are flourishing. The great achievements registered by enlightenment since World War II are gradually becoming eroded. The light we brought to the world in the past 70 years is being engulfed by increasing darkness.

So that the question that Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora should ask themselves today is where they stand in the face of the darkness. In the past our answer was clear: We chose the light. With the exception of extremist marginal groups, the Jews always sided with enlightenment and fought against reaction. Thats how it was in the Dreyfus case, during the battle waged by Martin Luther King for the soul of America, and in the war against fascism. Thats how it was for the most part in the Land of Israel as well. Whether we were right, left or center, we always knew that as Jews we have an obligation to stand up against the dark forces that endanger the delicate fabric of liberal democracy.

Today things look somewhat different. Benjamin Netanyahu is in love with Vladimir Putin. Sheldon Adelsons newspaper is in love with Donald Trump. The Israeli Tea Party is celebrating with the American Tea Party. Far-right groups in Jerusalem are flirting with far-right parties in Europe. Because in 2016 hatred of the other is not directed toward Jews, but toward others (Muslims, Africans, et al), certain Jews are losing their conscience and their compass.

They find it convenient to crowd into the courtyards of despots and aristocrats who have temporarily suspended their anti-Semitism. They find it pleasant to enjoy the company of leaders who trample human dignity but (temporarily) are treating Jews and the Jewish state with respect. In doing so they are abandoning Jewish ethics. In doing so they are also betraying the Jewish interest. Unintentionally and unwittingly, they are helping those who raise from within the human soul that same darkness against which Jews have always fought.