Opinion

Trump’s Pitch to Israelis and Evangelicals: Make America Hate (Jews) Again

Donald Trump is a genius. Setting Jew against Jew, and Evangelical against Jew, he's reshaping the U.S.-Israel bond to his own electoral advantage

Donald Trump stands on stage after his address to the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida on December 7, 2019.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

Just because Donald Trump actively and openly hates all people who happen not to agree with him – in particular, if they are women, Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants of color, military and intelligence officials, and Jews – this does not mean that Donald Trump is not a genius.

Donald Trump is a genius.

Killing Palestinians isn’t Israel’s goal. Killing Palestine is. Listen

The president has a superhuman gift for resurrecting many of the most rapacious, hurtful, polarizing, long-mothballed waste products of the sick, segregated, self-deluded America of his boyhood.

He has no equal in repackaging and marketing these waste products to key voters and donors for electoral advantage, finding eager, even enraptured buyers in constituencies that other politicians have undervalued, misread, and ignored.

Waste products like anti-Semitism.

Saturday night, his genius was in full display in Hollywood, Florida, as he addressed the National Summit of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson’s Israeli-American Council, an organization of Israelis living in America, which hopes its hard-right GOP bent and deep donor pockets will supplant AIPAC as a lobbying force.

“Each of you in this room tonight is a national treasure – just remember that,” Trump began. They would need to remember that, because 13 minutes later he said this:

“A lot of you are in the real estate business. I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. Not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me. You have no choice. You’re not going to vote for Pochahontas, I can tell you that. [Gleeful screams from the crowd at the racist reference to Elizabeth Warren].

“You’re not going to vote for the wealth tax. Yeah – let’s take 100 percent of your wealth away – no, no. Even if you don’t like me, some of you don’t. Some of you I don’t like at all, actually. And you’re going to be my biggest supporters because you’ll be out of business in about 15 minutes if they get in.”

The crowd couldn’t get enough of this. But the tenor of Trump’s remarks was not lost on Israeli journalist Emmanuelle Elbaz-Phelps, who tweeted in Hebrew, “Why would a mostly Jewish crowd laugh at anti-Semitic remarks? I have no clue.

“This was anti-Semitism so profound, so deeply rooted, that the president of the United States is not even aware of the problem with what comes out of his mouth.” Then, referring to a video clip of the speech, she added: “Yes, it’s okay to vomit after viewing.”

The speech was also clearly directed at the core of Trump’s base, the one in four Americans who are evangelical Christians. He told the crowd that someday they would have to explain to him why some of them, as Jews, voted for Barack Obama, because, he said, the Obama administration did not like Israel. He went on to say that many Americans themselves did not love Israel enough. “We have to get the people of our country, of this country, to love Israel more.”

And just who are those people?

“You have people who are Jewish people, that are great people – they don’t love Israel enough. You know that. You know that.”

And there it is. Trump’s replacement theology for evangelical Christians. In plainer English:

These socialist, gay-loving, abortion-advocating, Democrat-voting Jews of America are not real Jews. No way – they don’t even love Israel. But you do. You are the genuine Chosen People of our era. And I, Donald J. Trump, have been Chosen by the Almighty to be your leader.  

Just as his pitch to Israeli Americans is: You can't trust these bogus American Jews. They're not really your people. You can't trust them. But you can trust me. You're even more real American than those so-called Jews.

Setting Jew against Jew, leveraging and empowering the minority of American Jews who are right-wing, allying them to evangelicals, and playing to both by demonizing U.S. Jewry's Democratic-voting majority, Trump is breaking and reshaping the long-standing bond between Israel and America to his own needs.

Meanwhile, anti-Semitic icon Ann Coulter responded to Trump’s declaration by taking it to the next level. 

“Could we start slowly by getting them” – i.e. the Jews – “to like America?” Coulter tweeted.

The day before Trump spoke in Hollywood, Miriam Adelson wrote in a front-page op-ed in the Adelsons’ Israel Hayom newspaper that she and Sheldon fully expect that the growth of the IAC will “shrink whatever gap might exist between American Jews and Israel” and “bring closer the world’s two largest Jewish communities, in Israel and in the United States.”

Fat chance. But she wasn’t done.

“We Jews cannot afford division,” she wrote. “There are too few of us, and too many others who want us to fail, falter, disperse, or perish.”

It’s tragic – not for the Adelsons, maybe, but surely tragic for the Jews –that in 2020, too, too many of the others – Nazis, Aryan militias, Klansmen, Coulter admirers and countless unaffiliated Jew-haters – will be voting Trump.