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Israel and America: Like Brothers

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The Israeli flag hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street in New York December 1, 2014.
The Israeli flag outside the New York Stock Exchange.Credit: REUTERS

Look at the new America, which is now returning with frightening speed to greatness. And look at us. All of those Israelis who are shocked by President Donald Trump’s policies don’t see where they’re living. It’s harder to see the hump on your own back. Beggars hate other beggars, liars hate other liars and the disdain felt for Trump in Israel may be the result of a frightening resemblance to him.

The United States and Israel share the same values. This cliché has never been so much on the mark. America and Israel are brothers – brothers on the same path – now more than ever. That’s no great source of pride, or honor.

With a draconian executive order, Trump shut the doors of his country to citizens of seven Muslim countries, a step that caused shock in Israel and around the world (although it has now been temporarily suspended by a federal judge). So what about the Israeli government? With similar arbitrariness, it closed its own doors long ago. First it was to Palestinians who are not authorized to use Israel’s airports. Those in the West Bank, not all Palestinians, are allowed to come and go via Jordan, while those in the Gaza Strip are under siege.

Everything is cloaked in security, just as it is under Trump. A Palestinian doctor in Israel and an Iranian doctor in America pose the same imaginary danger. Most Palestinians are not allowed into Israel just because they are Palestinian and the same holds true for citizens from most Arab countries, just like in the United States under Trump. Even those who have simply visited these Arab countries may be subject to interrogation, just like in America. Even Arabs who are Israeli citizens are subject to a series of humiliations on their way in and out of Israel — merely because they are Arabs. Coming soon under Donald the Terrible. Also, coming soon under Trump, perhaps thought police like in Israel, where the country closes its doors to people according to their views and opinions. Utter the word BDS and you can’t come in. Say no to the occupation and soon you will also be barred from entering.

Trump doesn’t want refugees in his country, just as Israel doesn’t want them. Bitter memories are evoked by America’s moves to close its doors to refugees who have fled for their lives. But those who are shocked by this should remember that Israel has not recognized most of the asylum seekers from Africa who have come here as refugees. Israel has expelled more foreigners from its territory than Trump has from the United States and it has done so using despicable means. Some have ultimately met their deaths and others have been detained without trial. There is a Guantanamo in northern Israel, at Megiddo.

This light unto the nations has provided inspiration to Trump to build a wall on his borders. This light unto the nations believes in fences, not bridges, as does the leader of the free world. Trump delights in the fences that Israel has built and Prime Minister Netanyahu delights in Trump. In the words of Psalms, “how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”

The new America and the old Israel don’t like foreigners or Arabs. In both countries, liberals are clinging to memories of the past, as if once it was much better. But the United States – with the largest prisoner population in the world, with its capital punishment and police who are as racist as ever – has a deceptive memory. In Israel, which longs for the days before Netanyahu, there is a tendency to forget those dark days of the 1950s and the murky days of the 1970s, when the country was led by the left wing.

Both countries have lofty democratic pretentions — as “the leader of the free world” and “the only democracy in the Middle East — and in large measure in both countries the claims are without foundation. Both have a liberal camp, and the United States has a long and more impressive tradition when it comes to the struggle for civil rights.

But now too, under darkening skies, when there is envy for the widespread protest in the United States and embarrassment over the apathy in Israel, it’s worth remembering the power of protest is in persistence. There have also been impressive waves of protest in Israel, following the 1973 Yom Kippur War and after the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres in Lebanon, but they quickly faded. And the anti-Trump protests still need to prove themselves over time.

These two sister countries can be expected to provide inspiration to one another and to encourage each other to harden their policies even further against the weak and the foreigner. America acknowledges its racism to a greater extent, while the racism in Israel is considered more legitimate. Maybe that’s good news for both of them. When all of this foul sewage floats to the surface, perhaps the response will be purifying. But for now there’s no sign of that in Israel.

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