Donald Trump is a man after my own heart. His call last week to bar the gates of the United States to Muslims is no less uplifting in its daring — even more, actually — than Barack Obama’s idiotic “Yes we can”: Look at where that led his country and the whole world.
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That’s to say that if I had to choose between somebody who asked me to believe that all people are wonderful and that it is enough for us to want to change humanity for the better and it will happen hocus-pocus, and somebody who warns me against such errors, of course I’ll pick the latter. One of the marks of a good leader, as I learned way back in Political Science 101, is prudence. The leading Republican presidential candidate has this in spades.
Indeed, this anti-Islamic declaration expresses American freedom in all its greatness, the freedom to speak your conscience. If only yesterday Muslim terrorists massacred defenseless Americans, it is the right of every American to think and express freely what could solve this problem. That is no small thing; we can see with our own eyes how this liberty, which seems so basic, is not invoked in Europe, where leaders must embrace the millions of Muslims streaming toward it. What are they afraid of? That thing of which Donald Trump is exempt — that doubt which is also known as “what will the neighbors think” or “that’s unseemly.”
And so, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is forced to embrace Syrian immigrants for a selfie and to persuade her countrymen that not all Muslims are evil. French President Francois Hollande reprimands his nation like some scolding clown, because according to the enlightened laws of conduct, he must not say that the perpetrators of the massacre in Paris last month did it because they were Muslims. In contrast, American liberty releases a person from the need for self-righteousness or to act passive-aggressively. He can act just the way he wants, but he can also not act that way. And the very freedom to choose between the two is a wonderful thing.
But what uplifts my heart much more in the whole Trump matter and statement, is the circus of Israeli response to that statement. In general this circus will be called the circus of blind self-righteousness. Let’s see, Israel has applied, in fact from the day of its founding, Trump’s very vision. Daily, hourly, regardless of its leader’s political orientation.
I’m sure we’ve all seen, at the airport, passengers who look Arab being delayed longer than those who do not, or when, deplaning in Israel, two security men suddenly appear, remove someone from the line and take him who knows where.
Just last week I watched a fascinating documentary (in the making) by Jean-Pierre Lledo, an Algerian-Jewish director who recently immigrated to Israel. It depicts the difficulties faced by his young daughter in Israel simply because her name is Noelle and she was born in Algeria. She does not come to hate Israel as a result. On the contrary, she and her father are neither self-righteous nor hypocritical. They understand, as a result of their bitter experiences as Jews who remained in Algeria until the 1990s, that Islamism is a terrible thing and Israel must treat it as the danger it is.
So Trump comes along and says something that to us, as Israelis, should be completely unremarkable. But then the self-purification starts. The common self-righteous Israeli understands that he has a window of opportunity to look like a person of conscience, enlightened and loving of humanity — not racist and ignorant. Give him a petition against harassing Muslims and he’ll sign it. Give him a chance to denounce Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump’s friend, and he’ll rake them both over the coals, a la with: “It is inconceivable that ...”
In that documentary I saw, the director interviews, in Jerusalem, the Algerian author Boualem Sansal, who in his pioneering book from a few years ago, “Le village de l’Allemand ou le journal des frères Schiller” (“The German Mujahid”), tried to explain, without embellishment, that Islam is the Nazism of the 21st century. True, not all Germans were Nazis then, and some of them revolted. Had America followed this self-righteous logic at the time, it would have sat back with its arms folded and tried to convince itself that it was impossible to punish all of Germany, and that a distinction must be made between peace-loving Germans and the rest.
In Lledo’s movie, an Algerian-Jewish woman from Oran who survived the massacre of July 5, 1962 in that city describes Algerian Muslims rampaging against foreigners, including their own Jewish neighbors, decapitating people and playing soccer with the heads. It wasn’t all the Muslims, of course. It’s not nice to make generalizations.