It’s never easy to be a Jewish Republican and we’re in a time where it is harder than ever. Recently, in Haaretz, Lea Geller called out what she termed the “damning” Republican Jewish silence on Donald Trump.
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Prominent Jews, who have taken all the slings and arrows that come with opposing Trump, alongside opposing the leftism for which so many American Jews are known, were confused.
There are many Jewish writers, myself included, who have sounded the alarm loudly against Donald Trump. A cursory look at Twitter would have told Geller that, in fact, most well-known Republican Jews are outspoken about Donald Trump, even when it is deeply uncomfortable.
This discomfort comes from the noise and anger seeping from Donald Trump’s online supporters. If Donald Trump’s candidacy is, as many have joked, an online comment section come to life, his internet followers make most comment sections look sane and adorable.
John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine and a columnist at the New York Post (where I am also a columnist) frequently retweets anti-Semitic scorn he receives from Donald Trump’s supporters when he criticizes Trump.
Bethany Shondark Mandel, another well-known Jewish writer was interviewed for a piece in Daily Beast about how terrifying it is for her to stand up to Trump because of the onslaught of anti-Semitic savagery that is directed her way for it. She has applied for a gun permit in her state because of the abuse.
Geller’s point, that “it’s possible that American Jews no longer see themselves as the target of these white nationalist groups” could not be further from the truth. Try writing something bad about Donald Trump on Twitter if you have a Jewish surname.
You get immediate pushback from people telling you to go “back” to Israel or that Trump will finally end the Jewish control of banks/media/Hollywood/etc. At no point do you think the white nationalist groups “accept” you.
Geller takes a shot at Rubio, calling him not ready for primetime and echoing Trump’s attacks on him. First, liberal Jews have to decide if they’re going to be scared of Trump or mock other Republican candidates using Trump’s language, they really can’t do both.
Second, what Rubio wasn’t ready for is a year where the anger of the masses boiled over to such an extent that a billionaire with a limited vocabulary and a Socialist who spent 26 years in the U.S. Congress but still doesn’t understand how debt works started to look good to them.
There’s an online joke about everything being President Obama’s fault. Your taco is cold? Blame Obama. You ran out of hand soap? Obama’s fault. But the joke ends when we see millions of Americans enraged at being forgotten or left out of the process.
The president absolutely bears some responsibility for a growing, angry contingency in his country, and it says something about him and his fans that they’re not willing to accept any of that responsibility.
There are some times when criticism of Trump veers into the absurd. There is much to dislike and outright to fear about Donald Trump. He encourages violence from his supporters. He shuts out media which he feels isn’t entirely favorable to him. He obsesses over enemies mostly imagined (he spent March 15th primary night tweeting over and over about Megyn Kelly who was, by all accounts, entirely fairly covering his winning night on Fox News).
But the fact that he asks his crowds for pledges to vote for him, and this looks like a Nazi salute in photographs, is not among them. That Jews have focused so firmly on this is unfortunate. Donald Trump has fascistic tendencies. Asking his supporters to raise their hands is a weak connection to that.
Similarly, holding groups like the Republican Jewish Coalition to account for not standing up to Trump is unfair. The RJC has to be able to work with someone who might be the next Republican president. Just like Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican Party, can’t be openly anti-Trump, so too can’t the RJC come out against a candidate who is on track to be the Republican nominee.
The fact is that Jewish Republicans are a tiny minority of both Jews and Republicans. We have to constantly defend our positions to other Jews despite the fact that we have chosen the side that is unarguably more pro-Israel.
American Jews continue to support Democrats despite the fact that Barack Obama has seriously fractured the friendship between America and Israel.
Those liberal Jews hold some responsibility for the fraying of this relationship and targeting Jewish Republicans for not doing “enough” to stand up to Donald Trump isn’t going to cover up that truth. After this election, regardless of who wins, Jews on both sides of the aisle will need to ask themselves if they are doing “enough.”
Karol Markowicz is a weekly columnist at the New York Post and contributes to many other outlets. Twitter: @karol