With the announcement that casino king, Birthright backer and GOP supporter Sheldon Adelson has given an additional $25 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, now, thankfully, in its final days, another opportunity arises to examine Trump’s candidacy in light of Jewish interests.
The 2016 campaign has borne few of the scars of American Jewish infighting over Israel as we witnessed in 2008 and 2012. In U.S. President Barack Obama’s first campaign, we were subjected to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his supporters' open disdain for candidate Obama’s Jewish advisers Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, whom he reportedly called "self-hating Jews".
All in good sport, right? But then we witnessed a doubling down in 2012 with Bibi’s team openly supporting Romney and continuing the fight right on through the contentious Iran nuclear deal. Never before, it seemed, had America-Israel relations been so central to presidential politics.
And yet, through it all, Obama has offered more consistent military support for Israel than any other prior administration in American history. While their personal relationship is bruised, Obama and Netanyahu have nevertheless found a way to do business together.
In 2016, however, Israel has been very happily set on the back burner of relevant campaign issues. Candidates Clinton and Trump have, not surprisingly, been perfectly capable of generating their own heat.
But that doesn’t mean the Jewish community and its leaders ought not be voicing their opinions about who is most fit to serve as America's president.
Without question, Donald Trump fails miserably. The list of complaints is well known. He began his career as a servant to his racist father’s redlining policies against black tenants in their family real estate enterprise; while continuing to pile up bankruptcy and debt in pursuit of his own personal wealth, he failed at several marriages and destabilized his family life for his own personal gratification and gain; throughout the nineties and well into today (we’ll know more when he releases his tax returns) he has not paid federal taxes and has in fact used the government to leverage deals on his property, as breathtakingly selfish an expression of un-patriotic behavior as has ever been made by a presidential candidate; he has mocked the disabled, the immigrants and women in utter defiance of any measure of common decency; and, most recently, has been caught on tape boasting of sexual assault and other predatory behavior, proudly proclaiming that, like his dubious business practices, he can “get away with it.”
It’s what Donald himself would call “disgusting.”
These arguments alone should disqualify him in the eyes of Jewish voters. With the mass of American Jewry quite able to proudly claim immigrant roots, many of our ancestors sailed past, in the words of Emma Lazarus, the “sea-washed, sunset gates” leading to the Statute of Liberty that received the tired and the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
From his odious and debunked birther charges against Obama to his xenophobic and racist rants against Mexican and Syrian immigrants, particularly at the height of the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, Trump’s foul language and mean-spirited attitude toward the least fortunate among us is a direct rejection of Jewish, Christian and Muslim values of compassion and decency.
As Jews and as descendants of immigrants, America has symbolized our nation’s unique, imperfect, but singularly promising representative democracy as a great hope for the world. We make America great, in fact, by welcoming those from other lands; by working hard; by paying our taxes; by acting charitably toward others (and actually giving away our money, not having portraits painted of ourselves.)
And finally there is the particularly galling and revolting stirring up of white supremacy, Ku Klux Klan sentiment, neo-Nazi fervor, and open anti-Semitism of the alt-right movement, some of whose former leaders are serving on the Trump campaign team. Again, the incidences are too numerous to list: physical abuse of minorities and protesters at Trump rallies; internet stalking by using racist and anti-Semitic words and illustrations on Twitter and Facebook; chants against Jews and Muslims throughout various crowds at Trump campaign events; and now, in calling the very legitimacy of the electoral vote into question, Trump supporters are now threatening election day poll monitoring and marches on the Capitol with weapons and torches should Hillary Clinton prevail.
I am hard pressed to find an example in Jewish history where an open, armed rebellion against a universally understood free and fair election ever served Jews well. And when the leaders of the revolt are regularly targeting Jews, as the ADL study recently showed, the resounding silence of candidate Trump is one of the most shocking and alarming developments in American history.
And of course, this silence is made all the more troubling by the near total silence of Trump’s own Jewish daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
One would have expected that the Jewish owner of an elite paper such as the Observer might have assigned an enterprising reporter to track the hate speech in his father-in-law’s campaign, as nearly most Jewish papers have done. In fact, Jared's one published and modest defense of his father-in-law is the brief exception that proves the rule and pales in the face of the onslaught of pro-Trump, anti-Jewish vitriol which continues to light up social media like a post-modern burning cross of this troubling election.
The Trump family manages to stand together for debate photo ops or ribbon cuttings at Trump hotels; it’s a damn shame they can’t find the time to stand together in shame and disgust when the patriarch proclaims his right to grab women’s genitals or enable racism and hatred toward their fellow Americans.
This semester I am teaching a class at the City College of New York, one of the world’s great public universities, a crown jewel in the history of this city of immigrants. Among my fifteen undergraduate students are eleven students of color and four whites. There is one Jew. The course? “Jews and Social Justice.” We began with the Creation story, from Noah to Abraham to Moses, on through the rabbis, the middle ages, the Enlightenment, emancipation, modernity and the birth of the labor rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and LGBT rights. In each era of history, students are learning, Jews have been alongside others at the forefront of building a world of tolerance, understanding and hope in the future.
And of this I am certain: as Jewish Americans it is our duty to convey that sense of tolerance, understanding and hope in the future by rejecting the hatred and cynicism of Donald Trump.
In my family, We’re with her. And we’re damn proud of it.
Andy Bachman is founder and president of Water Over Rocks, a non-profit dedicated to history, memory and civic responsibility. Follow him on Twitter: @andybachman
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