Opinion |

'In America, Do They Hate Blacks or Jews More?': The Terrible Cost of Four Years of Trump

My daughter’s question haunted me: Our sense of safety has been deeply shaken over the last four years. That’s why, as an African-American Jew, backing Biden is one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made

S. Fitzgerald Haney
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U.S. President Donald Trump after speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, Florida. November 2, 2020
U.S. President Donald Trump after speaking during a Make America Great Again rally at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport, Florida. November 2, 2020Credit: CARLOS BARRIA/ REUTERS
S. Fitzgerald Haney

While I was packing for what would be my last pre-COVID trip to the U.S., our youngest daughter sat down and asked me: "Daddy, can I ask you a question? Are you going to wear your kippah in America?" 

"Why do you ask?" I replied. She queried: "Well, who do they hate more in America, Blacks or Jews?"

That question haunted me. Why does she have that question in her head? Then I thought: after the last four years, how could she not?

As an observant African-American Jew, I can say that supporting Joe Biden for president is one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made.

The deep ties between the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel – which I know well from being part of them both – allows each community to flourish, and Jews to be at home in both countries. 

But that sense of safety in America has been deeply shaken over the last four years. Donald Trump has not just silently condoned racism and deeply antisemitic white supremacy: he has actively defended it, tweeted it, and egged it on. 

Right-wing militia members guard a business after Clark County Sheriffs deputies shot and killed a 21 year-old black man, Kevin E. Peterson Jr. Vancouver, Washington. October 30, 2020
Right-wing militia members guard a business after Clark County Sheriffs deputies shot and killed a 21 year-old black man, Kevin E. Peterson Jr. Vancouver, Washington. October 30, 2020Credit: Nathan Howard - AFP

I remember being horrified watching white men march with tiki torches through Charlottesville chanting, "Jews will not replace us," and "Blood and soil." I remember the outrage was only surpassed by the President of the United States declaring that "there were fine people" on both sides. 

I remember the pain upon hearing of the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh – whose second anniversary was commemorated just last week – where 11 of my co-religionists were gunned down while praying. The shooter’s anti-immigrant white supremacist rhetoric mimicked that of Trump and his supporters. 

Under this administration, antisemitic acts have increased to their highest levels in 40 years. And that is not a coincidence. 

I remember crying with my kids as we watched George Floyd call out for his mother as he took his last breaths with a knee on his neck, and being overcome with an extreme sense of anger and hopelessness. Those feelings became despair and rage as I once again saw the president not able to rise to the challenge of his office, instead plunging us further into darkness with racist dog-whistles and fear-mongering. 

I also remember being excited by the recent normalization deals between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan. These are very important for Israel. 

But having a president who only believes in transactional relationships is dangerous. It leaves the very real possibility that things can drastically and rapidly change if the political calculation demands it. I also know that using Israel as a political football – as Trump does in the U.S. – undermines traditional U.S. bipartisan support and endangers Israel.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy asked Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion how to be a good American president for Israel. Ben-Gurion replied: "Be a great president for the United States." That remains as true today as it was then. A strong America, respected at home and abroad, is Israel’s best ally.

Why? Because a strong, secure, vibrant, American Jewish community is the bulwark upon which support for Israel rests. 

Because a United States that is united, confident, and successful can support Israel materially, in defending our shared values of an open society, and in defending the right of Israel to live securely and prosper.  

A child holds a sign as he attends U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. November 1, 2020
A child holds a sign as he attends U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. November 1, 2020Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS

It doesn’t have to stay this way. Joe Biden will be a great president for the United States, and therefore for Israel. He will be a far better president for American Jews

Biden says that "Jewish heritage is American heritage." His policies show how much Torah this Irish Catholic kid from Scranton, PA has learned. 

He embodies the Jewish imperative of saving life, both regarding COVID-19 and for healthcare Where the Trump administration has utterly failed to manage the pandemic; Biden will restore science, trust and credibility to our response. While Trump is actively trying to rip healthcare from tens of millions of Americans, the Biden/Harris administration will build on the Affordable Care Act to ensure access to affordable, quality coverage.

We are enjoined to be good stewards of the Earth and her resources, and Biden’s approach to climate change and clean energy aligns with those values.

Trump is erecting walls, excluding and deporting, a stark contrast to the Torah command to "love, protect, and not oppress the stranger," values far closer to Biden’s comprehensive immigration reform, a set of policies that express America’s core values of openness, and strength through diversity. 

Vice President Joe Biden places his hand over his heart after addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington. March 20, 2016
Vice President Joe Biden places his hand over his heart after addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington. March 20, 2016Credit: Cliff Owen,AP

Joe Biden has a five-decade record of unstinting support for Israel, and a demonstrated commitment to protecting Israel’s security. He has developed personal relationships with every prime minister since his first trip to Israel in 1973.

He led the U.S. effort to provide lifesaving technologies such as the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow 3; he helped shape the $38 billion ten-year MOU for defense assistance to Israel, the largest such military aid package in U.S. history. He will always maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. 

He will continue to oppose the delegitimization of Israel, firmly reject the BDS movement and ensure that support for the U.S.-Israel alliance remains bipartisan.

As his children, and now grandchildren, approached the age of 15, he took them on a trip whose first stop was Dachau and whose second stop was Israel. This is not a fly-by-night relationship based upon political expediency: as the late Shimon Peres stated: Joe Biden is "part of our mishpacha [family]."

I’ve gotten to know Joe Biden over the years: his deep compassion, natural authority, his competence. That is what America needs to help us heal. And that is what the U.S. Jewish community needs to reestablish the sense of safety and hopefulness we took for granted, just a few short years ago. 

S. Fitzgerald Haney is the former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica and the only Obama politically-appointed ambassador to serve into the Trump administration. He is a Managing Director at the asset management firm Lyrical Partners and lives with his wife Rabbi Andrea Haney and their four children in Ra’anana, Israel. Twitter: @realFitzHaney

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